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I believe levity is the killer app in business storytelling.

Levity lifts the narrative, especially in the B2B tech world where inserting an action verb is considered a win.

For the B2B tech companies who say this is too hard, too risky, check out the use of levity by law enforcement agencies, starting with last week’s Facebook post by the Pleasanton Police Department.

Before going further, it’s important to define levity as something that brings a smile to the reader, not the type of content that has someone falling off their chair laughing hysterically.

 

Bringing the Heat

For those who don’t live in California, the local power company PG&E has and will continue to shut off electricity to around 600,000 customers to prevent potential wildfires. Obviously, this is a serious matter, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with the situation. In fact, at a time when people are tensing up, an icebreaker can be useful.

That’s how the Pleasanton Police Department saw the situation when it offered the citizens of California “helpful” tips that included:

  • Please do not call 911 and ask when the power will come back on. Our dispatchers are very good, but they cannot see into the future. They will tell you they do not know and then disconnect so they can answer the other hundreds of calls from people asking about the power being out.
  • Keep your freezer and refrigerator doors closed to keep the food from spoiling. If you have teenagers, this may be difficult, so speak loudly, but slowly to them so they understand. You may need to hang a sign on the doors as well. Use big letters.
  • Use food supplies that do not require refrigeration. We think potato chips, Twinkies, Oreos and peanut butter might be a good start! Okay, maybe throw an apple or an avocado in there too.

The Pleasanton Police Department also tells a visual story with an image that I suspect every local newscaster deep down wanted to run when explaining the PG&E news.

Levity in map of the entire state of California marked as areas to be affected by power shutdowns

 

Romance ISN’T Dead

Here’s another example from law enforcement, this one from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which I think we can all agree performs a serious role. Taking a page from the visual storytelling playbook, the TSA’s Instagram account highlights the dangerous and even crazy stuff that people try to get through airport security. There’s a certain reality TV psychology going on here as in “What will the TSA find next?” — an approach that has attracted over 1M followers.

I especially enjoyed the image posted on Valentine’s Day with this caption:

Valentine’s Day is a wonderful time to remind that special someone how you feel. A romantic card is a lovely thought, as are flowers and candy. Or perhaps jewelry is a more appropriate sign of your strong affection. Alternatively, you could take a lesson from a passenger at Colorado Springs Airport (COS) and give your sweetheart a big ol’ bag of martial arts weapons! This carry-on goody bag, presented to our TSA officers at the security checkpoint, included an ax, throwing star, double-edged dagger, and machete. Safe travels, you romantic fool!

image from tsa instagram account showing martial weapons on table with measuring tape

Romantic fool indeed!

 

I Want YOU for Fremont PD

And last, I’ll share the opener for the Fremont Police Department’s recruiting microsite.

 

 

Again, the opener isn’t attempting to channel Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show”; it’s about a touch of fun that triggers a smile.

Our team actually developed the creative for the Fremont PD’s recruiting site. I plan to write a separate post on this campaign, but all three examples share common ground. They show the power of levity in humanizing an organization, letting the outside world know there are real human beings — just like you — behind the curtain.

 

When Levity Isn’t Funny

Will everyone like the levity? Of course not. This individual wasn’t amused by the Pleasanton Police narrative on the PG&E power outage.

 

when levity isn't funny

 

Heck, I’m told there are people who don’t like vanilla yogurt with sprinkles from the Willow Glen Creamery.

Creating content that’s so vanilla — couldn’t resist — it works for everyone means you’re creating content that’s duller than the newsletter from the Hicksville Rotary Club.

If law enforcement agencies can thread levity into their stories, certainly B2B tech companies can do the same.


Comments

  • Tim Waxenfelter

    I find that presenters get stuck in one of two modes. They either think that any lightness will make them seem unprofessional or they are insistent on “telling a joke”. These examples are a great middle-ground because they allow participants to relax and relate to the presenter.

    Reply
    • Lou Hoffman

      I agree.

      Many shades of gray between “So a priest and rabbi walk into a bar” and vanilla speal.

      Reply
  • Daily PR Brief - Mon 10/14/19 - ITK Blog

    […] Law Enforcement Agencies Bring Levity to Their Storytelling (Ishmael’s Corner – The Hof… […]

    Reply
  • Tim

    Absolutely! It is those areas in between that presenters need to find. You are absolutely right that they exist.

    Reply

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