For Peter Mitchell, chairman and chief creative officer of Salter>Mitchell, humor is a tool his agency frequently employs in public service campaigns. Aside from using it as a way to grab people’s attention, humor has other important benefits:
• It can be very viral—more so than if you’re using a warning or stark message.
• It can offset the gravity of a PSA warning. “People don’t want to hang out with people who are always warning them about stuff,” says Mitchell. “They want to laugh.”
For PR and communications professionals wishing to incorporate a bit of levity in their campaigns (without undermining the seriousness of the message), Mitchell has this best practice to share:
• Make sure your fall guy is doing the behavior you don’t want done. “A lot of times, if you look at humor used in PSAs,” says Mitchell, “ultimately the person we’re laughing at is the person doing the wrong thing. The person we’re laughing with should do the right thing.”