By Robert Grupp

How to Integrate Comedy Into Your Communication Strategy

By Robert Grupp

Comedy can be a really effective element of a communication campaign, but it involves more than just well-timed jokes, according to Brad Jenkins, former managing director and executive producer of Funny or Die DC. Any strong communication campaign needs to start with a goal. The jokes can come later.

According to Jenkins, a strong campaign involves the following steps.

Step 1: Set clear goals

To set goals, the organization needs to dig deeper and understand what end result they ultimately want from the target audience. Is it lead acquisition? A conversion? A purchase? Identify the ultimate goal and outline specifics. 

Step 2: Identify a specific target audience

Communicators can’t reach everyone with the same message. In order to reach the most ideal and worthwhile audience, you need to define who they are, where they live, what media they consume, and understand their underlying motivations. The more precisely defined the audience, the better. 

To demonstrate this step, Jenkins presented an example of a video where the White House had the goal of trying to reach a different demographic about raising the minimum wage. To reach the specific target audience, Mary Poppins, played by Kristen Bell, sang a whimsical song about how she was going to quit being Mary Poppins if the minimum wage was not raised.

The unexpected video crushed expectations and reached the exact demographic identified by the communication team. By knowing the audience and understanding the unique characteristics of the intended viewers, the creative team was able to produce an out-of-the-box idea that worked. 

Step 3: Create killer content that resonates

Communication channels are crammed with messages fighting for the audience’s attention. To stand out from the clutter, an organization needs to break through by embracing the unexpected. Being self-aware and critical can help an organization identify an idea that might be crazy enough to work.

As Jenkins said, “You sort of have to think to yourself, look in the mirror and say, what would our board not want us to do?  And let’s figure out how to do it.”

According to Jenkins, organizations need to be able to laugh at themselves and understand what people don’t like about the organization and why. Take that sentiment and embrace it because that’s what can resonate with the audience. 

With humor, comes balance, however. A message can be lost in the jokes, so organizations need to strike a balance between reaching the audience and entertaining them with a compelling message. 

In order to embrace a humorous message that works, organizations have to be brave. 

“It’s actually a risk to keep the status quo.  It’s actually a risk not to do anything different,” Jenkins said. “Figuring out what your version of being brave is…and being brave, I think, is really, really important in this day and age of reaching people.”

Brad Jenkins spoke in April 2019 in a plenary session at the annual strategic communications summit in Washington, D.C. To see the featured speakers who will be presenting at StratCommWorld 2020 in June, visit for details about this unique global event that identifies strategies to enhance engagement and share methods to improve communications in corporations, the military, government agencies and nonprofits.


Brad Jenkins

Brad Jenkins is the former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and later he was managing director and executive producer of Funny or Die DC. Jenkins was a featured speaker at the 2019 National Summit on Strategic Communications. 


Robert Grupp

Robert Grupp is Director of StratCommWorld, and Adjunct Instructor and Director of a Global Strategic Communication Master’s Degree Program in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.

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