Not everyone is a comedian, but humor is not only a tool to be used by people who use funny as a personal brand. Using different styles of humor as part of a communication style can enhance your brand whether you are concerned about being thought of as “too serious” or simply seeking to stand out. You don’t need to have a stand-up routine since humor and other emotions can blend well together and even help in certain circumstances. Here are moments and ways that utilizing humor can really make a difference.
A Healthy Approach
More than the greatest medicine, laughter is an incredibly valuable tool to have in your bag of resources for engagement. Laughter releases endorphins, which make people relax, feel good and desire additional interaction. It often spurs insight and gently triggers contemplation when people revisit a pleasurable, humorous moment. An expert in sales, Nema Semnani of Precision Sales Consulting, a Sandler Training company, shares this insight: “We are all mammals. Almost every mammalian species from rats to orcas play throughout their lives, as a fundamental component of their future existence. They don’t live to play, they play to survive. What’s odd is that as humans, we spend much of our childhood learning fundamental life skills through play and yet at some point are told to “grow up and be an adult.” These things don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Humor is an extremely effective way to be playful, disarming, and guide people to lean in and truly listen, instead of just hearing.”
One of the quickest ways to establish your authenticity is to invite people to share in a laugh. While humor keeps things light, it also reveals a great deal about you to your audience. In particular, self-deprecating humor can help clarify that you are engaging in personal branding, not personal bragging. Humor makes communication less formal, which personalizes what could otherwise seem stilted and stiff. Humor is a popular tool for some politicians. President Obama used it to great effect in his remarks at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Senator Elizabeth Warren made it an excellent part of her strategy when she ran for president in 2018–19. But be careful, there is some evidence that humor needs to be leveraged with caution by women or risk a backlash.
Humor invites connection with your audience by highlighting a mutual amusement at the same topic. Studies have shown that “shared laughter promotes relationship well-being, with increased perceptions of similarity most consistently driving this effect.” Humor creates a connection with your audience, which increases your likeability and credibility.
Navigate a Difficult Conversation
In a tense situation, humor can diffuse the buildup of negative emotion. Laughter is a source of stress relief, and it makes it difficult to hold on to mounting tension. While humor should be used delicately so that the tone remains respectful and focused, it is a useful tool to promote a productive discussion. In addition to tense conversations, communications of complex issues can often make the listener get distracted by confusion or intimidation. A lighter anecdote or metaphor can make the topic easier to digest. John Stewart built the incredibly popular Daily Show into a trusted source of information and laughter through his combination of serious news and comedy, often disarming his guests with humor to get them to open up.
In a well-known quote, Maya Angelou said “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Make your audience feel amused and at ease through humor, and this will be a lasting, positive impression. A flat, emotionless delivery is much less likely to engage and stick with the listener. Just as individuals can utilize humor to connect with their audience, companies can also leverage humor to be memorable. Look at the Super Bowl ads, for instance, companies in 2021 utilized humor very strategically while also balancing the context of the national dialogue on COVID. In the competitive insurance market, Progressive, Geico, and Liberty Mutual have each created funny, recurring characters whose taglines make them stand out in the crowd.
Jen Dalton is a personal brand specialist with entrepreneurship in her DNA. Her book, Listen: How To Embrace the Difficult Conversations LifeThrows at You, is an insightful guide into navigating tough talks. She helps business owners and executives define how they show up as leaders, make the most of their strengths, and tend to their legacy, growth and visibility. The author of two books, frequent speaker, podcaster, and “Purpose Sherpa,” Jen is a critical resource for any person or company that wants to define their brand and differentiate themselves in authentic, credible, and relevant ways to the market.