It’s April Fools’ Day today, the day that brands and organizations can poke a little fun at their fans and followers or, better yet, themselves, without fear of recrimination. At the same time, April Fools’ Day reminds us that using humor to communicate a message can be serious business.
Many brands are taking full advantage April Fools’ Day.
For example, the American Eagle Outfitters website features an image of a woman and her beagle in matching, pink outfits, with the tagline “American Beagle Outfitters.” The site includes a photo gallery of dogs decked out in American Eagle garb, as well as a three-minute video explaining why "American Beagle" is creating clothing for dogs.
Meanwhile, Frito-Lay has distributed a press release announcing that Chester Cheetah has "entered" the perfume category with Cheetau, "a prestige fragrance that celebrates the irreverent, intriguing and playful nature of the iconic feline."
While April Fools’ Day pranks happen just once a year, infusing humor into your branding efforts can be a year-round affair.
Being funny, of course, means being fast on your feet, and the ability to improvise.
With that in mind, here are some key improv lessons for PR pros, designed to bring a little levity to the situation the next time they need to speak in front of a live audience, compliments of Danielia Donohue, a public affairs specialist and digital content strategist.
> Get a suggestion from the audience. At the beginning of an improv show, the team will usually ask for a suggestion from the audience as a way to demonstrate that there really is no pre-planning going on. Taking a suggestion or even asking your audience what they want to see makes them feel part of the process. Try this when engaging with your audience—ask them what they’re interested in and plan accordingly.
> Diversify your team. As much as we would all love to be great at everything, it’s just not possible. An improv team is usually comprised of some people who are great at characters, others who are great at connecting storylines and others whose main skill is in knowing when a scene is over and when to edit. Recognizing a teammate’s strengths and honoring them makes the entire team stronger and makes everyone feel valued.
> Initiate with a sentence instead of a paragraph. When there’s too much information presented, people have a tendency to shut down. Focus on one aspect you want to highlight at a time. Start simple and invite dialogue.
Follow Danielia Donohue on Twitter: @Danielia
Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1