Using humour in internal comms | S1 E26

First published: 1 December, 2020

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Series 1
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Using humour in internal comms | S1 E26

Using Humour in Internal Comms

In this episode of Engaging Internal Comms, The Big Picture People’s Craig Smith talks to Costanza Tobino about using humour in internal comms.

Costanza’s work experience ranges from marketing to internal communications and employee engagement. She has previously worked for companies such as Pearson and Gap, and currently she is the Global Internal Communications Manager at Stats Perform, a leading technology company in sports data.

Stats Perform’s mission is to provide better sports predictions and insights by using data and artificial intelligence, bringing the deepest breadth of data, sports research, sports news, and video content. Headquartered in Chicago and London, Stats Perform has offices around the world. As Global Internal Comms Manager, it’s Costanza’s job to unite everybody, and ensure all employees are collaborating, connected, and integrated.

Costanza has led numerous communication projects involving change integration, mergers, acquisitions, executive leadership, product launches, corporate social responsibility, learning and development, and community engagement.

Her biggest interests are in powerful communications, video, new technologies, and humour, which is what Craig will be discussing with Costanza in this podcast.

The power of humour as a communication tool

While humour is defined as the quality of being amusing or comical, Costanza explains that humour in the context of communication within an organisation is very different.

Humour is a powerful tool that can ignite an emotional connection with an audience, which is crucial when a message is to be conveyed. Engaging communications produce positive emotions and essentially positive behaviours from individual employees, teams, and organisations as an entirety.

Describing humour in internal communications, Costanza says, “It’s a form of emotional intelligence, and if used appropriately, you can contribute to employee wellbeing, human flourishing, and also the creation of meaningful connections, and better employee engagement.

Breaking down internal communication barriers

Craig and Costanza discuss how humour can break down the barriers of communication that are often barricaded with corporate-style rigid communication methods.

With messages encrypted within a humorous and engaging presentation, the importance of the root message is carefully disguised as fun.

Perhaps most importantly, this engrains the message within the audience for the long term. When something is made fun and memorable, an individual will recall it throughout their profession. This is very powerful within an organisation’s communications.

Ensuring sensitivity before humour

Humour, of course, must always be handled with care and sensitivity. There are many factors internal comms people must consider when using humour to communicate, such as:

  • Religion
  • Culture
  • Politics
  • Social issues
  • Health issues

If humour is not adjusted accordingly, it can have a very detrimental and unnecessarily negative effect on an organisation’s people.

Humour is a form of emotional intelligence, which can be broken down into self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills,” says Costanza. “As leaders and communicators, we need to rely on all these skills and fully exploit our emotional intelligence to identify situations and circumstances where you would be perceived as, for example, disrespectful or insensitive.

Internal comms people must directly use emotional intelligence and be highly self-aware of potential negative reactions to humour.

Why humour is an essential ingredient in communication in the workplace

Some organisations may be completely virginal to the use of humour within their approach to communicating. This can be an obstacle for internal comms people.

It must be shown why a fun approach to communicating a launch or campaign will have huge positive effects of engagement from employees.

Costanza highlights that humour makes people feel good and creates a positive environment for all to contribute to and benefit from.

She uses the studies concluded by the wheel model of humour, which explains how positive feelings shared by one person as a result of humour can be shared with others as influential. “This proves that using humour in internal communications can help initiate and perpetuate a cycle of individual and social-level positive feelings,” Costanza concludes. “In short, humour is contagious and easily transmissible across teams – so that reflects in a positive way on employee engagement.

How to incorporate fun in an organisation’s communication

During the podcast, Costanza gives an example of how she and her team approached a brand new company-wide intranet with a humorous presentation. Doing so resulted in overwhelming interaction and engagement throughout the presentation, and 95% of the workforce accessing the new intranet the following day.

As Craig points out, “The meaning of any communication is the behaviour it directs.” But how can internal comms people execute a humorous approach within an organisation? Costanza highlights a few key points:

·      Use emotional intelligence

Identify opportunities where campaigns might benefit from the use of humour, and clarify any sensitive issues first, always aligning with the organisation’s culture.

·      Generate ideas

Come up with ideas and ask your colleagues if they think the idea will be broadly understood.

·      Get employees involved

Involving employees is a fundamental part of your campaign that creates optimised engagement and innovation from the audience.

·      Be bold

As Costanza perfectly states, “Be bold. Be brave. Get out of your comfort zone. Because only by having courage to try new things – new approaches – can you truly be innovative. So, don’t be scared to try new things. And should you fail, you try again and again, until you get the winning formula for your campaigns and events.

With all these ingredients combined, a bubbly potion of creativity and engagement will fill the organisation with positivity and innovation.

Beginning a new culture of using humour in internal comms

It is very important that internal comms people align with company culture. Historically, humour within the workplace has been considered as unprofessional, and against the standard approach.

But with emotional intelligence strongly in tune with the company’s culture, Costanza emphasises how having a corporate approach to communicating is not always effective.

Internal comms people should therefore emphasise the need for a sprinkle of humour to maximise engagement across the board, demonstrating how it could be beneficial to employees, and how it can be aligned with the company’s culture and core values.

Such cultures that are more sheltered from the words ‘fun’ and humour’ will find the word ‘engaging’ more appealing. This is the end goal and result of this new and widely accepted approach. It makes work life more enjoyable, more open to innovation, and with a feeling of togetherness across the board, while subconsciously understanding the meaning of the message, and remembering it.

Fun and laughter are considered as coping skills,” explains Costanza. “And one of the most important tasks of a manager or a leader is to implement these skills throughout all levels of the company to preserve the individual health of the employees and the entire company.” With many now working from home, this is more important than ever before.

Especially in today’s world, it is crucial that individuals enjoy coming to work: that they have not simply a job that pays the bills, but a valued role within the organisation.

Useful Links:

Costanza’s LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/costanzatobino

YouTube Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC45yZGtHiKiyKHCMCJO-MsQ/videos

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/costytobino/?hl=en

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