Play is not just for kids

There is plenty of research about why it’s important for kids to play – it helps creativity, learning, social interaction, developing language skills, dexterity, as well as physical, cognitive and emotional strength.  Play is part of education; it’s recognised as a critical part of a child’s formative years and is encouraged in all aspects of life…that is until they become an adult.

So why isn’t play just as important for adults? At what point do we become less interested in all the fun, creative things that were so important to us before the age of 18? And more importantly, why don’t employers see the value in play to help employee performance?

The science proves it

The Washington Post article, Why it’s good for grown-ups to play reflects on work by professor of recreation, sports and tourism at the University of Illinios, Lynn Barnett, which says significant research is being put into the benefits of adult play.  Barnett says, “at work, play has been found to speed up learning, enhance productivity and increase job satisfaction; and at home, playing together, like going to a movie or a concert, can enhance bonding and communication.”

They even say playfulness attracts the opposite sex and makes you younger!

OK, well they didn’t quite put it like that but a study in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences, says that playfulness in women “signals youth and fertility” and in men means they are likely to be a good partner. The study said that playfulness is an underestimated character trait and acknowledged that the need for play in daily life was a basic need – to relax, keep yourself amused, a way to escape, for entertainment, stimulation and basically just have fun!

Build it like Beckham

Even David Beckham plays for fun. In 2010, David Beckham said in an interview with Yahoo, that he has a passion for LEGO and loves playing with it. (Given Mara’s passion for LEGO, we’d gladly offer Becks an opportunity to come to visit/work with us and play with ours!  It only seems fair.)

Newcastle Jets Lego Serious Play workshop
Women's professional football team, the Newcastle Jets getting creative with LEGO.

And it’s not just about individuals, cities can have fun too

Move over smart cities, playable cities are coming for you. That’s right. Cities all around the world are now branding their towns as “Playable Cities”. It’s based on the fundamental ideal that play creates social value in the spaces that we use on a day-to-day basis. Why install a boring park bench when you can install a playable xylophone bench that encourages people to play OR a slide at a train station instead of taking the stairs. We can have fun and interact with each other. What an idea – social interaction and community activity!

Look up from that smart phone and smile

Seriously, play is just a catalyst for bringing people together no matter their social standing, how much money they have in their pocket, where they are from or where they are going. Can you imagine it? A space, whether it’s workplace, a neighbourhood or entire city that encourages engagement and social interaction through play.

For the policy wonks and number crunchers, there are tangible benefits for adapting spaces for play (even in the workplace!).

Arrow Creates economic value

Arrow Positive health benefits – play reduces anxiety and improves mental health

Arrow Encourages physical activity and supports healthy lifestyles

Arrow Helps people be more creative

Arrow Has a positive impact on social values of a community

Arrow Creates a positive sense of identity

Arrow Helps to break down barriers

Arrow Encourages inter-generational interactions and engagement.

Pancho the office junior cat) playing with jenga
Pancho the office junior cat) playing with jenga

Check out the cool work that organisations like The Urban Conga are doing in the United States. And never fear, the team at Mara are hard at work bringing play to our communities. Swing by anytime for a game of Connect Four, Jenga or Quoits, maybe play with our office cat, Pancho or grab a pillow and a box of LEGO and get creative.

AND watch this space - the Mara team will be bringing a little bit of guerrilla play to a community near you!

If you want to know more about how play can help your community get in touch or call 02 49654317.

#engagement #placemaking #stakeholderengagement #play #urbandesign #planning

Why do I need a strategy I hear you ask?

Stakeholder engagement, like managing the media is usually only thought about when things go wrong. Normally, PR and engagement professional only get the call when the complaints are flowing, or media have set up out the front – ok we love the excitement of crisis management BUT there are HUGE benefits of having a plan that guides your engagement and communication activities.

Stakeholder engagement, like managing the media is usually only thought about when things go wrong. Normally, PR and engagement professional only get the call when the complaints are flowing, or media have set up out the front - ok we love the excitement of crisis management BUT there are HUGE benefits of having a plan that guides your engagement and communication activities.

Organisations regularly set and review objectives and goals for the business but rarely do that link those with engagement and communication activities. If you are using a website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, newsletters, emails, community events then you are communicating with an audience, potential client/customer or stakeholder.

Completing a situation analysis (fancy way of saying the who, what and why you are communicating) will give you the ability to better target your resources and develop a plan which sets out activities that cover the when and how.

For example, you might be about to lodge a development application with the local council but it's likely to raise objections from the community. This is no way a full strategy, but it gives you an understanding of the steps to take:

Communication objective: to reduce the likelihood that objections to the proposal are lodged with the council and gain support for the project.

Who are you communicating with (stakeholders): Councillors, neighbours, local community groups, council officers, business groups and media.

What are you communicating to stakeholders: Information about the project, benefits (economic, social, environmental).

Why are you communicating with stakeholders: To seek feedback from stakeholders potentially for input into the design, reduce likelihood of objections, provide accurate information about the project, reduce misinformation spreading.

Once you have set your goals and know who, what and why you are communicating it is easier to determine the best channel to use to achieve those goals set out in your activity plan and outline your key messages.

In the above example,

When and how to communicate with stakeholders: prior to lodging the development application - a briefing to Councillors, host a drop in day with a presentation/images/maps for neighbours and interested community members, conduct a survey, seek feedback forms, place information on your website and social media, host a visit to the site, have experts available to answer technical questions, attend a council meeting to address the public and provide information to relevant media explaining the project.

These basic principles apply whether it is for a specific project or when developing a communication strategy for your business.

If you have a project or want to develop a communications strategy and plan for your business, contact Mara for a chat, we'll help put you on the right track.

Take a look at Mara's 60 second communication strategy review tool.

Is publicity worth the investment?

“If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on PR”, a famous quote by Bill Gates but what would you do with your last dollar? Do you place any value in PR and the potential that comes with generating newsworthy or popular social media content?

Reading a blog post from StartUpSmartabout the 10 milestones to hit in your first year in business, it reminded us that businesses often forget to tell people about the milestones in their business, whether it is celebrating a new staff member, an anniversary or new products and services. Milestones identified in your business plan are great opportunities to include in your public relations/communication strategy.

Public relations is all about connecting with your audience, customers, stakeholders, clients and in today’s world of social media, it’s about providing regular and relevant content to your loyal “followers” and “likers”.

Creating a strategy doesn’t have to be very complicated, but it should guide you through a thought process to get the most out of the story and most importantly, identify what’s in it for your followers. It’s easy to forget but your customers, clients and stakeholders will only pay attention if it’s relevant to them. So, take the time to put yourself in their shoes.

Here are Mara’s tips:

  • Write down your objective. 

What is it that you want to achieve? It could be as simple as increasing visitors to your website by 20 per cent, persuade people to choose your product or service, or to encourage your stakeholders to provide feedback on a project.

(For complex projects such as reducing the risks of objections during the exhibition of a development proposal Mara recommends seeking professional advice and assistance.)

  • Develop key messages.

Key messages are just phrases to clearly articulate your story to an audience. Clear - simple - memorable.

  • What’s the hook?

The hook is just the thing that will get people interested in what you are saying. Think biggest, best, first, quirky, fear, emotion, hot button issue, exclusives, pictures, human stories, relatable, concise information, humour.

  • Identify communication channels.

There are many types of channels that you can use to get your message out.  Social media, media releases, letters to the editor, paid advertising, interviews with tv/radio/newspapers, opinion pieces, electronic newsletters, website updates are all options that you could use but not all of them will work effectively for your story. Focusing your attention and resources on where you will get best results is key.

  • A picture tells a thousand words.

People relate to images or pictures, particularly in social media posts.  Followers are more likely to click on a post if it contains an image, particularly photos that are relevant.

  • Write content and customise for each medium.

Each communication channel has a different audience, make sure what you are saying is appropriate for those stakeholders.

So, there you have it, a look at a simple strategy to promote a story. For professional advice or help with an up-coming project contact Mara for a coffee and a chatabout how we can help.