Why comms pros should act up

By Niki Wheeler, Director, Launch,

Sitting in the audience at the final of the ‘Creative Shootout’ at BAFTA truly reinforces the links between presenting creative and treading the boards.

Swanning past the eponymous masks before sitting in seats dedicated to some of the world’s most illustrious luvvies sets the tone.  Then the lights go low, the music starts and the audience feels prickles of tension as the participants prepare to take their places on the stage.

This is a competition designed to celebrate creativity – but for observers, it showcases the importance, not only of the idea – but how it is bought to life.

A deadpan lead presenter from the winners (Wire), canny dropping of the F Bomb by Talker Tailor and delivery of some great puns (Ready10) saw comic timing and an ability to read the audience win through for the top players in the competition.

I can’t remember the team who chanted the slogan which fell flat – but for me, lack of conviction in their own delivery meant the concept was never going to catch fire with the audience.  It also demonstrated the need for a rehearsal where the team had ‘warmed up’. This might have inspired them to take cues from each other when they were under the spotlight.

Making a proposal ‘funny’ is tricky.  Undoubtedly, well-judged humour gets cut through and makes you memorable if you are pitching to a client or media outlet but you need to take making jokes in business seriously. In this climate, you must be utterly convinced that what you are suggesting is rooted in insight, online buzz or has raised a laugh (often from someone who wasn’t involved in writing it).

This balancing act reminds me of a tumbleweed radio ‘comedy’ I wrote with friends at university. Our writing team clearly had a better instinct for funny bones than making people actually laugh out loud as one is now an osteopath and another a doctor.

You also need experience to think on your feet with quick fire banter when things go wrong.  Improv and a move away from the ‘script’ is a risk which requires talent and complete trust between team members.

Outside the Shootout – the importance of giving everyone a part to play in a presentation is key with cast lists varying from client to client.

Culture and smart-cas also play a part. We’ve been known to dash from a meeting with an Oxford College to a tech company with costume changes required en-route.

As someone who had an agent as a child and whose grandpa confidently predicted they’d be an actress I’m surrounded by colleagues who’ve flirted with theatre and music with varying degrees of success. I certainly see a direct relationship between the stage and the sales elements of our roles.

A few years in and I’m pleased to say that working in reputation is probably as exciting, varied and occasionally showbiz as a potential career in rep (theatre). Bravo!

Photo by Fatih Kılıç on Unsplash


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