Your real job is relationships. No new surprise there.
You build relationships through shared meaning and narrative. Still, no great revelation.
Meaning is through shared language.
What are you creating to bring new language to the collective discussion?
Dr. Seuss (a master in the use of language) put it best when he wrote the book On Beyond Zebra. He challenged his readers to break out of the confines of the ordinary alphabet, to see what new things are out beyond what we already know.
What new words are you creating to build relationships?
2AMT is a good example. A year ago, this term had no meaning, heck it did not even exist. Now it gives people context to share ideas and build relationships. If the timing is right, a term can spread, build momentum and enter the fabric of the culture. Companies do this all the time. The word ”facebook” did not have meaning until context and activity was created behind it. But there is a potential problem when a new word is integrated in to the culture, it can become old or loose its meaning.
So, another question, what are you doing, that no one else is doing, to connect? How are you keeping it new?
Our tendency is to use the new with the same methods we are using the old. The easiest way to use twitter is another tool for your press releases, but that does not create relationships. The new must be used in ever changing new ways. If relationships is not the focus for people using twitter, it will soon become that thing that every one is using to promote that thing they are trying to sell, or get you to come see. Facebook invites have already become that.
Here is the catch; it takes relationships to help create new ways of using things to build more and deeper relationships. Through the #LAThtr discussion that started with @BostonCourt’s tweet, there was a kernal of an idea.
The goals in the rehearsal room for a new play is based on relationship through narrative; relationships between artists, relationships between characters, relationships between artists and audience. What happens if the marketing is run like the rehearsal process for a new play?
I worked as a teaching artist for The New Victory Theater. The education department creates pre- and post-show workshops for the touring shows that are being performed on The New Vic stage. The education staff and team of teaching artists create the lesson plans in house for each of the shows. Realizing that most of the staff and teaching artist ensemble were trained as theater professionals, they looked for ways in which the teaching artists could use their theater background in the creation of the lesson plans. They decided to model their curriculum development based on the rehearsal process of creating a new play. They created the following steps:
1. Dramaturgical Background: Research and Discovery
2. Devising and Improvisation: Brainstorm & Playful Experimentation
3. Rehearsal: Preparation
4. Tech Rehearsal: Run Through
5. Dress Rehearsal: Refinement
6. Final Dress: Activation
This curriculum rehearsal process has the overall goal of connecting with the students through a narrative journey, as a new play’s rehearsal goals are to tell a good story through the connections made on stage and to the audience. How could a marketing department go through these steps with every project they produce? Some steps might fit better than others, but here is a rough estimate of what this process might look like.
1. Dramaturgical Background: Research and Discovery – This seems to be a lot of the work Devon V. Smith is sharing over at 24 Usable Hours. In starting any marketing project, one must research how previous efforts worked (or did not work) and then look to similar companies and organizations to see if their outcomes can bring any discovery to how to set up the current project.
2. Devising and Improvisation: Brainstorm & Playful Experimentation – The story I like to tell is when I was in college I watched a video about an artist who was a former Disney Imagineer. He said at the beginning of any project, the team would sit in a room that was filled, floor to ceiling, with whiteboards. Their job was to fill them with any and every idea, and could not move on until all the whiteboards were covered. No idea was bad, and it all had to be written down. Does your devising start with every possible idea under the sun? How many whiteboards can you fill at the start of each of your projects?
3. Rehearsal: Preparation – The techy term is alpha testing. It is so rough it is not even beta yet. This is where you might start connecting what seems to be tagent ideas on the whiteboards. What connects and what doesn’t fit? Once the beginning connections are being made, this is where you come up with every scenario of how this project might or might not work to meet the end goal of sharing a narrative to build relationships. What are the outliers? What are the expectations and how are they projected to be met? What are the potential obstacles that need to be overcome?
4. Tech Rehearsal: Run Through – Now beta testing begins. Who are your audience members that you already have deep relationships who would volunteer to try this plan out? Deep enough relationships, that there is plenty of forgiveness when the mistakes happen, because they will happen. The ones that won’t talk bad if the plan never gets off the ground and are the first ones to praise it to everyone they know when it works.
5. Dress Rehearsal: Refinement – After getting feedback from those deep, loving patrons, this is where you can make the necessary edits and maybe broaden out the circle of trust. Try the newest version on a little more people, maybe not the newest patron in the organization’s family, but you get the idea.
6. Final Dress: Activation – This is the final beta step before going live to the general public. One more chance to get feedback and make edits. By this time, the project is ready to lift off the ground and buzz is already starting to leak out about this mysterious new thing the organization is about ready to do.
Dennis Baker lives the ultimate freelance life as an actor, teaching artist, fight director and also working in web design, web development and search engine optimization. You can follow him at @dennisbaker