Humor + Humanity in Communication Paves The Way to a Great First Impression

I really am trying to write shorter blog posts–I preach it all the time and you are more likely to read this entire ditty if I stopped right after this sentence.

But I promise this one is worth the extra effort you’ll require to dig in here. In fact, extra effort–just a modest amount, mind you–is at the heart of this missive.

Think about your day-to-day journey. You know, the one that can often be filled with so much drudgery and sameness? Honestly, don’t you crave a little humanity–and more than a little humor–to come across your path as often as possible?

What if you were to offer those precious commodities, especially at unexpected moments and in unexpected places, to those whose path you cross?

Folks would rave about you. You’d generate the right kind of buzz. And, according to a recent survey, you would be 87 percent more likely to become a millionaire.

OK, so I made up that last one. Just trying to practice what I’m preaching and inject some humor into your life.

These ruminations flow after a decidedly pleasant encounter I had today with the Terms of Service for a new outfit called Patch.com. Yes, you read that right: terms of service–that dry legalese that hardly anyone ever even looks at, let alone reads (at least, that’s how I operate).


For months, I’ve been hearing rumblings of Patch and noticing veteran journalists, including at least one former editor of mine, have jumped aboard with the company.

But it was only today that I dug a little deeper. (Here’s the link for the Oak Park, Illinois patch, if this is all news to you.)

Because I plan to post stories and other content on behalf of various Inside Edge PR clients in the future, I decided that I really ought to click on the link for Patch’s terms of service.

I was treated to a living, breathing narrative that communicated all the required points (read: legalese), but it did so in a way that was a downright delight.

Some excerpts:

“We ask that you read these Terms of Use carefully before registering or using the Service. If you do not accept these Terms of Use, we promise not to get mad. But in that case, you may not use the Service.”

“You are responsible for the security of your password and will be solely liable for any use or unauthorized use under such password. Therefore, if you share a computer with others, don’t allow your Internet browser to automatically save your password. Also, don’t write your password on a Post-It note and leave it on your desk for all to see.”

Later, after spelling out some of the no-nos that will get your butt kicked off of Patch, there was this simple summation:

Instead of trying to memorize all that, you might boil it down to three main policies: “Keep it clean,” “Don’t try to trick people,” and “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.” Easy, right?”

By the end of it all (and by now you shouldn’t be shocked to learn that I read to the end), my regard for the company had skyrocketed. Bear in mind, I know little more than what I’ve already described, and this halo effect has already taken root.

How would you like your customers, clients, audience base, fans, whomever, to begin with that kind of overwhelmingly positive impression?

That’s the power of effective–human, humorous, real–communication.

So what are you doing–in your e-mails, in your voicemails, in any interaction that you’re having with others–to do that little something to bring a smile to someone’s face?

Do people dread or look forward to hearing, or reading, from you again? The answer lies at least partly in whether you take the extra effort that, in Patch.com’s case, inspired me to give them this rousing shout-out.

Related Posts:
My Two Cents on Humor’s Pivotal PR Role
Chicago Pediatric Dentist’s Playful Display Creates Buzz, Bigger Smiles

The Importance Of Being Like Ernest


William Faulkner, overly fond of overly long sentences, or Ernest Hemingway: which novelist would thrive in today’s Twitter-y 140-character-or-less, attention-span-challenged world?

Hemingway. No doubt. Mr. Brevity himself.

Besides having a realistic view of how much time your audience will devote to any given subject-word-predicate combination, “writing tight” helps aid comprehension. (At 23 words, that last sentence was pushing the limit, for example.)

If someone knows what the heck you are actually saying, then there’s an exponentially greater chance they will take the action that you are, directly or indirectly, recommending they take. A pretty notable trait, that, for marketers and publicists, among others.

These ruminations flow after I just read a Los Angeles publicist’s bio. His 43-word opening sentence spans so much tundra that by the time I reached the period, I had forgotten the stuff that came before the first of his seven (no kidding!) commas.

And it’s hardly an aberration. Two sentences later, he lays a 42-word whopper on readers.

Now, that’s how he crafts his bio, which (you would think) would prompt some painstaking attention on his part. How clearly and cogently do you suspect he is conveying his clients’ stories?

(Of course, I checked out my website to see if I’m practicing what I’m preaching. On a per-sentence basis, the greeting page checks in at 19 words, my company profile at 20 words, and my bio at a relatively long-winded 28 words. Hmm, the prose behind that last stat is something to examine for my next site update. )

Make no mistake: effective storytelling is not about merely hewing to an oppressive word-count limit. Bathroom-wall scribblings tend to be brief, but that doesn’t mean they are worthy of anything other than a good scrubbing.

Next time you come across a powerfully told story, though, pay heed to the rhythm and flow. Amid the longer sentences, I would predict, are a liberal sprinkling of quick bursts of thought that pack a hefty punch.