Monday, 31 January 2011

Humour in writing for business

Humour is such an individual perception.  What I might think funny you might find boring, or cruel.  And how the humour is received depends sometimes on mood.  If I have what my mother called a silly five minutes jokes can appeal to me that would leave me cold at other times.

So the GSOH that everyone claims if writing a personal ad is fraught with danger for business writers.  There's the personal versus business mindset for example to consider.  Plus the type of business your client might be in.  And what works face to face where you have all the nuances of expression and body language to help you get over any humorous quip is likely to fall flat in print.

On the page you need to be very sure of your audience before you start including jokes.  I recently exchanged emails with someone whose approach was literal acceptance of the words without any inclusion of nuance.  And I wasn't even telling jokes.

Is there never a case for humour then?

I wouldn't say that.  But if it's a first approach I'd definitely play everything very straight.

Later in a relationship when you've developed some rapport, and gained some feedback it's possible.  For instance, the monthly update I send out, goes mostly to people I've met, some of them over many years.  We've talked on many subjects, discussed approaches to writing and have developed at least a basic understanding  So I include sometimes humorous titbits from my own life and occasionally YouTube clips.

I'm still very careful though.

Some entrepreneurs especially in the direct marketing sector set out to develop controcersial personas.  They're upfront and blunt.  And they're sure that there's a segment of the market they'll appeal to.  But even they are careful about the humour.

So how should you approach it?
  1. Consider your market.
  2. Consider your product or service.
  3. Consider your marketing persona.
You'll soon find out if your audience will like or accept it.  And as the more outrageous comics always do, post a health warning about the content of your marketing.

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