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The Pursuit of Play (and its application to PR)

It was a cold October during my second mat leave, during the infamous 2020. Stuck at home with a lot of time on my hands (but at the same time, no time because, well, 2 children…), from a parental perspective I felt like I was stuck in a bit of a rut.

Trying to entertain a 2-year-old and a new baby while the world had shut up shop was hardcore and it made me question the value I was providing to my kids at home, specifically when it came to ‘play’. I constantly felt as though I wasn’t present… distracted by my phone, chores, life. “Mummy just needs to go and put the washing on” became a stock phrase, wheeled out about three minutes into play.

Serendipitously, this moment coincided with a much-loved influencer (@playful_den) offering a playful parenting course, designed for parents who wanted to re-frame play and put it on top of the priority list. Naturally, I signed up, and from this I gleaned insights that helped me re-evaluate how I play with my kids, but that – interestingly – are transferrable to the world of gainful employment too.

Play? Not for me, thanks

Play is not confined to children – anyone can ‘play’ though many adults have simply forgotten how to play or the enjoyment that can come from play. A particular lightning bolt moment was learning that as adults, we overvalue elements such as productivity and outcome, meaning that we de-prioritise play in favour of outcome-based goals. With kids play, that could be encouraging them to write their name. As adults, it’d be cracking on with our to-do lists.

Yet a playful mindset unleashes creativity, it helps reframe the mind and provide a new way of looking at challenges which are both applicable to the world of comms.

If this was a template blog post, I’d now come to the bit where I try to conjure up some examples of how we can look at play through the lens of communications. Fortunately I don’t like to break the mould, so here they are:

  1. Bitesize play can bolster creativity – Devoting just 10 mins of uninterrupted play with your child/ren will have a positive impact (10 mins is a long time in their world!) Adopting this bitesize attitude to our own play can help us think differently and more creatively at work too. Taking 10 mins to play with some Lego, doing a doodle, or giving a hoola-hoop a whirl outside, allows for the stepping away from what may be a difficult working headspace. Making time for play allows for a fresh take on things when returning to the task in hand.
  2. Play helps us take more risks – When we don’t take time to play, our fear of failure increases. We can become more serious, full of doubt and stop following our instinct. The more we play, the more confident we can become, as well as more attuned to our instincts and behaviours. This makes us more rounded in our role where (occasional) risk taking and owning that self-confidence is part and parcel of being a successful comms practitioner.
  3. Play makes us better communicators – for those with kids, as uncomfortable as it may feel, throw yourself into role play. It is a great way to hone your own style of communication as well as learning how to adapt to others’ preferred style. Role play can allow for practice to help solve life’s problems and navigate tricky conversations. Let’s face it, kids are the toughest clients so if we can crack role play with them, then we know we’ve nailed it.

Written by Faye Bell, Practice Director, Consumer Brands