LavaCon Session: Amber Hunt on Improv & Content Strategy

Make Better Friends: How Improv Can Help You Promote Content Strategy at Your Organization

LavaCon-SessionSummary-better friendsPresenter: Amber Hunt, Director of Content, Quicken Loans (Twitter: @FancyAmber)


Can improv really help content strategists in the workplace? Drawing from her own performing experience, Amber Hunt made a convincing case in Make Better Friends that the basic tenets of improvisational comedy are powerful tools that can content professionals build alliances with other teams.

Because content strategy is not always understood well— “You guys are the writers, right?”—and is perceived as taking time, money, people, and resources away from other projects, Hunt emphasized how important it is to show why our work matters. Here, Hunt suggests, is where improv can help us communicate the value in what we do.

As a starting point, Hunt used Tina Fey’s Rules of Improvisation from the book Bossypants:

  1. Always agree… Start with YES, with an open mind, and see where it takes you.
  2. Yes, AND… add something of your own.
  3. Make statements, don’t just pose questions, and be a part of the solution.
  4. There are no mistakes, only opportunities.

Hunt then went on to share her own Advanced Lessons from Improv, and how each can be applied.

Lesson 1: Active Listening

From The Upright Citizen’s Brigade Comedy Improvisational Manual: “No matter how strong you may believe your own idea is, it will be impossible to make your idea a reality on your own. This is because you will never be able to plan out what your scene partner may say or do.”

The key takeaway for content strategists is that if we stop anticipating and hoping, and just listen, we can get much farther. In a room full of people, there needs to be give and take. By listening we can learn enough to see how to align our strategies with others.

Lesson 2: Bring a Brick

From Del Close, actor and teacher of improv: “Don’t bring a cathedral into a scene — bring a brick: let’s build it together.”

The key takeaway here is that we run the risk of alienating people if we don’t collaborate early and often, and change our plans based on feedback. Using tools like Trello, Basecamp, and SharePoint can help make sure that everyone can participate and stay aligned.

Lesson 3: Playing to the Top of Your Intelligence

From The Upright Citizen’s Brigade Comedy Improvisational Manual: “Respond truthfully to any stimulus within a scene. Allow yourself to have a true, emotional response. Have enough respect for the people around you to react honestly to what they are offering.”

For content strategists, this is a call to stop debating and start collaborating. Hunt discussed the difference between the additive approach to feedback versus the competitive approach, and the importance of empathy and building trust.

Lesson 4: Attack the Scene

From Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, on lessons he learned during his years studying improv: “Be bold, and make courageous choices for yourself. Don’t always worry about what your next line is supposed to be, there’s no script. Be in this moment, be in this moment, now.”

Hunt concluded her lessons with this final advice for content strategists. “You don’t need to know where you’re going — we’re all making it up as we go along, so take comfort in that.”

In improv, actors must listen to each other, build something together, react honestly, and just do it. Amber Hunt demonstrated how these same tenets can be applied to building the relationships we need for successful content strategy initiatives.


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