Stop me if you’ve heard this one…

My idea of a good joke starts with “knock, knock.” I grew up thinking my dad’s stereotypical dad jokes were the best. And I still do. So, when our team decided to try incorporating humor into a new marketing project, it made me nervous. I love writing, but my style is generally pretty straightforward. I don’t think anyone from Saturday Night Live is going to be knocking on my door anytime soon, offering me a job.

While it might seem intimidating, there are plenty of compelling reasons to take a stab at using humor to engage your audience. You remember people, commercials, brands that make you smile. Laughter creates connections. Laughter also releases endorphins, the feel-good chemical that reduces pain and relieves stress. Making someone laugh literally makes them feel good. That can be powerful for a brand.

I will share five key points that we learned by taking on this project.

  1. Consider the audience. First and foremost, who is going to be in the room during the presentation, reading the article, or following your posts? Consider every possible angle as to who may hear or read your message. What would they find funny? You don’t want to offend anyone, and you shouldn’t use offensive humor. Ever. But what one group finds funny, others might think it is corny. Or boring. Or too old school. Or for the kids. Or just not appropriate for the topic, time, venue, etc.
  2. Take calculated risks. I recently heard a presentation by Jack Canfield, best-selling author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul. Jack brilliantly used humor throughout his presentation to keep the audience engaged. His jokes were funny, just the right amount of corny, and some were even a little edgy. But those edgy ones were the ones that got the most audible response. I believe Jack took calculated risks, considering how far he could take the jokes to get the best response, without offending his audience.
  3. Stay true to your voice. If you’re phony, too far out of your comfort zone, or go over the top, your audience is going to see right through it. If your humor isn’t genuine and sincere to you and your brand’s voice, it will undoubtedly fall flat.
  4. Your content needs a clear purpose. Telling jokes just for the sake of telling jokes doesn’t seem to work well for client presentations or proposals. We found our humor worked well when coupled with stats and figures related to the business topic at hand.
  5. Your content has to be funny. Like really funny. Humor is definitely not one size fits all. If you are adding cartoons, memes, or witty copy into a marketing piece, test it out before sharing it with your audience. Have people in your office or other trusted colleagues who will give you honest feedback, take a look first. This should give you an indication if you genuinely are as funny as you think you are.

Next time you need a new way to spice up your message or hold your audience’s attention, I encourage you to try a little humor. It can go a long way toward building long, prosperous relationships.