MASTHEAD

    Editor-In-Chief: Al Anderson
    Feature Editors: Marika Docous, Karen Roberson
    Sponsored Content Editor: Tina Barni

    The Shortlist welcomes pitches for stories pertinent to advancing marketing and business development in the architectural, engineering, and construction fields. Email pitches to Al Anderson.

    The Shortlist

    Program Preview: How Standup Comedy Can Make You a Better Marketer

    When Marika Docous and I first met Luisa Isabell and heard about her team’s SXSW session we knew it would be a wonderful program for our members. Improv classes have been used to improve networking and communication skills, so why not stand-up? How did these marketers come to this realization, and what qualifies them to share with us? We spent some time with Luisa, Sara, Alexandria, and Marcie and asked a few questions for the Shortlist!

    Tell us a little about your marketing experience?
    LUISA ISBELL

    I began my marketing career in 2014 at a professional services startup, where I first owned our social media channels and editorial calendar. Over the next three years, my responsibilities grew to include sales enablement and product marketing, and I authored most of our customer stories, one-sheets, infographics, and more. After my startup tenure, I fulfilled a dream of freelancing for a year. During this time I partnered with several companies across industries (including healthcare, fintech, hardware) to produce their blog posts, white papers, emails, and newsletters. In 2018 I made the move back to the corporate world and spent the next year managing the editorial calendar and other content marketing initiatives at an established adtech company. After presenting the panel “How Standup Comedy Can Make You a Better Marketer” at SXSW 2019, I was inspired to make the move back to marketing for startups. Not long after, I joined an education tech startup as their content lead. I’ve spent the last 8 months owning our editorial strategy, including blog posts, social media, education and enablement, and video, and managing a team of eight contractors to help us get it all done on time.

    SARA DEFOREST

    I’m a freelance marketer, focused primarily on content marketing and copywriting for a range of tech clients. Prior to launching my freelance career, I was the VP of Marketing and first marketing hire at a San Francisco-based SaaS startup, building the marketing program from the ground up and eventually leading a team of four. Previously, I was a content marketer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise and worked at a PR firm, doing digital communications for Fortune 500 companies and startups.

    ALEXANDRIA LOVE

    After getting my M.A. in communications, I gained early experience in content creation for local government and eventually made my way into the world of publishing. Right now, I work in public relations for authors of books about corporate and social good. 

    MARCIE ROGO

    After my MBA, in 2011, I decided to launch a startup that gave retirement community residents their own private social network. I started solo, so marketing was just a given part of the founder role. I used the classic Steve Blank method and sold an MVP pilot to my first community, which was actually just a group of slides. They didn’t know there was no product! I quickly realized that marketing is everything. 

    For the next eight years, I marketed to baby boomers and older adults, which meant I could not make any assumptions based on my own thoughts. I became customer-obsessed, which made me into a strong marketing, brand, and go-to-market leader, and in 2014 we launched the final iteration of my startup, Stitch.net, which is still the only online dating and companionship site exclusively for adults over 50. After Stitch, I joined True Link Financial, a financial services company for older adults and people with disabilities, as the Head of Marketing. After six months of multi-channel experiments, we put fire into the efforts and I grew my team from 1 to 10, juggling 22 different customer segments. In the spring of 2019, I left to do some freelance marketing for startups, ranging from Medicare companies to Avatar apps. I was later given an opportunity to join early at Number AI, landline text-enablement for main street businesses, and started as their Head of Marketing in November 2019. 

    Why did you get into comedy?
    LUISA ISBELL

    It might be cliche, but after a breakup in 2016, I was inspired to finally give comedy a go. It was something I had always wanted to try in college but didn’t have the guts to get into. Soon after starting I made some close friends and we began producing shows together, specifically fundraisers for progressive political causes. The breakup may have pushed me towards comedy, but the community is definitely what keeps me here! Plus, performing is super fun and rewarding.

    SARA DEFOREST

    I’ve always been a fan of comedy, watching Saturday Night Live as a kid and seeing standup comedy shows when I lived in New York City after college. When I moved to San Francisco, I didn’t know anyone and thought comedy would be a good way to meet people, so I found a standup comedy class and started going to open mics. Like Marcie said, it’s a great community and a total adrenaline rush to be on stage. 

    ALEXANDRIA LOVE

    I’ve wanted to be a comedian since I was a kid. I grew up in a house that strongly valued a sense of humor—so much that sometimes being funny could keep me out of trouble. I was also, believe it or not, a pretty unpopular kid, so I used my sense of humor to connect with people. When I started doing comedy in the Bay Area, I felt like many of the voices represented at comedy shows were pretty homogenous, and I wanted to be the person that was doing something different. 

    MARCIE ROGO

    During my annual review with my co-founder in 2016, he encouraged me to “do something besides work and working out.” Friends and family had alleged that I was witty, which is the classic startup story. But also, I pieced together the fact that I was a very rare type of human who loved public speaking via startup pitching and speech and debate. Admittedly, I did enjoy a good sh*t talking, so it felt like a strong alignment in skills and interests. I enrolled in the San Francisco Comedy College and the rest is comedy history.

    How did you and your partners start this concept of stand-up plus marketing?
    LUISA ISBELL

    Our fearless ringleader Sara had plunged into the world of freelance marketing and was using some of her newfound time and connections to research speaking engagements. She (and we all) noticed that conferences large and small tend to skew male with their presenters, and a lot of the subject matter can be very dry. With our marketing expertise and ability to make most things engaging and hilarious, we decided we could do this. We proved ourselves right at SXSW 2019—they needed to upgrade our talk to a larger venue and it filled to capacity of over 600. Not only that, it was a very highly-rated session!

    SARA DEFOREST

    As I was spending a lot of time doing marketing and standup comedy, I started to notice a lot of commonalities between the two fields—the importance of testing material, learning to engage with your audience, being true to your brand, etc. I thought this would be a unique topic for a talk and decided to bring on my fellow comedians/marketers to share their perspectives as well.

    ALEXANDRIA LOVE

    I’m lucky enough to be friends with people who are thoughtful and creative enough to even think of this idea. With the diversity of our experience and backgrounds, the idea progressed quickly into a tangible, unique product that really aligns with why I wanted to be a comedian in the first place—to make something unique. 

    MARCIE ROGO

    Sara DeForest, amazing writer, comedian, and marketer, actually ran the concept by us based on her work while freelancing. Doing more research, it became clear that there was very little out there on the overlap between comedy and marketing, and so we decided to put all of our heads together for a more in-depth look as part of a concept for SXSW.

    What’s it like to present at SXSW?
    LUISA ISBELL

    Exhilarating, nerve-wracking, and so much fun. In the months leading up to the conference, Sara did a phenomenal job of keeping us on track in terms of preparation. We rehearsed a bunch, but also let ourselves be authentic and true to our funny selves while presenting our individual parts of the presentation. The crowd of over 600 was attentive and we kept them laughing (and tweeting at our presentation hashtag) throughout.

    SARA DEFOREST

    We knew that getting picked to present at SXSW was a total long shot, so we were surprised and excited to get this opportunity. We were even more excited (and nervous!) once we found out that our panel topic was so popular that SXSW put us in a room that seated over 600 audience members! We had practiced a lot in the months leading up to SXSW, and rehearsed a few more times the day before the conference, yet it was still nerve-wracking. But once we got on stage, and Alex kicked off our presentation and did so well, getting a lot of laughs right away, it inspired the rest of us to get into performer mode and knock it out of the park. Our audience was totally engaged and we even stuck around answering their questions for almost an hour after our panel. 

    ALEXANDRIA LOVE

    As performers, sometimes it’s easy to get jaded and see certain events as “just another gig.” SXSW was not one of those times. It was one of the only times I had ever seen any of these girls nervous, and I was shaking in my boots too. I think we were initially pretty confused when we saw the big crowd lining up outside to see us. We thought, “who are they here to see?” but once we got on stage and started doing our thing, it clicked with me (perhaps with all of us) why people were there to see us. My girls rocked that presentation, and I was so proud to be up there with them. 

    MARCIE ROGO

    Well, we all love the stage and we love marketing so it was an absolute dream! There were over 600 people in the crowd listening, taking notes, asking questions, tweeting, and truly taking in the messages we had put together in my living room. To see it all come to life was incredibly special and the overwhelming positive feedback was the icing on the cake.

    Best feedback/anecdote from SXSW?
    LUISA ISBELL

    We had so much fun the entire week, but one highlight in particular for me was being recognized on the street the next day. Someone excitedly stopped us and said “Hey! You’re those funny ladies! Great job!”

    SARA DEFOREST

    I agree.  Being recognized on the street as “the funny ladies” was my highlight as well! Also, when Luisa’s strange joke about getting “lost in the sauce” got a really big laugh during the presentation. 

    ALEXANDRIA LOVE

    I think my favorite feedback is from my mom and dad after they were able to see the footage of the event. They said that we made them laugh, put concepts that were foreign to them into perspective, and held their attention the whole time. I took this as a compliment because it’s pretty hard to maintain my dad’s attention unless your name is Steph Curry. 

    MARCIE ROGO

    At the AARP-sponsored event, I found myself twenty feet away from Martha Stewart, arguably one of the best entrepreneurs in history, while chatting with one of my Instagram idols, Baddie Winkle. It was an insane moment!

    What do you hope attendees will take away from this session?
    LUISA ISBELL

    That you can abide by proven marketing best practices AND freshen things up by injecting some humor and authenticity into your everyday work!

    SARA DEFOREST

    We hope that by revealing a few joke-writing techniques and standup comedy insights, we’ll help marketers across industries make their content more engaging, memorable, and fun for their audiences. 

    ALEXANDRIA LOVE

    Comedy is all about bringing your most authentic self to the stage and trying to make that self relate to others. I hope that people can take away the importance of that authenticity in marketing and content creation. 

    MARCIE ROGO

    I really hope we can give attendees a way to stretch their marketing muscles in a different direction. Every small business or brand can definitely benefit from a quick look at how applying the lessons from standup comedy can help their marketing efforts!

    Ready for more? Join us Thursday, January 23 for this exciting and engaging program and meet this talented crew for yourself.

    https://smpssf.org/meetinginfo.php?id=260&ts=1578352616

    Headshot of Susie SmithSusie Smith, CPSM (Marketing Director, Associate at KPFF) is the 2019-2020 SMPS SFBAC Chapter President. Susie ([email protected]) leads marketing, strategic planning and business development at structural/civil firm KPFF. She brings a future-facing edge to our local SMPS chapter, focusing programming on handing off skills that will set our members apart from the pack! Susie lives and actively promotes the SMPS vision “Business Transformed Through Marketing Leadership” and is committed to serving our members, the board, and the future of SMPS!

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