Guidance for adding humor into corporate writing

Cracking jokes online can bring the house down, but just one tone-deaf gag can pancake your credibility. Follow this advice to walk the comedic tightrope in today’s touchy times.

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The funny thing about corporate humor is that it’s typically not funny.

Whether it’s too forced, provocative, puerile, offensive, alienating or just plain unfunny, there’s so much that can go spectacularly wrong. KFC scored brilliantly in response to its recent supply crisis—and there’s an elite group of flame-throwing social media auteurs who’ve successfully established a cheeky persona—but brand managers who wield humor as a marketing weapon walk dangerous ground.

Using levity can be a tempting play for companies eager to reach new audiences and cut through the messaging clutter. Trouble is, it’s extremely difficult to do so effectively. Many have tried and failed. Many more have lobbed out lame gags or edgy ads, only to be roundly roasted in return. Some have lost everything due to an errant tweet.

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