Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

IBM Gets YouTube: Giant corporations are beginning to catch on to the reach and humanizing power of YouTube, and when IBM starts poking fun at itself in public you know there’s a sea change taking place. This video, a pretty effective homage to The Office, is the first in a series of three training videos that have become among the most popular items on the video sharing service.

At Slate, meanwhile, Peter Hyman takes a not entirely approving look at the “funniness epidemic” sweeping corporate America and wonders whether funnier workers are necessary or desirable.

All of which reminded me of a retreat I once attended in rural Pennsylvania with employees of what was then Creamer Dickson Basford (now absorbed into Euro RSCG Magnet). The team-building exercise involved a presentation by a humor consultant whose schtick including having people stand on one leg and put on fake red noses, on the assumption (I guess) that if they weren’t funny at least they might get some laughs by looking stupid.

At the time—and we are talking 15 years ago—I assumed the belief that a sense of humor could be taught was a peculiarly American notion. The only two people in the room who appeared not to be buying in at all were myself and a fellow-Brit from CDB’s U.K. sister company Biss Lancaster, presumably forced to attend as punishment for some horrible transgression.

The only funny thing about the whole episode was that after three days of team-building and warm-and-fuzzy culture building and work-life balance cliché, the meeting closed with a presentation from a client, whose message was simple and straightforward and a direct contradiction of everything that preceded it. “If I call at five minutes to midnight on a Sunday, I expect a call back by midnight or you’re all fired.”

No one laughed.

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