Tim Washer. Keynote Speaker + Event Emcee

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How to Create a B2B Comedy Video Series

How to Create a B2B Comedy Video Series

 

My buddy Carlos Hidalgo called.  “Let’s create a comedy series on data governance.”

Sure, we’ve all had this same thought at one point.  And most of us realized it was a bad idea.

But I obliged, in the corporate way.  “Absolutely.”

Now What?

Over the years I’ve learned that an insightful comedy can be created for almost any topic.  There are a few simple steps to follow to find inspiration that will lead you to a hilarious concept.

Start with the Customer’s Pain Point 

Comedy comes from pain.  And when we build a story around what the customer is struggling with, we’re able to connect with empathy.  Instead of saying “we’re listening” and “you’re important to us,” we have now demonstrated it.  Proven it.  We’ve earned our customers’ trust, and they feel heard.

Listen for Specifics 

Often as marketers, we focus on the aggregate such as persona or a market segment.  But when writing a comedy script, we need to listen to one-on-one conversations.  We can’t build intimacy with a pie chart.

Carlos and his client, Michelle Genser, conducted a series of interviews with Chief Data Officers to understand the challenges they face in convincing their organizations to prioritize and properly fund the data governance initiative.  One CDO revealed in frustration, “Some days I feel like I just can’t catch a break.”

Boom!  That single quote captured the emotion we wanted to express, and led us to the concept for this series.

When you’re working to create new ideas for marketing and corporate communication, find out exactly what the customer is saying, verbatim.  Spend a day with a salesperson visiting customers, or read the customer service center’s call logs.  Or scroll through Yelp.   Customer complaints lead to understanding, which leads to meaningful marketing and comedy gold.

One of the infogix sales execs Matt told us in an interview that he uses a kitchen metaphor to explain the ROI of data governance to prospective clients.

‘If you add structure and organization to your kitchen, arrange and label utinsels and ingredients so that they are easy to find quickly, you can have more time available to innovate faster and deliver more complex recipes to your customers, improving their experience and increasing their loyalty.’

His metaphor gave us the script for the Coffee Shop video, and more importantly, justification to rent an entire coffee shop.

Heighten the Drama 

Heightening is an improv principle that raises the stakes for the protagonist.  Put your character into a situation where his or her specific problem will face greater consequences.  In this series, we mildly escalated the tension to only the “aggravation” level, although the “Fireplace” video pushes just beyond.  But in a long form improv show such as the Harold, it’s not unusual for consequences to reach an armageddon echelon.   Since you don’t use props or construct sets in improv, a production budget doesn’t get in the way of adding a volcano or swarm of locusts.

Add Absurdity

A close cousin of Heightening is Absurdity, and it can quickly lead a storyline into uproarious laughter.  An easy way to discover how to create an absurd concept is to take your scenario — in our case, how an organization implements a data governance policy — and juxtapose it with an unlikely partner.  Which, in our case, was an enterprise of squirrels.  So, we explored how data governance would help squirrels improve strategic planning.   About 57% of urban-dwelling squirrels have earned an MBA, so it’s a logical conclusion that they would apply the Porter Five Forces model, or at least a SWOT analysis.

Squirrel risk chart

To see other examples of how we inserted absurdity into our Chief Data Officer’s world, watch all seven videos.

Your Turn 

Take five minutes right now and create a comedy concept for your client.

  1. What is the key problem (pain point) that your client solves for their customers?
  2. Imagine what the consequences could be if that problem was not solved.
  3. Heighten the consequences.  Exaggerate them beyond what is reasonable.  If this scenario continues to get worse, how could this lead to Armageddon?  Push it to the hyperbolic for practice, then maybe dial it back.  This makes video production easier if you don’t have a locusts trainer on the Approved Vendor list.
  4. Add more laughs.  Going back to the “comedy comes from pain” principle, think about how you could fit all of this into an annoying situation, like an All Hands meeting.  Write down a list of the things that everyone complains about these meetings, and ask friends for input.  They will love to vent, and laughing about those frustrations provides empathy,  personal connection and even some healing.  It’s can help transform the office culture in a powerful way, making it more fun and creative.
  5. Finally, write a scene that takes place on the beach, so that you get to go to the beach.

Behind the scenes, filming Solitude.

I’ll share a few more shortcuts and simple tricks when I emcee and keynote the B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale, AZ, Feb 25-27, 2019 and at MarketingProfs B2B Forum in San Francisco, Nov 13-15, 2018.   Please join us, and contact me for a discount code.

Improv Rules for Storytelling – CMWorld 2017

Improv Rules for Storytelling – CMWorld 2017

Links for Content Marketing World 2017 presentation:

Why Van Damme’s ‘Epic Split’ Was the Perfect Storm for One NYC Creative Director http://adweek.it/2wv9hZ7

Meaning > messaging.  Don’t change how people talk; change how they think

Improv rule #1:  Support your partner

Documentary:  Phone company in a box https://youtu.be/OaZWkpOVtlY

Improv rule #2:  There is order in chaos

RT @BrianCurtisNBC5: Convoy of @HEB disaster relief trucks staged near Goliad, TX today. #Harvey http://ow.ly/MUXA30eZnhk

For juxtaposition exercise for inspiring creativity, try https://randomwordgenerator.com/

Juxtaposition: How Circuses and Bacon Can Boost Your Creative http://ow.ly/O1ro30eZqjx via @CMIContent  @MarciaRJohnston   #cmworld

Improv rule #4:  There are no mistakes, only gifts

Haunted Stanley Hotel: The Ghost Behind Stephen King’s The Shining, Room 217 https://youtu.be/XqvaL5d37Gc

Improv rule #5:  “Follow the Fear” – Del Close

Mainframe: The Art of the Sale, Lesson One https://youtu.be/MSqXKp-00hM

Filibuster Cablevision iO TV commercial  https://youtu.be/scTFsGQ78qs

More nonsense:

Mockumentary:  Mystery Solved: The Rescue of Helen of Troy http://ow.ly/5Psj30eZoAt

Movie Trailer:  Improv with the CIO https://youtu.be/cL5bjJCpJIY

The Perfect Gift for Valentine’s Day… from Cisco https://youtu.be/Z1xKpm0nURk

#CMWorld

ROI on Humor in Social Marketing

 

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I’m often asked what is the value of using humor in social media and marketing efforts.  While I can’t always make the case that a :60 YouTube comedy is going to inspire an impulsive purchase of a $100,000 piece of hardware, comedy helps corporate videos stand out and be remembered among the clutter.  NBC News reports that 72 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, so it is becoming more and more difficult to get noticed.

Today, at the B2B Content2Conversion Conference at the New York Times Center, Michael Brenner, Forbes blogger and SAP vice president of marketing, included our valentines video as a case study.

The spot, while completely absurd and ridiculous, helped us amplify an important marketing message during a product launch over three years ago.  It earned press coverage in The New York Times, NetworkWorld and other trade magazines; and David Meerman Scott referenced it as a best practice example in his bestselling book Real-Time Marketing & PR.

And here we are, more than three years later, and it’s being presented to a group of B2B marketers and influencers, and the social buzz continues from some of B2B’s top influencers, including Ann Handley, Margaret Molloy and Marissa Pick.

I don’t think Michael Brenner sold any routers for us today, although if he did, I’m sure he’ll DM me about his commission check.

 

ann_handley_tweet

Margaret

Marissa

 

Vampire Bats at SXSW

Technically, they’re not vampire bats, which might be behind the inferiority complex.  But the 1.5 million bats living under the Congress Bridge in Austin can brag about being the largest urban bat colony in the world, as Reuters reports.  Be sure to add this to your list of  destinations while you’re in ATX.    Last year I had a fun visit with Scott Laningham and Turbo Todd Watson about some of our humor projects at IBM, including Art of the SaleMad Science with John Cohn and the smarter planet animation series.



The year before, David Meerman Scott and I watched the bats along the way of our aimless tour of ATX.



I hope to see you if you’re heading down this year. Ann Handley and I will record an ATX version of our new series , and I’ll tweet out when we have the session planned.   If you need help picking which events to attend, check out the Golin Harris marketer’s guide, SX Scout.

Comedy at the B2B Forum

Edgar Rolando Diaz Emes was the first to reply when I was looking for help to film a telecom exec in Latin America. He works for Telefonica Moviles in Guatemala, so I figured he’d have some tips. He responded even faster than my former college roommate, maybe because I don’t owe him for a semester’s worth of cable bills.

complexity

Edgar helped me as if we were longtime buddies, although I had only talked with him briefly at a MarketingProfs event. But that’s the kind of immediate camaraderie you fall into with this group. Possibly because it’s helmed by Ann Handley, known in the industry as the “Brad Pitt of B2B Social Media.” She and her crew share a contagious spirit of fun and encouragement, along with a profound knowledge of social business.

The presentations are some of the most practical and useful I’ve seen at any conference. Think of it as SXSW without the tacos. It’s clear from the speakers that their intent is to authentically share “here’s what worked, here’s what failed, and here’s what we’ll try next time.” As part of a case study panel,  Elbert Lin discussed Boeing’s Design Your Own Dreamliner app,  Michael Brenner gave the backstory on SAP’s Business Innovation blog,  I talked about how we produced a B2B documentary on a shoestring budget; and offered a few ideas on how to find a storyline and produce it inexpensively. And then we had a little more fun in the closing session. [see video]

If your life involves creating content or storytelling in B2B or even B2C, you should join us in Boston, Oct 3-5, for the B2B Forum. It will be a fun and inspirational time — the opening keynote is Baratunde Thurston, former director of digital at The Onion. You’ll leave with a list of brilliant yet simple ideas you can start to implement the following week, and a dozen new friends who will support your social marketing projects and reply to you faster than your jaded college roommate.

Television Premier of “The Network Effect” Documentary

The documentary we produced premiers tonight on ShortsHD. The Network Effect is a collection of stories of the history behind some of the technology pioneers and service providers who created the infrastructure, and how the network vastly improves the lives of many, especially in developing countries.

One of my favorite stories that our host Steve Shepard tells is about undertaker Almon Strowger, who in 1888, invented the step-by-step switch which helped to democratize the network.

The program will run throughout the month of July as part of the Summer of Docs series. Check your schedule on DirecTV channel 568 and AT&T U-verse channel 1789.

undertaker

FastCompany Interview: Corporate Comedy Video

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After speaking at NYU’s B2B social communications leadership conference, I had the chance to visit with FastCompany’s Drew Neisser about how corporations can help use  humor to build online audiences.    Check out the article here, and an extended discussion on Drew’s blog.

5 Questions: Royal Wedding Planner Video

Five questions you haven’t asked yet about the royal wedding planner video because you are afraid to or possibly not interested:

Q1) Why did you do this?

A.  My boss asked me the same thing.  The Cisco router will connect the royal wedding (the real one for Prince William and Kate) video stream to the TV station for the broadcast, so this video is a fun way to celebrate.

Ms Fauntleroy

Q2 ) Who is Ms. Fauntleroy?

A.  I’m not sure if you’re asking about the character or the actor.  The character was inspired by the middle name of the wife of one of my best friends from college, Robert Spencer. The actor is Jenn Schatz, who you may have seen recently on 30 Rock “Double-Edged Sword” in a scene with Tina Fey and Matt Damon — neither were in our video.

Q3) Was this filmed at your home?

A. No.  We needed a setting that was more cozy.  The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, with 62 rooms and 44,000 sq. ft. helped to create the intimate mood.  Special thanks to the mansion’s executive director Shelly Gerarden for his kindness and generosity, and to his staff, especially Brian, Jon and Susie.

Q4) Why didn’t you use a British accent?

A few folks have asked that before you did (Updated – thanks Elyse and David) .  We tried British accents for both Ms. Fauntleroy and the voice-over actor, but it didn’t seem to work as well.   Although I’m now filled with self-doubt.

Q5) The mansion looks familiar.

That’s a statement not a question.  But the mansion hosted scenes from House of Dark Shadows and The Stepford Wives –  both 1975 original film featuring Katharine Ross and the 2004 remake with Nicole Kidman — neither were in our video.

B2B Comedy Classics

The age of the curator seems like the perfect time to assemble a collection about something, so I put together a list of the Top 10 B2B Comedy Videos for a guest post for the Social Media B2B blog.  Above is a bonus video for Valentine’s Day.  Thanks to Jeff Cohen for the opportunity, and for his virtual tour of North Carolina wine.  His Biltmore photos compelled me to plan a return trip to my favorite vineyard in the Smokies.

Inc. Magazine: How to Use Humor in Advertising

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Lou Dubois and I first crossed paths and the IMS10 and again at BrandsConf, and continued our discussion about corporate comedy in social media for his Inc. Magazine article.   Check it out.