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Posts Tagged ‘promotion’

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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There’s an economic school of thought that says in “times like these” freelancers, contract workers, consultants, call them what you will, should be doing OK. Suppose your company has a need for some service. When times are good, your company might go ahead and put someone on staff to take care of that need. Your company then assumes the financial expense of training that person, providing benefits, buying them a computer, printing their stupid little business cards, and so on.

When times aren’t so good, it’s a different story. Assume the need is still there. In a downturn, your company is more likely to contract someone to fill that need. No benefits, no computer, no stupid little business cards, etc.

Also, what if the provider isn’t doing such a great job? In the full-time staff example, the company feels much more pressure to “make good” on their investment in staff. They have to weigh the cost of retention vs. starting the whole process over again. With a contractor, they can just pull the plug.

So that’s the basic economics, all things being equal. But are things ever equal? Things like IT consulting, call center operations, cable installation…these things are specialized skills. Correction…these are specialized skills and people recognize them as such. Copywriting? Not so much.

When times are bad, people mistakenly cut back on promotion and marketing, precisely when they should be marketing and advertising more than ever. At these times, it’s hard to convince them that:

  • They should be communicating value to their prospective clients, through direct mail, revamping their website, blogging, etc., and
  • They need a professional copywriter to do that. Someone who can help find their value and state it in ways that entice the buying public and search engines alike.

I’d like to hear some ideas on convincing potential clients of the importance of A, B or both! Help a brother out…I’ve got some marketing to do!

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