Improv Exercises to Sharpen Your PR Game

June 12, 2009

You’re an argumentative giraffe bickering with a snooty post office worker over sending bananas to your cousin in the African savannah. Sound familiar? Unless you’ve dropped by an improv comedy show recently, the scenario above probably sounds like nonsensical ramblings.

Absurdity and occasional crudeness aside, parallels exist between PR and improv. Story telling, expressive communication, thinking under pressure and deftly drawing emotions from audiences are hallmarks of effective communicators, professional or comedic.  

To drive home the point, two improv exercises are included below with PR parallels . Beyond humor, the exercises galvanize players by honing communication and timing skills while fostering camaraderie. If you’re in an office, consider calling a meeting with colleagues to join in some “professional development” and clear your heads with a few laughs. They also make good drinking games.

These exercises and more are available at: www.learnimprov.com

Machine – The first player starts with a repetitive activity and an associated noise. The next players add to the machine with some activity that fits into the previous player’s activity. This continues until a machine is created. The machine is sped up and slowed down. Certain players can be asked by the audience or “engineer” to malfunction, and the whole machine must respond. There is no leader in the creation of the machine. It is important that all the players reflect the changes in each part of the machine.

PR Lesson – As traditional media becomes social and technology expands, you can no longer be an “expert” in everything. Roles are evolving, and while some folks excel at telling a relatable story, they can’t effectively do their job without information from the trendspotter. In building and maintaining brand identity, each part of the machine (agency) performs an equally important function allowing the other parts to keep operating. 

The machine also must be able to adapt on the fly. In PR, the traditional President down to junior account executive model is evolving as social media feeds the 24-hour information/news vacuum. New titles are emerging and Brian Solis of PR2.0 offers a few in his blog post, The State of PR, Marketing, and Communications: You are the Future.  He talks about Digital Sociologists, Digital Ethnographers, Research Librarians and Community Managers filling roles in the next generation of “New Media communications and marketing organizations.” It’s good reading.

Digits – All players stand in a circle. One person starts by saying a single word and it goes around the circle with each person saying a single word to make a story. The story is not over until a reasonable conclusion of some sort is achieved and someone says “End.” It’s harder than it sounds.

PR Lesson – Listening is a vastly underrated skill. This is a fun exercise that sharpens the mind while cultivating creativity by forcing team members to engage as listeners and story tellers at the same time. Because we love to pontificate, the One Word aspect can be difficult since everyone wants to drop $10 words or give a description making them the funny guy or gal. In order for it to work though, players have to be willing to sacrifice a chance at wittiness in favor of boring articles such as “at” or “the” giving story flow priority over self-gratification.

To continue growing, sometimes we need to remind ourselves that PR isn’t always glamorous and zero words is better than 140 characters, especially if it allows you to listen and absorb.

Posted by: Nick

@PRnick

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Sing Karaoke with a Toilet plunger? No Thanks

May 9, 2009

Can somebody please explain this to me?

wii_mike_nintendo

I found this while taking a gander at Gizmodo. I love the Wii, many of us do. I hate karaoke. I hate to do it because I sound worse than Ashlee Simpson (and you cant lip-sync karaoke) and I hate to watch others try because even if they sound like a choir of angels I still feel embarrassed for them. I know, I know, I’m a giant buzz kill. But can somebody please explain HOW this new peripheral for the Wii is a step up from a regular microphone? Karaoke Joysound Wii (by Hudson) comes with the “Not Noisy Kara Ok” microphone. It’s supposed to keep the noise level down for those who live in apartments and have ornery neighbors. But doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose? Don’t you want to hear your friends make fools of themselves? And as for me, not only do I refuse to sing in front of anyone, but I am absolutely not going to sing into a toilet plunger that has been collecting the spit of every other singing sensation in my living room. I’ll stick with Mario Party 8, thanks.

Published by: Ashley (intern)


Technology at Area 51 revealed- Elvis not found

April 18, 2009

 

marvin3111Even though I’m not a “my brother’s best friend’s uncle was abducted by aliens and they did stuff to him” kind of nutcase, I still found it interesting news that they have FINALLY declassified Area 51, so I thought I would fill you in. All the employees that worked there are allowed to talk about what they did there and maybe now we can get an explanation for all of the anal probes, alien sightings, and UFO’s. Okay maybe just the UFO’s. According to the employees all of the sightings were some top secret test flights. Check out this LA Times interview with five of the men who worked at Area 51, they’ve got some good stories. Although they could be actors hired by the government to further circulate the so called truth that Area 51 was just a testing ground for some high tech government projects and had absolutely nothing to do with aliens. But does it really matter? I for one am more worried about the imminent uprising of the undead. Yep, I’m the zombie kind of nutcase.

Posted by: Ashley (intern)


Super Success?

February 2, 2009

It’s that time of the year again. The Monday after the big game when everyone is giving the play by play of, you guessed it…the ads! I must admit, I wasn’t looking forward to watching this year’s game. As a die-hard Giants fan I’m still a little bit bitter about the two teams that ended up fighting for the coveted Lombardi Trophy.  I mean Cardinals/Steelers, great teams, but how can you beat last year’s SuperBowl? Impossible! Although it did prove to be an awesome game. (OK now back to the topic at hand!)

Now normally when watching football, commercials are the time to refill my drink, make a pit stop, or let the dog out. But this game does not fall under normal circumstances. Thankfully my DVR allowed the ever so important “potty breaks” so we wouldn’t have to miss a thing. Every year the SuperBowl delivers the most anticipated ads of the year. Each year they get more and more elaborate, and more and more expensive. SuperBowl XLIII was no different as a 30-second spot ran advertisers $3 million. With today’s economic crisis looming, I was interested to see if manufacturers were going to pull back, or go full bore. It turns out they did both. Major companies such as Budweiser, Pepsi Co and GoDaddy.com launched several new spots throughout the game, while smaller manufacturers had much less of a presence. As always there were the Budweiser Clydesdales, some insanely provocative GoDaddy.com commercials, and several that were truly obscure, most courtesy of Monster.com.

All and all I was disappointed with this year’s showing. Yes, many of them were funny, but too often they failed to resonate. Only an hour after the game, we were challenged to be able to match the commercial with the sponsor. But that won’t stop any of us from catching a second viewing of those hilarious, sometimes outrageous ads. Here at Caster, we have compiled some of our favorites and not so favorites from last night’s ratings festivities.  Feel free to share your thoughts about the biggest ad night of the year with us.

To view all the SuperBowl XLIII ads, visit Hulu

Lauren’s Thoughts –

I have a tie for my favorites. While I am not usually a lover of the Budweiser commercials (minus the beloved Clydesdales) I though the Bud Light Office Meeting and the Doritos Office Bowl commercials were fantastic. Maybe that’s the destruction junkie in me, but I laughed my head off! I have to add in that the Gold4Cash spot with Ed McMahon and MC Hammer were classic. My least favorite of the night had to be the Taco Bell Smooth Moves. There was just no point to it for me.

 

It has to be said…what was with the 3-D commercials! I know it was a big promotion for some upcoming movies, but for those of us whose homemade glasses didn’t produce the desired effect, they were almost unwatchable (although watching top NFL athletes try their hand at a choreographed ballet was quite amusing).

 

Katie’s Thoughts –

I’m not going to lie, I was left fairly under-whelmed.

 

My favorite commercial (though I must admit, I missed quite a few when I was talked into playing a video game) was the E*TRADE’s Talking Babies. Apparently Paone thought differently (see below), but the bantering babies actually made me laugh out loud.

 

I was not a fan of the Budweiser commercials, at all. I suppose the least horrific of the series was the “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” horses in love spot. Ever since Stepmom, I love that song, but that was the extent of its entertainment value for me. Another disappointment was the Cars.com commercial – the prodigy kid handing his number over to the girl saying “call me”. Loved it.  SO much potential to be a great commercial right up to the end…  I think it would have worked for any OTHER product besides Cars.com.

 

Joe’s Thoughts –

Overall, a pretty weak crop. CareerBuilder.com’s “Tips” ad was by far the finest. It accurately summed up the modern existence of far too many people, and in the process reinforced my warm and fuzzy feelings about how fortunate I am to be a proud employee of Caster Communications. Given that today’s Groundhog Day, its impact is even more timely. This Monster.com spot was also quite good in communicating this theme, but it paled in comparison to its competitor’s.

 

Two others get honorable mention. Cash4Gold.com’s “Heeeeeere’s Money!” spot with poor Ed McMahon and Hammer was awesome. “My goooold giraffe!” Indeed!

 

The Hulu.com spot with Alec Baldwin was refreshingly honest and quite hilarious. The level of self-actualizing metacommentary on display—both about Hulu and, through Baldwin, ourselves—made me think that my TV and my house might actually implode.

 

Another awesome thing… when you watch the ads on Hulu, they are actually sponsored by Coke Zero. Viva America!

 

The worst—or in my view, the most annoying—spots were the latest excruciating E*Trade “Talking Babies” spot (stale ‘90s-era “humor” mixed with a distressingly glib message about reckless online investing that is totally inappropriate right now) and GoDaddy.com’s usual sleazy-but-not-sexy-in-the-slightest trash. I didn’t link to these because they don’t deserve any more attention than they’ve already received.

 

Oh, and I think I am in love with Flo from the Progressive Insurance ads, but Progressive didn’t run a spot during the game. I just needed to get that off my chest, though.

 

Posted by: Lauren


Gesture controlled TV in these neck of the woods?

January 9, 2009

This is my first year in my six with Caster Communications that I am not attending CES. I’m not going to lie, I genuinely miss being in the action of it all. I heart Vegas. The restaurants, the venues, the technology (listed in no particular order)… what is there not to love?

To keep up-to-date, I’ve been relying on tweets and blog coverage of the show. Today, CE Pro blogged that Hitachi’s Gesture Remote Control TV is possibly the “coolest gadgets at CES 2009”. Hmm… really? Without further specs or a first-hand demo I could be wrong, but… is it just me or does anyone else wonder about the challenges and sensitivity of the  monitor’s sensors?

Kids running through the living room – channel change.

Waving out the window to a departing guest – volume lowers.

Definitely NOT the TV to play Wii Fit or other gaming devices on.

Have Hitachi product developers ever visited Rhode Island (or Boston, my current dwelling)? The Gesture might actually go into an over-stimulated freeze state because WOW, do we have some animated hand talkers in these neck of the woods!

In all seriousness, the cool factor IS there. Maybe I am just jealous that I can’t get one,  after all I cannot sit still or silent for that long (my co-workers can concur).

You can check out the video here.

Posted by: katie


Exiting 2008

December 31, 2008

It’s New Years Eve and it is snowing like crazy here in Rhode Island.  2008 has been filled with amusing and depressing and hopeful and downright ridiculous events and I can see no better way to end the year than with a Rick Astley Flow Chart.

normal_astleyflowchartThis concludes our 2008 blog posts.  We’ll see you all next year!

Here’s to an excellent 2009.

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter


Stop. Relax. Remember the true meaning of the holidays.

December 22, 2008

As the days until Christmas get closer and closer, people get more and more stressed. We’ve all been there: You’re at the shopping mall trying to find a parking spot that isn’t on the other side of the hemisphere, and you cut someone off to take their spot. Or you leave the supermarket annoyed to see the volunteers standing out in the freezing cold ringing that bell. I know sometimes you’d like to do things to that bell that I won’t mention here (hey, we are a family-oriented company, after all). So to avoid their stares and wishes of good cheer, you put your head down and race past them, or you go out another exit altogether.

On Black Friday, a poor Walmart employee was trampled to death. Yes, trampled to death. And for what? So people could get the best gifts?

I get disheartened at the children who don’t understand the meaning of the holidays. Yes, I think Santa is a wonderful thing to believe in, but that shouldn’t be the extent of it. Gift receiving isn’t the end-all and be-all of Christmas. So many people are suffering far worse than you will be if you don’t get that new dress or gadget.

It is time for us to stop, step back and remember the true spirit behind Christmas. With the world seemingly going to hell, I know it seems bad for everyone right now. But a great way to make yourself feel better is to do something for someone less fortunate than you and your own. Yes, money is tight, but your generosity doesn’t have to be monetary. Hold a door open, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, babysit a friend’s child for free so they can get some holiday preparations done. Use your imagination. I guarantee that you will feel better about yourself and the world around you.

Now before I slip and fall off my soapbox: I’m not saying that every person is a self-centered egomaniac (although some truly are). But the message I want to get out there is for every person to stop, relax and remember the true spirit of the season.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by: Lauren