I like a good challenge, especially a mental one. So when a friend set me a challenge to combine my obsession with breakout rooms and passion for communications strategy in a blog, this is what I came up with. This one’s for you Michelle!
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a breakout room it’s pretty straightforward. You and some friends get locked in a room and have 60 minutes to escape by solving clues and puzzles. There’s usually a theme involved. My first breakout room had a James Bond theme (another of my personal obsessions). I’ve also escaped from a weird hotel room and a wild-west themed bar!
Doing a breakout room is mentally draining yet so rewarding. The adrenaline you feel during your time in the room is incredible, not to mention the experience of actually escaping. You can get a real buzz from it. I always want to go and do another one straightaway! Hence my cheesy grin in this picture.
To escape requires mental agility and specific skills, as well as a bit of luck. It’s very similar to delivering a successful marketing communications campaign. Here’s how…
The clock starts ticking as soon as you enter the breakout room. There’s no time for faffing around and overexcitement. If you want to escape you’ve got to get your head down and focus on the task in hand. Assess the situation and get cracking.
Marketing and communications activity can drop down your list of priorities if you don’t give it the focus it deserves. Don’t be distracted by client work. Give yourself a set amount of time and use it wisely. If you’re doing social media scheduling, try your best not to get dragged into scrolling through your personal feeds. I love the time management concept of treating every day as if you’re going on holiday – it really works.
If your first step is to assess the room, your second should be to look for those all-important first clues. Look around you, what’s going on? What are your competitors up to? How are people finding your business? Use this awareness to inform your marketing plans.
Some people approach a breakout room with a careful strategy in mind. Each person might be allocated a specific task. I much prefer the ‘ransack the room’ approach. If everyone takes an area of the room to investigate, you usually find a couple of leads to follow up straight away.
Now you’re aware of what’s going on in the market, think carefully about your planning your communications strategy. Will you take a similar approach to your competitors or might you do something a little bit different to help you stand out from the crowd?
You need to work closely with the other people in your team to succeed in a breakout room. Communication is key. Keep telling one another what you’ve found and shout if you need some help.
It’s vital to communicate your marketing plans with the rest of your team. Even if you’re just sending a newsletter out, let your colleagues know and send them a copy so they’re aware what customers are receiving. The last thing you want is for a customer to call requesting your latest offer and the person answering the phone has no idea what it is. Through sharing regular updates and encouraging people to contribute ideas you’ll build a more engaged team.
Often the best part of the breakout room is when you go to a bar or restaurant afterwards to analyse your experience as a team. What did you do well together, what might you have missed, and what might you do differently next time?
Evaluation is always the one element that can get missed from a marketing campaign. It’s so important to analyse what went well or not so well with your activity and learn from the results. The more breakout rooms I do, the more familiar I get with how the puzzlers think and this helps me to solve them more quickly. Looking at feedback and analytics will help you get to know your customers and their behaviours better.
My three key takeaways?
Like breakout rooms, communications activity can be mentally draining but SO rewarding.
The skillset and attitude you need to escape from a breakout room and succeed in marketing communications are very similar.
Do a breakout room – they’re fab!