I’m a relative newcomer to the improv scene. While I’ve watched it for years on shows like Who’s Line is it Anyway, I’ve only been practicing and performing it for 11 months.
I was hooked the first time I uttered the famous improv phrase: Yes and…
I’ve since bypassed hooked and have fallen madly, deeply in love with improv. It helps channel a side of myself that wanted to come out and play.
What I’ve learned in training and performing improv — the trust, the character-building, the empathy – all sounded familiar to the principles I’ve learned throughout my career as a content strategist and a marketer.
The Trusty Yes And…
When you first step into improv, the feeling is similar to walking into a crowded room and only knowing one guy — your best friend’s sister’s cousin’s college roommate. We’ll call him Larry
You’re pretty sure everyone in this crowded room is probably friendly, but you’re still hesitant to talk to people. Even extroverts stumble over knowing where to start or how to respond if someone asks you a question.
Enter Yes and… In conversations, yes and… is the ultimate conversation tactic and party trick. You can add it on to just about everything and it draws out conversations.
Me at a Party: Hi! My name is Erin, what’s your name?
Party goer: Hi Erin. I’m George
Me: George! Yes (implied and…) It’s great to meet you. Are you enjoying the party?
George the Party Goer: Sorta. Are you?
Me: Yes, I am. And I haven’t been to this place before. Have you?
In improv, Yes and is used as an agreement that you’ve picked up what your fellow improv partner is putting down. There is an implied trust that you’re going to carry on the dialogue in the manner in which you started.
I’m a woman of my word, which means I’m going to make sure you feel comfortable submitting your email address to me to read the rest of the piece. I’m not going to send you off on a wild adventure trying to find your way back to the content.
Once you’ve accepted Yes and as your word and savior, it’s time to do some character work. In improv, that means establishing relationship, location, or activity with your partner or cast-mates to help give the scene context. For instance, at the start of a scene you could walk up to your improv partner, who is looking at his watch, and exclaim:
“Holy Crap George! Did you see that guy streaking through the party? That sounds like something I heard my best friend’s sister’s cousin’s college roommate would do.”
I’ve established this is my party pal, George, and we’re still at the party, but I just witnessed something out of the ordinary. You can use your imagination about what happens next.
In both content strategy and marketing, character building is very similar to personas. You might be walking in cold to a marketing meeting, but once you’ve establish the relationship (user) or the location (type of interaction) of your reader, you can build some dynamic pieces from there.
No one wants to walk into a scene and fall flat on their face. You also don’t want your partner or cast-mates to fall flat either. Everyone performing wants the same fundamental result: success
It’s why you Yes and your scene even if you don’t understand what the last person said to you or why you will accept the character of naked Larry, who just went streaking through the party. You want your cast-mates to all sound as if this was something you’ve executed flawlessly.
With content and marketing, you want your reader or end-user to succeed. You want them to know that by registering for the video asset, that they will get that data point you promised them. Lobbing a ‘meh’ marketing piece to your reader is like walking onto a stage and telling your cast-mates “meh, I’m not feeling it.” You might as well not even show up.
I use empathy a lot when developing a content strategy or a marketing plan. I like to picture the person consuming the content and what pain point they’re trying to solve. I’ll map out the pieces and parts of content or marketing I have, what I still need, and how I can use what I have effectively to get my end-user feeling a little bit more informed or empowered.
This blog post originally appeared on my LinkedIn page in September 2019