If you know you don’t want to produce unicorn vomit (and I applaud you for that), you may have decided that your content will be “professional.”
I was extremely preoccupied with “professional” when I started creating content 10 years ago. Revealing anything about my non-work personality was out of the question.
But I had the wrong idea of what “professional” is …
Communicating your knowledge in an authoritative way — where you strictly relay information — isn’t necessarily attractive or memorable.
And when your marketing isn’t memorable, you spin your wheels rather than grow your business.
My “professional” article ideas weren’t doing jack to get me good writing and editing clients.
Prospective clients and customers need to know more about you than your expertise because there are lots of other people in your niche who offer comparable advice.
Your content is an opportunity to demonstrate why your approach is the best fit for your target audience.
So today I’m going to expand the common perception of “professional” to help you convert better clients and customers.
And I’ll wrap up with an editing exercise you can use on the next draft you write.
What’s love got to do with it?
Five years ago, I wrote a book about heartbreak, and then more or less lost interest in the subject after I had expressed all of my ideas in pixels.
But every once in a while, I check out other people who talk about the issue.
And when it comes to YouTube content, I usually regret that decision.
You know those seven-minute videos that feel like an hour? Just boring stuff.
A consequence of clicking on those videos is that YouTube starts suggesting similar content on your home page — in this case, a lot of dating and relationship advice. Mind you, I’m never logged in when I open YouTube on my phone, but it gets you anyway.
That’s how Matthew Hussey’s videos repeatedly started popping up in my YouTube app.
I didn’t click on them for months.
I wasn’t going to get tricked into watching another guy tell me I need to smile more. (I smile a lot!)
However, during a chilly post-work evening this past December right before the holidays, I had a moment of weakness.
A damn good headline caught my eye under one of Matthew’s videos with a huge number of views, and the length was less than five minutes. Considering it could possibly be high value for a low investment of time, I watched it.
Well, shit. It was really good. I even found myself chuckling at one point, which drove me to click on his bio:
“Matthew Hussey is the world’s leading dating advice expert for women. He has coached millions of women around the world to help them get the love lives of their dreams.
He’s a New York Times bestselling author of ‘Get The Guy,’ the relationship columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine, and the resident love expert on The Today Show.”
He brought his business to the United States from England years ago, so I realize I’m late to the Matthew Hussey Party.
I’ve now binge-watched so many of his videos, I don’t remember the first one I viewed, but I’m referring to that experience as the Chuckle Point.
What is the Chuckle Point?
The term is a play on the Bliss Point, a concept from the food industry, which Matthew uses when he discusses attraction.
This is a bit of Content Marketing Inception, but stay with me. 🙂
Matthew defines the Bliss Point as “the optimal level of salty and sweet in a food that keeps you wanting more of that food.”
The Chuckle Point is the optimal level of humor in your content that warms up a prospect to your message.
While you previously looked like every other product or service provider in your niche, from the Point of Chuckle, your offer starts to be viewed as a viable solution to your audience member’s needs.
The killer and the poet in action
Other heartbreak, dating, and relationship advice videos that I’ve watched contained attempts at humor, but they all felt forced or trite. I hadn’t genuinely chuckled before.
That small, but authentic, chuckle persuaded me to check out more of Matthew’s videos. He also gives a fair amount of “smiling” advice, but all of the sudden, tips I’ve heard countless times have more meaning.
That’s the power of the right presentation.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the passion for effective communication that drives his business. It’s more than just surface-level dating and relationship advice — succinctly summed up in one of his taglines, “Don’t just get a love life. Love life.”
So now I view smiling in a whole new context that I would have never learned about if the Chuckle Point hadn’t warmed me up to Matthew’s message.
Each of his videos has a clear purpose and call to action, typically tailored to the video’s topic. They’re business-savvy and enjoyable. That’s what professional is.
I’d say he’s both killer and poet.
But don’t take my word for it. The proof is in the Yorkshire pudding.
Matthew has more than one million YouTube subscribers, offers a variety of digital products on his website, and hosts a five-day, in-person retreat for a hefty price tag.
Most importantly, he provides value at all levels, whether they’re free or paid.
For example, he invested in a Back-to-the-Future-style DeLorean for a video last year. Viewers get transported to his imaginative world at no cost to them.
What if you aren’t a comedian?
The Chuckle Point isn’t about making jokes or making light of your topic. It’s about looking for ways to show your perspective.
Many other qualities make Matthew’s content work, but I wanted to highlight humor because it’s a fairly easy way to craft a fun presentation. Yet, I understand why many people don’t feel comfortable trying it out.
The beauty of the Chuckle Point is that all you need is your own sense of humor. You don’t have to tell jokes; you demonstrate what you think is funny, without distracting your audience from your main point.
Here’s a good time to mention that this advice is not a license to deploy rude or attack-oriented humor.
It should go without saying, but making offensive comments for the sake of being offensive is not what I’m talking about.
But your empty eyes seem to pass me by and leave me chuckling with myself
What if your humor turns off some people?
I bring that up now, because even if you don’t go to those unsavory places I mentioned in the section above, you will still turn off some people. Not might. Will.
That’s true even if you stay “strictly professional.” There’s always going to be someone who dislikes something you do or say.
So when you aim for mass appeal in attempt to prevent a negative reaction to your work, you make a harmful assumption that ultimately weakens your marketing:
You assume that a person already wants to do business with you, as long as you don’t make a certain joke or comment.
Let’s look at it this way … when you stay in the “bland zone”:
- You make an effort to satisfy a lot of people who probably have no desire to become your clients or customers.
- You fail to form a deeper bond with the people who are already inclined to like you and are closer to becoming clients or customers.
It’s okay to turn off some people. In fact, it’s necessary to connect with the right prospects.
How to make the Chuckle Point work for your content
Sprinkling subtle and overt humor into your content mix gives your audience a sense of who you are and potentially even a sense of what it’s like to work with you.
For example, someone looking to hire a freelance writer for their marketing department might not know where to start. All candidates will look pretty much the same, making the experience a bit tedious.
They could narrow down their search by looking at writers who have been certified by a rigorous content marketing training program.
Beyond that, they’re looking for attractive character traits. The right content can make that prospect’s job easier.
Check out these three instances from Sonia Simone here on Copyblogger, where she clearly shows her perspective rather than settling for the exact phrases another writer would use.
The Chuckle Points are bolded.
The first two are from How to Find Your Own Path to Creative Productivity:
“I had a toddler at home and a mountain of stress at work. I was managing a team of writers (this is an oxymoron) and juggling complicated deliverables for customers, coworkers, and executives.”
As someone who both manages writers and is a self-aware, self-described Writer Diva, that sentiment resonates with me.
“I was fairly religious about ‘GTD,’ as we cult members called it back then. (Except for keeping track of future activities in 43 paper folders. A calendar is a thing that did not need to be reinvented.)”
It’s observational humor. Stating the obvious can form a connection with others who are thinking the same thing but haven’t expressed it themselves.
This one is from How to Connect the Dots that Can Make You a Star:
“Not everyone likes submerging themselves in a book to solve a problem. I do, but plenty of people don’t.
So very soon, we’ve got a resource that will help with that.
It’s called Creative Foundations. Unless we come up with some sexier name, like The Unicorn Collective, or Lucile.”
Here, Sonia subtly pokes fun at arbitrary names for products.
Humor is not always going to be appropriate, but when it is — and you hold back from offering a taste of your personality — you miss an opportunity to stand out.
Gaining the confidence to use humor helps you achieve what you wanted all along from your “professional” content, but it takes practice.
So let’s start practicing …
Try this exercise today
Here’s an editing exercise that helps you evaluate your writing from the outlook of someone who doesn’t yet understand why your product or service is special.
After you’ve written a draft, create a blank document with two sections: Customary and Customized.
The Customary section is for each of your draft sentences that sound like they could have been written by anyone in your niche.
The Customized section is for each of your draft sentences that deliver your unique writing voice.
Read your entire draft and copy/paste each sentence into one of the two categories.
Don’t overthink it — these sections aren’t “good” and “bad.” They’re just a chance for you to examine your writing as if you’re a prospect who doesn’t know anything about your business.
Then, review the sentences in your Customary section to see if edits could make them more distinct.
If there aren’t a lot of opportunities to make changes, that’s okay. You want to catch the few instances where you haven’t quite realized your potential — the spots that could be Chuckle Points.
You’ll do the same with the sentences in the Customized section as well, paying special attention to the language you can fine-tune even more.
This exercise is time-consuming, but I recommend trying the “full version” at least a few times on different pieces of content.
After that, you can create your own shorthand for identifying parts of your drafts that are Customary and Customized — and your methods for pushing your creativity further.
What makes you chuckle?
Now you have an idea of what makes me laugh and know how much I appreciate a good chuckle.
Do your favorite content marketers use humor? Have you used humor to grow your audience?
Share your experiences in the comments below.
Reader Comments (9)
Great Article! I use humour to grow audience all the time, altough I do it in Italian. It’s a very efficient way to grow your credibility and make users coming back to your site.
Ryan Biddulph says
Being authentic is where it’s at Stefanie. I often inject humor into my work, but it is me. Not me trying to be funny. But it is Ryan Biddulph, online, being who I am offline. Or me just being me. If you get comfy in your own skin…..look out! In a good way of course.
Stefanie Flaxman says
You reminded me of something I didn’t mention in the article. 🙂
Someone’s online personality can be a version or slice of their offline personality and still be authentic. It’s up to the individual to decide what they feel comfortable with revealing about themselves or their lives.
Creating some guidelines can be helpful, and Sonia has talked about aspects to consider when doing that:
Thanks for prompting me to add that note here!
Freddy G. Cabrera says
I super love this post Stephanie!
You got some awesome writing skills and I would like to loudly applaud you.
I think humor and somewhat of storytelling go very well with blogging and content marketing. When writing attractive content for a living, one must go far and beyond the mind of creativity to learn the ways of entertaining people while conveying an important message.
Sh**** like this works!
Thank you for sharing this!!
Best super regards! 😀
Good humor can do wonder. I often have a broad smile in my face while reading books which provide humor intuitively. It should not be a joke. Joke is not that matters in writing. It is the quality of the writers to tickle you gradually with their brilliance and intuitive mind.
I am going to check and subscribe Mathew.
Thanks for an in depth article.
Moss Clement says
Being humorous is a great way to get the attention of your readers and prospective customers. Sometimes I start my introduction with storytelling with a blend of humor.
However, even though this is important, it is good to know that you have to be authentic as well. Authenticity in your writing will help you build trust and credibility. As Ryan pointed out, be you – yourself.
Thanks for sharing Stefanie!
Icy Sedgwick says
I never thought I’d see a Billy Idol lyric in a Copyblogger post so you just became my favourite writer (true story).
Stefanie Flaxman says
Wow! I appreciate that a lot. 🙂
Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed that subhead.
Jane Rucker says
Great article! Humor is such an effective way to let people catch of glimpse into who you are and how you think. I enjoy interacting with my readers that way. Your Customary/Customized exercise is excellent! Thanks for continuing to share such valuable information!
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