From afar, my straight-faced stare and skinny tie might make you wonder if I’m worthy to talk about humor, but I promise I have the proper credentials. I’ve written comedic nonfiction for numerous publications, performed professional improv for a few years, emceed events, etc. And if you think that my funny life and my professional life in communications never intersect, you’re very wrong.
As it turns out, humor is a skill that can be invaluable in the wonderful world of business. One of the most fulfilling aspects of coaching and performing improv was working with nearby businesses. We’d often host employee workshops in which we led groups in collaborative games to call forth participants’ creativity and communication skills. And these types of comedic corporate trainings are a growing trend worldwide.
But humor in the workplace can do more than boost morale (and teach you three fun facts about Fanny from Finance); it can help boost your bottom line, too. Incorporating comedy into your content can be a powerful business strategy. Wendy’s does it. Old Spice does it. And when Squatty Potty’s CEO decided to defy stakeholders and forge ahead with his campaign involving a soft-serve ice cream-pooping unicorn, their online sales increased by 600%.
As consumers, why are we drawn to companies and campaigns that get us giggling?
First of all, depression and anxiety are on the rise, so consumers such as myself are looking for a little levity wherever we can find it. Second of all, when appropriate, humor can help people seem smarter, sound confident and become more creative. It can have the same effect for businesses, too.
But before you plunge headfirst into comedy concrete, you should seriously consider whether or not humor meshes well with your company’s content marketing strategy.
Is it on brand?
Humor is not right for every business. Take a long look at your industry and your brand identity to determine if humor is both plausible and appropriate.
Is it what your audience wants?
Humor is not always welcome. Study your demographic data, and ask yourself if your audience is open to it.
Is your company capable?
Humor is not a formula, nor is it an easily learned skill. You need a clever content marketing team that is adept at effortless and effective humor.
Does it add significant value?
Humor is not content, it’s content enhancement. If humor neither enhances your current content nor converts content to sales, it’s not for you.
If you can answer, “Yes!” to each of these questions, then humor may be a strategy that works well for you. Here are my top six tips for incorporating comedy into your messaging:
1. Find your company’s funny bone.
Appoint ambassadors within your company to write and vet content. Everyone is funny in their own way, but be sure to choose people who have a sense of humor with wide appeal and natural quality. You can even use the increase of comedic content as an opportunity to create levity in the workplace. Share some of your ideas with coworkers and let their collective reactions guide your strategy.
2. Call back to previous content.
Reshare old content in a way that feels fresh. You can take a serious post from 2017 and rediscover the humor in it or bring back an old joke with the hashtag #FF (Flashback Friday). Your new customers get a good impression, and your recurring customers are reminded of their relationship with your company. After all, as comedian Bo Burnham says in his song What’s Funny?, “Humor is often linked to shared experience.”
3. Laugh with your audience.
Although the #RoastMe thread on Reddit, where people post photos of themselves and solicit others’ cleverest insults, is a hot topic with almost a million participants, it’s never a good idea to demean your audience. But the reason why the (well-moderated) #RoastMe forum works is because everyone has explicit permission to laugh along with each other. Your content should make it clear that your audience has permission to laugh, too. This isn’t only for your audience’s sake, it’s for your own. If your content isn’t clearly intentional, people will laugh at you. If your content is clearly intentional, people will laugh with you.
4. Poke fun at yourself.
The ability to laugh at yourself makes you more approachable, but beyond that, it also equalizes your status with your audience’s. If done well, self-deprecating humor is an easy way to avoid a holier-than-thou tone in your content and to endear customers to your brand. Be sure, though, that the joke is directed solely at your business and not at your employees, your area or your industry.
5. Nod to pop culture.
It’s difficult to relate to everyone at the same time, but pop culture can get you close. Whether we like it or not, almost all of us are touched by pop culture in one way or another. Capitalize on other companies’ content by playfully and meaningfully engaging them on Instagram. Respond to celebrities’ tweets or use one of the trending hashtags on Twitter. Promote a product or service with a meme or a gif on Facebook. Not only does this make you more relatable, it makes your content more shareable as well.
6. Be true to yourself.
As cliche as it is, this piece of advice is vital. Make a choice about the type of humor and content that’s right for your brand, and then avoid the humor that does not enhance your content. When making this choice, remember that humor can be many things: a hahaha!, a ha!, or an ah-ha!. A smirk from clever copy may be more fitting than a belly laugh from silly one-liners. When you know which type of humor is best for your brand, be consistent to boost customer retention.
Result: brand recognition
Once you know who you are and how best to incorporate comedy into your content marketing strategy, give it a go. After testing out some ideas internally, social media is an excellent place to start. As you wander into the world of comedy, remember to be kind to yourself. Much of comedy is trial and error. And if you happen to encounter errors along the way, refer to Tip #4.