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mic with stand photoIt’s fascinating to watch something take hold in the zeitgeist (look it up). Particularly when it’s something that has been solidly planted in one’s own personal zeitgeist for … ever.

The hot topic in business social media right now is humor. As in “bring the funny to get attention and customers” – which is true, but is also a dangerous recommendation.

Riddle me this: if laughter is the best medicine, why aren’t more doctors telling great jokes? Other than Ken Jeong, and he’s not actually seeing patients any more.

Recommending that marketing teams use humor is like tossing your 16  year old the car keys and saying, “you’re old enough, go drive!” It might be true, but it’s very dangerous, and it’s likely to end in tears and big legal bills.  Just ask Aflac - their recent experience with business humor via their loose cannon of a spokes-duck pitchman, Gilbert Gottfried, did exactly that.

Here’s what you have to do to put humor to work for your corporate messaging strategy: hire a comedy writer. One who understands both comedy AND business. Who can work with you to identify what makes your target customer(s) laugh, who can help you build some organic and authentic comedy that will make your message penetrate and motivate your audience.

Full disclosure: I’m a writer. I’ve done stand-up for years. I haven’t pushed the comedy thing much in the business arena over the last couple of years because whenever I did, it was to the sound of … well, not silence exactly. It was more like speaking Urdu to a room full of Inuit: blank stares.

The key here is that combination of humor and business sense. You have to understand strategic brand messaging in order to stand it on its ear.

Using humor in social media requires a clear view of your audience, an understanding of what that audience reacts to, and some special-sauce experimentation – one of which sauce’s key ingredients is the willingness to look/act funny – to create funny-with-intent content.

Willing to take a small risk that could pay off large? Hire a comedy writer, let that writer work with your marketing team, your sales team, your ad agency, your PR firm. Shake well, stir frequently, keep the heat level and even. Then, when the sauce is blended just-so, pour it on. And don’t forget to measure the results – we are, after all, talking about your business. And you cannot improve anything that you do not measure.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’  to it …

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