Using humour for internal communications…
A reader of our monthly internal communications newsletter – the latest version can be read here – recently contacted us asking if we had ever used humour/jokes as part of an internal communications campaign, or if we had been involved with using humour on a client’s company intranet.
Our answer? Not really. We’ve produced communications that are fun, but not necessarily funny. We think there’s a big difference between the two.
Fun communications have the ability to play a part in something bigger, as they can feed into all other elements of the workplace (culture), making everything more enjoyable, leading to increased levels of productivity, and improved collaboration and innovation – ultimately creating huge benefits to the organisation.
Funny is generally specific to one thing and often doesn’t have the ability to surpass this. Being funny is hard to do and therefore easier to get wrong. When you get funny wrong it has a greater negative impact on your organisation than if you were to get fun wrong.
However that’s not to say funny shouldn’t be ruled out. You just need to be aware of a few key principles.
Understand what degree of humour is appropriate.
Your company values will act as good guidelines for working this out. For example, if you are a young, edgy company then you can be funny in ways that reflects this. Yet if you are a high-end sophisticated brand then your humour needs to be a bit classier. Or if you are a large company with a very corporate environment, then you may well be best steering away from humour and instead focusing on creating communications and materials that offer employees an appropriate level of fun.
We worked with a large global organisation that required an internal communications campaign to educate and make employees aware of the behaviours that were placing company information at risk. Given this was such a dry topic; we wanted to make the communications a bit more stimulating. Humour was not appropriate as we did not want to detract from the importance of the topic, nor did it fit in with the client’s culture. Instead we introduced an appropriate level of fun, through the use of a set of digital games – You can read more about these here.
Use it sparingly.
Less is very much more. If humour is used too frequently it loses its power. It should be seen as a treat, you don’t want people to take it for granted and to become immune to it. It needs to be something that pleasantly surprises people and something they look forward to.
Laugh with, not at.
This should go without saying, but do not use humour at the expense of others. You can use it in a self-deprecating way, but only to show that you are open, honest and that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
Humour should ideally be relevant to your business and to business issues and goals; it is at its most effective when it is. An example of this can be seen from Sodexo, who identified managers lacking ‘people skills’. In order to rectify this, Sodexo created a real life character ‘Bob Manager’ – who was based on David Brent from the office TV series – as a way to deliver messages in a less corporate more fun way.
Sodexo found that their employees felt the corporate messages were coming from people who were out of touch of the day-to-day work environment. And so Bob manager was used to communicate issues in a way that resonated with employees through the use of humour. You can read more about Sodexo approach in this great post from Gatehouse – The agency responsible for it.
Make sure managers and leaders are on board with the humour.
Employees tend to switch off from viewing funny things when they know someone more senior is watching them. Senior leaders should make it clear that certain humour is welcome, by sharing it and encouraging employees to view it.
People love to share funny things online, so make sure the content you are creating is shareable. Visual content is great for this, so too are short videos.
You can’t fake being fun or funny. Don’t try to be something you are not. And test beforehand to see if indeed your approach is fun or funny.
Let employees be funny. User generated content is extremely powerful. You can run ‘funny photo’ competitions as a part of an internal comms campaign, or set up a group on your company intranet / social network where everyone shares jokes and funny stories, maybe on a particular topic? – ideally one that is relevant to your organisation.
Being fun and funny through the use of internal communications is a great way of helping to create a happy workplace. And a happy workplace is a productive workplace.
If you'd like help injecting some humour or fun into your internal communications then please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Until next time…