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Second City Communications wins audiences with collaboration and Google Apps

Posted by Steve Johnston, Second City Communications

Editor's note: Our guest blogger is Steve Johnston, president of Second City Communications, the business solutions division of the legendary improv theater company, The Second City, and our partner in yesterday’s April Fools’ joke. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

The Second City, the venerable Chicago comedy theatre known for its creative method and improvisation, is a far cry from a Silicon Valley start-up. Nonetheless, in a very real sense we’ve been in the “interactive” and “social collaboration” space for five decades. We believe in providing a great experience for our audience and are hardwired to innovate and attack convention whenever possible.

The Second City has been called the “Harvard of Comedy,” and our alumni list includes stars such as Alan Arkin, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Mike Myers, Steve Carell and Tina Fey. Our business division, Second City Communications, brings the same audience-empowered approach to the boardroom, creating content marketing, entertainment and training programs for some of America’s best-known companies. You can see some of our handiwork on this blog.

Second City Communications has been using Google Apps for over a year. Apps provides the interactive collaboration with our clients that’s necessary to co-create compelling, engaging videos that enhance companies’ training communications. We begin by using Google Docs to get multiple companies brainstorming ideas around hot corporate topics such as ethics and compliance, as well as sales effectiveness. From there, we bring our special brand of humor into the mix. We then share scripts in Google Drive to get real-time feedback from clients, helping us make sure the videos resonate with employees and reflect real challenges in the workplace.

Because you can’t really get the full effect of a script without hearing it, we meet with clients over Google+ Hangouts. Our actors do fun “table read” sessions so clients can listen and react while we observe it all. Our clients make sure we talk the talk of their audiences and bring a whole new level of authenticity to the creative development process. We continue to create these videos, called RealBiz Shorts, with more than 250 Fortune 1000 clients, who use them to change behavior and transform company culture through smart comedy.

When you look at these training videos, you see something that’s not only humorous, but also anchored in reality. RealBiz Shorts get employees more engaged with existing programs. It’s like marketing for training! See for yourself.

It’s 2013, folks. New approaches for a new time. Google Apps plays a key part of our creative development process to build big ideas with our clients. It gives us vital tools to bring improv agility and nimbleness to enterprise collaboration, and a helps us bridge the gap between comedy and the corporate world.

Funny thing is, it’s working. Beautifully.