“You can tell how smart people are by what they laugh at.”
– Tina Fey, Bossypants
“Humor, more than anything else in the human makeup, provides an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”
– Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Until now, I have been writing about storytelling, the other ingredient to successful visual content marketing. Those posts have been all about deconstructing the elements, benefits, need for, and realities of the use of storytelling in social media today. People are quick to tell entrepreneurs that they need to work on their Minimal Viable Product (MVP), elevator pitches and public speaking ability, in that order. Especially as video becomes an increasingly used medium for content marketing. The truth is that we need to work on our storytelling, in addition to those other things! And that means both content and delivery. That’s where humor comes in. I will be writing about this other train track for the next few posts and giving examples and practical takeaways, some of which are excerpted from my upcoming book. For now, I need to give an introduction and some food for thought why we need humor, especially as an entrepreneur.
I’m a speech therapist/educator/Autism Specialist who has worked extensively on storytelling and language skills with children in need, and lectured about it around the country. I have learned that storytelling is a cognitive process that involves honing one’s linguistic, public speaking, and episodic memory skills. It can therefore be taught, crafted, nurtured, and perfected over time and with lots of practice. What is more complicated (but doable) to teach is humor, a neuropsychological process that helps us imbue the words we use and the communication style we display with our own psychic fingerprint. Our inner landscape made up of our likes/dislikes and past experiences. Our Theory of Mind and outlook on how we think the world works.
Humor is really that metaphysical plane of existence for people where the mind meets the heart, and those lucky enough to understand that get to share space with you….for a moment, for a while, and sometimes for life. That’s what Emotional Attunement is all about; that secret sauce, the glue in any relationship, that elusive goal children with Autism and their families/friends strive for. It’s something we should all strive for; to remain resilient, optimistic, and able to embrace change. Aren’t these qualities entrepreneurs need?
Entrepreneurs also need to strategize re: the use of humor for visual content marketing campaigns and social media. Why? Because behind the smoke and mirrors of agonizing over bootstrapping vs. raising venture capital, launching your startup, creating your brand, and getting mentored, there is one truth that sometimes gets obscured in the frenzy…..You need customers. That means you need to woo them; in Real Time and online. How? By connecting to them; emotionally and intellectually. By using humor.
I’m someone who has always watched the Super Bowl for its ads, until now. I watched because those commercials are some of the best, funniest, and most memorable you will ever see. I watched because I’m an observer and student of human behavior, and humor is a behavior, one of the most important ones we engage in beginning in childhood and continuing into adulthood at work, especially if we are in education and/or entrepreneurship and have something to sell! Besides, I’m always looking for new material to use in my seminars, in my speech therapy sessions with my students, and in my writings. I’ll write more about those famously funny commercials next week, after we all see which ads went viral after the Super Bowl is over. But I may be too busy watching Derrick Coleman in action and rooting for him, because of the letter he wrote and his words in this Duracell ad, which really resonated with me emotionally.
That’s ultimately what entrepreneurs need to understand and what content marketing is all about…..providing words, images, and ideas that lead to emotional resonance with clients and their answered calls to action. As Joseph Giunta writes, one of the secrets of effective marketing is to leave them laughing. Humor is also the secret to diffusing tension during negotiations, something Nelson Mandela understood and practiced. Finally, humor is a powerful teaching tool that allows one to give constructive criticism and convey uncomfortable truths, such as what this creative journalist did in Detroit when bankruptcy was being declared.
Humor is essential to the human experience. Human beings are visual learners for the most part, which is also essential to the human experience. People retain and respond to visual images faster and longer, especially when those visual images provide a shared moment of humor and a story that resonates. Educators have known and discussed this for years. Now entrepreneurs are getting on board too.
Still unconvinced that humor is one of the train tracks underneath the visual content based social media train in 2014? See the “what’s hot” section of Google + and count how many funny pictures are there. See which funny photos and videos people are posting on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or Vine. Have you seen the Vine clip of Vice President Biden smiling away behind President Obama during his State of the Union Address? Have you noticed the Funny or Die Twitter feed that has 7, 777, 493 followers? Have you ever watched the Just for Laughs Gags channel on YouTube which has 2,977 uploaded videos and 3, 819, 744 subscribers, including me?
What is it about humor? What makes it such a valued, powerful, and necessary weapon in our human arsenal in all arenas; education, entrepreneurship, medicine, politics, and now social media marketing?
I’ll leave you with two photos poking fun at our social technology fever and some more food for thought until my next post…..
There is an entire virtual museum for a woman who touched millions of lives through her stories of being a suburban housewife in the 70s and 80s, stories that are still passed down from generation to generation and became over 4000 syndicated articles and several best selling books. I’m writing about one of my favorite authors and early virtual mentors- Erma Bombeck. Erma was known and loved by men and women, children and adults, Americans and people from other countries, for her humor. For her funny and prolific writings until she passed in 1996. Erma truly understood humor and pathos; its evil twin, in all its forms and incarnations. She deeply understood the minds and hearts of people, something that entrepreneurs work so hard to comprehend. She had the elusive formula down pat, the one that old school outbound marketing gurus try to hoard and new-age inbound content marketing gurus now share:
There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.
– Erma Bombeck
That line can be crossed with visual images, faster and more frequently than when we only use words.
To be continued…..