Posts Tagged ‘merchandising’

I just glanced at my official NBC “The Office” calendar and learned that September is Humor in Business Month. Intrigued, I did my usual exhaustive research (first three Google hits) and found absolutely no background information on this fact. Three other bloggers asking “did you know September is Humor in Business Month?” doesn’t count.

So, I guess HIBM (no, I’m not going to keep typing it) is open to interpretation, not unlike humor itself. This is why humor in copywriting is used so sparingly in corporate web, print or video…everywhere outside of advertising. Frankly, I think it should be used MORE sparingly IN advertising, with that weird Seinfeld Windows commercial being prime evidence.

Workplace humor always has the smell of desperation to it. Cartoons like Dilbert have taken some heat over the years for being something of an opiate for the downtrodden office worker.  Some theorists say that laughing at Dilbert’s idiot boss takes the sting out of the fact that your own boss is an even bigger idiot. You let off steam and never gather the courage to actually change your circumstances.  Others say, “Lighten up, Francis. It’s a cartoon.”  Still others say, “As a member of the county road crew shoveling hot asphalt in the middle of August in South Carolina, I do SO identify with the miseries of the modern office worker.”

Sociology moment over.

I grew up on George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, early SNL, SCTV, MAD Magazine and National Lampoon.  I was the weird kid with no friends writing monologues and sketches, performing them into my tape recorder for absolutely no one to hear. I always knew that copywriting was in my future.

Naturally, I pursued a career path where I get to express that talent almost never. Business copywriting is often pretty straightforward. This is a business where the new, 20-percent-more-absorbent paper towel is treated like the cure for cancer… so lose the laughs, funnyman!

Despite this, I have had more than my share of fun, funny projects. In the course of getting to know people, clients, future clients, etc., my offbeat sensibility peeks out. Eventually, every client needs a funny script…usually something internal like a merchandising, promotional or motivational video script.  And I usually get the call. Check out some samples on my Video page.

Humor in business communication has its place. It’s a rarity, but that’s not a bad thing. Not being able to automatically utilize my strong suit has forced me to develop my more serious side. When I do get to use humor, it’s refreshing.

So, if you get the opportunity, try a little levity in your corporate communications. But you’d better get busy…Humor in Business Month is half over!

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Previously on Battlestar Galactica, we learned that the corporate newsletter is dreamed up by a marketing or merchandising manager, and then immediately handed off to an assistant for execution, and that’s where it all starts to fall apart.

I realize now that this must have seemed pretty ironic, given my self-righteous grandstanding on Administrative Professionals Day. Not really, because it’s not her fault. And, no matter how much her boss “empowers” her when he dumps hands it off to her, it’s beyond her control:

  • This newsletter is only one of her eleventy-billion responsibilities.
  • She is expected to not only dig up stories on her own, but also channel stories from various other managers and directors she works with. Unfortunately,
  • She has no authority to prod those folks when they don’t contribute, and
  • She has no authority to edit their contributions.

Which brings us to one of the prime reasons corporate newsletters suck: too many cooks…or, more accurately, too many cooks and no executive chef. When you have six different people writing the newsletter, you invariably get:

  • Six different degrees of writing skill
  • Six different degrees of enthusiasm, and
  • Six different definitions of “humor.” (My personal fave!)

In the corporate world, anything cobbled together by six people means that responsibility for the thing is so diffuse that it will eventually die of neglect. So what’s the solution? That’s where the professional copywriter comes in. And it’s the topic of our stirring conclusion, coming Monday!

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The thing about corporate newsletters is that most of them suck.

Dude, don’t hold back. Give it to us straight!

Don’t worry; this statement will offend precisely nobody. Why? Because nobody writes the corporate newsletter. They only contribute to it, and obviously their part is wicked good. Somebody else, they’re not sure who, “puts it together.” And then, somehow, it ends up on the company’s intranet...where yes, they admit, it does suck.

Corporate newsletters can be valuable tools…when they are about something, and add value to the reader. Family Bowling Night, the Red Cross Blood Drive, and July Birthdays don’t count. I’m talking about useful stuff like:

  • Information on new products
  • New sales tools and collateral
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Success stories with lessons attached, i.e. Best Practices

The corporate newsletter is a great way to present a consistent message to a sales force that is spread out over a vast area like, I don’t know, North America. And it’s particularly valuable when it lives on the company’s intranet, where information doesn’t have to compete with public relations or confidentiality concerns.

The problem is that the idea of a newsletter is dreamed up by an internal marketing, merchandising or promotions manager…and then immediately passed off to some assistant for execution. It goes downhill from there, as you will read in our next thrilling installment!

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