A Valuable Lesson of Schoolhouse Rock: Don’t Be Afraid to Be Funny

This is the third in a series by Alan Kravitz on basic elements of a Madoff Communications Plan. Alan has previously written about annual reports and establishing a Madoff Q and A.

When I was growing up, I lived for a show called Schoolhouse Rock. I seriously don’t think I could have survived homework without it. They always took subjects that didn’t interest me (for better or worse, I never cared what the square root of any number was) and mixed them with rock music, which I absolutely lived for (at the risk of dating myself, I was going to be the next Paul McCartney).

Case in point is Schoolhouse Rock’s most famous song, I’m Only a Bill. It took what many would consider a rather daunting subject – how a bill becomes a law – and made it instantly palpable with ingeniously clever lyrics. (I know some of you are singing it right now: I’m only a bill. And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill…)

Here’s a little-known factoid about that song – it was first heard in 1975, during a time when many people were uncertain about America’s future. Nixon had resigned just the year before, and trust in the institution of government was decidedly low.

Uncertainty. Lack of trust. Sounds familiar lately, doesn’t it? Let’s face it: These are scary times, and they’re not going away anytime soon – which is exactly why, as part of your Madoff Plan, you should take a lesson (pun absolutely intended) from Schoolhouse Rock and find clever ways to explain what your organization does – and what you do with your money. Think about it: if a bill sitting on Capitol Hill can be made memorable, then so could a dollar donated to a Federation, or any number of Jewish organizations. Pretend you’re a dollar that’s just been donated. Where are you going – and how do you get there?

Humor is something I see all too rarely in our ads and appeals. That’s a shame, because humor (when used carefully and creatively) can be a powerful tool in getting your message across. That’s especially true in times like these. People may be hurting for money, but they’re flocking to Hollywood comedies in droves. And this month, even that bastion of wealth and privilege known as Vanity Fair has this on it’s cover: four comic actors in barrels, with the teaser “Brother, can you spare a laugh?” (There’s also, by the way, a very interesting article about Madoff.)

So don’t be afraid to be funny – especially now. At a time when you truly need to stand out, a little unexpected humor can go a long way.

How can you make better use of humor to tell your story?

Alan Kravitz has been writing for, and listening to, the Jewish community for more than 15 years – in good times and not-so-good times. His company, The Infinite Inkwell specializes in writing web and print copy for Jewish organizations throughout the United States.