“Humor in business can be a remarkable gift,” Cheryl Snapp Conner writes. Skilled use of humor gets a point across, lightens the mood, and makes business owners appear more approachable, she says. Laughter is a great tool, Emily Roycraft of the ImpressionsBlog agrees, if you’re looking to build rapport with your customers. By pinpointing what is funny to your target audience, you can use humorous messages to connect with them. Stay away from controversial topics, though, Roycraft cautions, and never make a joke at a customer’s expense.
Bill Faeth, writing in the Inbound Marketing Blog, agrees with that warning. The reason comedies are typically outnumbered by dramas, he explains, is that being funny enough to make hundreds of people laugh without offending anyone is actually really tough. You can poke fun at yourself, Faeth suggests. Almost anything else, especially competitors or where they live – probably a no-no.
At the same time, I’ve come to realize over the past ten years with Say It For You, I’ve taught business owners and professional practitioners that one of the functions of a business blog is to offer different views on an issue before going on to explain why they are on one side or the other of that very issue. So long as the humor isn’t a put-down of your competitors or of those who might disagree with your take, it can serve as an icebreaker.
A number of years ago, I found material on some research done at the Saimaa University of Applied Sciences on the impact of humor in advertising. The researchers concluded that, while humor is an effective method of attracting attention to advertisements, it does not offer an advantage over non- humor at increasing persuasion.
At a National Speakers Association of Indiana meeting I attended years ago, I remember some information provided by humor speaker Jeff Fleming. One technique often used in comedy, Fleming said, is an exaggeration. Done right, he explained, exaggeration can relax the audience while emphasizing points you want them to remember. (Well…I don’t know about that, I recall thinking. Exaggeration may be OK for speakers, but we blog content writers need to be very, very careful with it, because we’re trying to build trust with readers.) The only way to adapt the technique to business blogs, I concluded, was to use an exaggerated question about the readers’ current dilemma “hooking into” readers’ concerns, then following with serious, usable information about the relief and comfort they’ll experience using your products or services.
And, while Fleming reminded speakers that the stories they tell must be “spiritually accurate” (not necessarily factually accurate), when it comes to blogging for business, it’s crucial that we content writers be factually correct about the way our company or practice can be of help.
Humor is a gift, as both Conner and Fleming point out. But it’s a gift to be opened very carefully when blogging for business!