Using Humor In PR

What if there was a way for you to differentiate your PR from the rest of your competitors — but it’s slightly risky and not that easy. Would you try it?

Such a PR tool does exist. It’s called humor.

According to Marketing Profs, few companies are using humor in their marketing and PR that, whenever a company does — and does it well — it’s sure to stand out, especially among technology companies.

“High-tech suffers from terminal seriousness,” says Kathy Klotz-Guest in her article, “Humor in PR: Can You Hear Me Now?”

Companies that do harness humor in their PR are sure to catch the attention of media and the public.

Humor is also effective at engaging your target audience and getting more mileage out of social media.

“Consumers are, in fact, willing to engage with companies and brands in today’s online social forums,” says Aaron Perlut in his Forbes article, “Humor Can Create Engagements.”

Granted, using humor carries some risk. Context is everything, for one thing. If you have a global audience, your North American markets may get the joke, but your Asian markets may end up scratching their heads.

Furthermore, being funny does not excuse you from offering real news. Your PR materials, while humorous and entertaining, still have to have news value.

You have to know your audience to use humor effectively — something which is true of any type of communication, PR or otherwise.

This Brand Gets Humor Right

Many experts agree, self-deprecating humor works best. To give you an example, the satirical publisher, The Onion, once made fun of Tide in a parody article about how companies are using social media to promote themselves.

The company got in on the joke, produced the fictitious video described in the article, and generated plenty of social media buzz, not to mention kudos from the writers of The Onion themselves. It was an excellent example of how a brand’s ability to laugh at itself can produce positive PR.

Is Humor Right for You?

The next question is, of course, whether humor is a good approach for your company or client.

I think it’s possible to find a humorous angle, if not several, in any product, service, market or industry. However, there are some things to keep in mind:

Stay relevant

Humor brings positive PR only when it helps expand your core messages.

Be sensitive

Humor’s impact depends on the attitudes and values of the audience. Be aware of cultural, religious, political and other sensitivities that may make your comedy backfire. This is where having a true understanding of your audience — developed through listening and interacting with them — pays off.

Steer clear of humor bombs

Certain topics are bad jokes, no matter what. This includes child abuse, exploitation of women, racial discrimination and disabilities.

Over to you. How about you? Have you tried using humor in your PR and communication? What results did you get?

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