Improv Insights in a Multifamily World

Once upon a time, I was a theatre major.  This was during the era in my life that my parents referred to as, "Heather making decisions that will not earn her a lucrative career."  As I took more art and theatre classes, and their hair grew grayer and, in the case of my dad, more sparse, I actually learned a ton of skills that have become invaluable to me in my day to day life.  As a theatre major, one of the elective courses I took was "Improvisational Acting."

This class was amazing, and I saw funnier stuff come out of my classmates than I saw the rest of the time we were at college.  For the first month of the class, the teacher, Kate, let people pretty much go where the moment took them.  Inevitably, it always lead to liberal use of the F-word,sex or drugs or sex AND drugs while saying the F-word.

Was it funny?  Sometimes.  We were in our early 20's, after all.

After the first month, Kate made the rule that we couldn't go there anymore.  Her justification was that it was, "too easy," for a laugh, and it wasn't really taking a lot of thought.  We could go anywhere else, but we couldn't go to sex and drugs, and we started to limit the casual mega swears.

It got a heck of a lot funnier after that.

See, when you make the joke or get the laugh with bad language, sex, and drugs, what you're getting is the reactionary laugh.  Your joke is cotton candy.  It might taste good in the moment, but a few seconds later, it's gone and no one really remembers why it was so funny.  Real comedy, long lasting laughter that sticks with you, comes from a much deeper connection with your audience.  It comes from reaching them in a place that's way beyond the surface reaction.  This humor is the emotional meal of meat and potatoes that keeps you full for a long time.

Such as it is with marketing.  So many people in our industry are jumping into the blogging world, and many of them are really urgently pushing for higher traffic and massive word of mouth buzz.  I think blogging is great, obviously, but I'm going to caution you all to follow my old professor's advice.  Skip the sex, the drugs, and the being provocative for the sake of being provocative. 

It might be funny to talk about the sex lives of your residents or about receiving the complaints, but your community blog is NOT the place to do it.  Any public forum isn't really someplace I'd suggest it.  In general terms, maybe, but never in embarrassing personal terms.  And talking about that, "herbal smell," that you've got coming out of apartment 3B on the blog, that's also something I'd put the kibosh on right quick. 

Will this stuff get people to talk about you?  Sure.  Everyone likes to talk about things that someone should have never said.  But is this the kind of talk that you really want people to be saying?  Word of mouth can be a great weapon, but the other side of that sword is that it's a painful adversary as well.  Don't let the bad word of mouth come from something you should have never published online.

It's not enough that people talk about you; they have to be saying something that will increase your business for it to be truly effective marketing. If you want people to talk about you in a way that benefits your property,  then you have to do something, write something, be something, that is just that: Remarkable.  Otherwise, you're just gossip.

Bigger isn't always better - Originally written for Appfolio's Property Manager E-Zine

Apartment Jobs: On Hiring - "Experience, They have to have Experience!" - Written for MultiFamily Insiders