3/23/14 • Five Tips Toward Humor In Communications

As posted in The Gaston Gazette:

(3/23/14) BELMONT, N.C. –  Knock, knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?!

An unfortunate attempt at humor, we certainly agree. However, using this particular tactic in various communications can prove quite beneficial if employed appropriately and successfully by your company or organization. This tool can enhance and empower your message simultaneously, drawing in audiences possibly not previously considered. A strategy once deemed totally inappropriate for advertising, marketing and speech writing is now wholly embraced and often proves incredibly powerful and effective. Though it may not be a tool fitting for every communications occasion, this powerful strategy is at your disposal if willing to push the envelope and take a chance.

But how do you best incorporate humor into communications? How can you slip laughter into your vital message? It takes a deft hand to effectively accomplish this task and we have several suggestions for folding folly into your efforts:

  • Funny isn’t universal. Funny often varies from region to region, person to person, and you have to be ready for your communications message to reach someone who simply does not understand the humor you’ve attempted. A global audience is, unfortunately, unlikely when it comes to humor. After all, if you stop and think for a moment about the funniest thing you recently heard, it was almost certainly a joke or a friend’s tale from your own backyard. Humor in communications must transcend those local lines as best possible. Colloquialisms will undoubtedly fall short of a universal attempt as will most jokes some people find humorous. For instance, it is best to steer clear of religion, politics and potty plunders. Humor is risky; universally funny is that much more difficult. Both, however, are possible.
  • Avoid one-liners. They may be quick and simple to drop swiftly into a written piece and call it a day, but the easy-way-out usually produces little results. To win your audience with a snicker and grin, you must put more thought behind each line you attempt in your communications. One-line comedy and over-used, already-crafted jokes – “Why did the chicken cross the road?” – added to your copy or spoken with a wink during a professional speech just won’t cut it. Be creative. Think outside the box. Execute humor that makes someone think to achieve comprehension and they’ll appreciate your effort, and hopefully your message, even more.
  • Approach humor strategically. The best humor is often what emerges unintentionally. Rather than diving into your marketing attempt with the goal of laughter, aim for tugging at heartstrings or evoking emotion in general. If your wit creates a snicker or smile, then superb! Additionally, don’t overwhelm your campaign with that emotional attempt. A unique balance of humor alongside the key message must occur to ensure your product or point isn’t lost in the shuffle. For example, Progressive’s spokesperson Flo typically turns a grin or two for viewers with her kooky manner of acquiring customers, but few forget they are watching an insurance commercial during those two minutes. By appropriately and strategically tying emotion into your message with a tightly-woven balancing act, your message and brand can still shine.
  • Know your subject and its audience. Coupling lighthearted humor with a vital message can create an emotional, human level tone occasionally needed in communications efforts. By knowing your product or service and identifying its key audiences, your company can tailor marketing, advertising and speech messages toward those individuals that discuss important topics in a lighthearted way that evokes a bit of funny alongside serious messages. The non-profit Ad Council has utilized this strategy for several years, employing humor in various public service announcements – most notably on television – to express important messages about obesity prevention, adoption, high school dropout prevention, afterschool programs and more. From a shopping couple stumbling across someone’s “double chin” in the vegetable aisle of the grocery store to a high-school-aged boy talking to his sock as he sits alone at home, subtle humor puzzles the viewer before the Ad Council shares its essential final note at the commercial’s end. By using this tactic, the organization gains its audience’s interest and shares an important message at the same time, using the strategy of wit to do so.
  • Attempt timelessness. Jokes about former President Bill Clinton worked very well for many individuals … several years ago. Today, they would leave readers searching for a dateline on your communications message. Attempt humor that doesn’t date your product or speech. Don’t insert a sarcastic note about a political figure or celebrity that may disappear within a year and cause your important commentary to no longer find relevancy. No need for your potentially powerful speech to be filmed and uploaded to YouTube, yet miss the mark among future audiences because of dated humor.

Humor is not a simple task. Opening with a joke then maintaining an otherwise serious demeanor and message will not work. You must commit from top to bottom, in marketing or advertising as well as speech writing, and carry your wit through to its final moment. If you choose to employ this tactic, do so with caution and a careful, sensitive hand, but know it is possible. Know that humor can produce results, and it can produce results for you, too. By simply understanding your audience and their relationship to your brand, you can tailor your communications message – from advertising efforts to speeches and marketing – to their needs and desires.  Put a smile on their faces in the process and that small grin will maintain interest and equal profitability, awareness and more for your company or organization.

Elaine and Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette. See this month’s edition at http://bit.ly/1v7tJcK.