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.

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My Two Cents on Humor’s Pivotal PR Role

Last Friday, when I let newspaper editor Helen Karakoudas know that I had a “timely and hilarious” news release coming her way, she immediately gravitated to the “hilarious” half of that promise.

“Now you’ve got my interest,” said Karakoudas, managing editor of Wednesday Journal, Inc.

I was referring to my effort on behalf of Charo’s Hair Design and Day Spa, involving former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his wellspring of hair.

Karakoudas posted the story on the paper’s web site a few hours later, and the media ball had begun rolling.

Communicating with a sense of humor, clearly, is an immense aid, no matter who you are and no matter what your professional (or amateur) pursuit.

When I was a newspaper reporter, having a sense of humor was an indispensable part of how I built rapport with people, either one-time interviewees or long-term sources.

Did they always appreciate my humor? I strongly doubt it. But at least I tried, and it’s something that I continually strive to weave in to my everyday interactions as I meet a steady stream of new people, from prospective clients to folks riding the elevator with me to dealings with the cashier at Trader Joe’s.

In my experience, the key is authenticity–to work with whatever humor God gave you, and not try too hard. In sports, this is called “letting the game come to you.” In day-to-day life, it springs forth from being an active, attentive listener–not constantly thinking of what I will say next–and identifying the lighter side of things.

Related Posts:
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