How Cisco Uses Comedy to Grab B2B Customer Attention

Tim Washer, Creative Director for Service Provider Marketing at Cisco, joins the Social Pros Podcast to discuss how humor and customer pain can cut through the noise and land those B2B accounts.

In This Episode:

Tim Washer


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Full Episode Details

Competitively Funny

A content marketer, a comedian, and a customer walk into a bar…

No, I won’t do that to you.

But there is an interesting and perhaps underappreciated connection between comedy and content marketing.

Tim makes the point that a lot of good comedy comes from a place of frustration, from knowing the pain points of your audience and relating to them through that mutual discomfort. Exercises in producing comedic content easily double as exercises in connecting with your audience, which we all know leads to content gold.

Getting the C-suite to sign off on funny content with no call-to-action can be the hardest part. Many executives fear the negative review or inadvertent offense that it may cause. Tim’s clever approach to overcoming this hesitation involves showing their worst nightmare, a negative comment, on a piece of innovative content they have already embraced.

Turning the tables will get them on board and boost you on your journey to connect with customers in a way your competition wouldn’t dare to.

In This Episode

  • Why cutting through the crowded marketing space means investing in well-produced comedic content
  • How retweets instead of metrics can lead to internal funding for hilarious products
  • Why producing good comedic content means preparing for and accepting negative comments in advance
  • How getting angry leads to a closer connection with your customers

Quotes From This Episode

“We have this belief that there’s going to be a great deal of analysis that goes into making a decision of that kind of investment. But ultimately it is going to be an emotional decision. All decisions are emotional.” —@timwasher

“We all have to be better writers and get the point across faster and quicker because attention spans are shrinking.” —@timwasher

“It’s more important to get out there, let’s get a laugh and have people share this.” —@timwasher

“Just because somebody watched a video doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished any of your business objectives.” —@jaybaer

Social media is like casual Friday for brands. Click To Tweet

“As soon as we start taking off layers and making it generic, and removing specifics that might offend somebody or people might think it’s too edgy, then the video’s dead and it’s not even worth producing.” —@timwasher

“What angers you reveals something about yourself.” —@jaybaer

“There are those experiences where you take a little bit of risk, and you try to do something differently, and it yields something that really works well.” —@timwasher


See you next week!

Episode Transcript

Jay: Welcome everybody to Social Pros, the podcast for real people doing real work in Social Media. I am as always Jay Bear from Convince and Convert, not today joined by my special Texas friend, Mr. Adam Brown. Because this my friends, this is a very special episode of Social Pros. It is live at the Content Marketing World Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. I'm joined today for this very special episode by my friend Tim Washer who is the Creative Director for Cisco. Tim was on this podcast one, two, three, four years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, Tim was on episode 90 of Social Pros. You can look it up at for evidence and proof of that fact. Here we are, episode 285, 195 weeks later. Tim Washer, ladies and gentlemen, is back on Social Pros. My friend, welcome.
Tim: Thank you so much. And so when you said we'd like to have you back, you meant if we can't find anybody else four years later.
Jay: Well we tend to have a quadrennial schedule here.
Tim: Yes sir.
Jay: So each time we have an Olympics or a Presidential Election, we invite back a very special guest. Although fun fact, and this is true, you should feel honored is probably the wrong word, that's overstating it probably by half, but we've only had, in the 285 episode history of this show, five or six repeat guests ever. So, you're in an esteemed group.
Tim: I will take honored, yes.
Jay: It's something.
Tim: Also, I'm an alternate Texan.
Jay: You're an alternate now.
Tim: In Connecticut now, but from Texas originally.
Jay: I did not realize that I guess.
Tim: Yes, yeah.
Jay: So you and Adam could have commiserated?
Tim: We could have done that, yes.
Jay: Well, next time. Tell us what the Creative Director of Cisco does, for people who perhaps did not catch your episode four years ago, because you have, I think, one of the most fascinating jobs in Digital Marketing.
Tim: Yeah, so I work in the specific division, the service provider marketing division. So market to the large AT&T Verizon's Telstras of the world. And what we do is try to use humor and laughter to get more engagement out of our customer channels, and forgive me for using the word "engagement," but really to try to humanize the brand and connect with people. And the idea is if we take a very small part of our budget and every now and then produce something humorous, and not necessarily burden it with a call to action, that it's a gift to our customers, to the analysts, to PR, the press folks who cover us. And it helps us build a relationship with them. And so that's what I do is produce videos, comedies, some of it is also a documentary, we've done some documentary work. And then do a lot of speaking at conferences where I talk about how we use humor to humanize a B2B brand. And that gets us some exposure as well for Cisco.
Jay: So it seems like a reasonable and rational idea. Why don't we provide some content and some information to customers, potential customers that they actually want, that maybe they would find entertaining or humorous in one or more ways. And when you do that, it sort of softens them up for the actual call to action eventually, right? To quote Gary Vaynerchuk here, it is the "jab, jab, jab, right hook approach," right? But in your case it's, "laugh, laugh, laugh, please sign this invoice." Why doesn't everybody do that though? It seems like it makes such intuitive sense. And clearly as human beings, we prefer to laugh or engage with content that we actually like. Why doesn't every business do this? Is they don't have the money, they don't have the foresight, they don't have the Tim Washer? Why don't they do it?
Tim: I think it's probably really a function of two things. One, is just, particularly on the B2B side when you're looking at maybe a quarter of a million dollar sale. The decision making process cycle is you know, 18 to 24 months. And it's made by a committee of 20 people.
Jay: Sure.
Tim: At your customer's office. And I think we feel that we need to be buttoned up. We still have this belief that there's going to be a great deal of analysis that's goes into making a decision of that kind of investment. And there is. But it ultimately is going to be an emotional decision. All decisions are emotional.
Jay: It might be too frivolous if you do something humorous.
Tim: That's right. So there's that fear. There's that fear of doing something different for one thing. There's a fear of not being taken seriously. And I dealt with that. I was at IBM for about six years before joining Cisco.
Jay: Known to be a laugh riot.
Tim: Exactly, that's one of the big three's of comedy is Conan O'Brien, Daily Show and IBM. So, that's where I wanted to cut my teeth. Get my comedy chops there.
Jay: Yeah, absolutely. It's like a work out room.
Tim: It's an actual progression into comedy. The first comedy I ever did was 2006. It was for the mainframe. You know, these are two million systems. And you can imagine the resistance we faced. Internally, people saying why in the world would IBM-
Jay: What's funny about a mainframe?
Tim: There you go, exactly. But we created this little video and it ended up being that the tag line was, "mainframe is like a barn." Which of course makes absolutely no sense at all. But it's funny inside the context of the video. But yeah, a lot of marketing people weren't too keen on that approach but it worked. And it did about a thousand times better than the stuff that our agency or record produced for a hundred times the cost.
Jay: Sure.
Tim: We did it for nothing. And just, it worked. It increased blog traffic, and you know 25 times. Yeah, it builds relationships.
Jay: Most of the work that you do has been in video.
Tim: That's right.
Jay: You do a lot of humorous videos, less so written comedy, things along those lines. Even since the last time we had you on this program in 2013, we have seen this remarkable explosion in video content where everybody with a cell phone now is a self-styled video blogging expert in creating videos on a variety of different platforms. Do you think that is good or bad for sort of your corner of the profession? That it's, that now that everybody believes that video is the way to communicate, that that makes what you do in video all the more powerful or does it sort of cheapen the ability to actually execute as professionally as you do so often?
Tim: Oh, it's definitely the former. I think the more clutter you have out there in the content marketing space, the more powerful comedy is. Because, in 15 seconds, if you can have a well-scripted comedy and produce it well, edit it, and make somebody laugh in 15 seconds, and of course scale that globally on YouTube, it's a very powerful thing. And you cut through all the other clutter that's out there and you stand out even more for sure.
Jay: Have you seen the desire or the need to execute video that's shorter? One of the co-hosts of our sister podcast, the Content Pros podcast, is Tyler Lessard who is the head of marketing for Vidyard. Great company, really smart guys. They give a lot of research that they've conducted that suggests that people's sort of video patience is going down and partially because so much of video is now consumed in a social media environment that the average length of a video is gone from three minutes to two minutes to something shorter. Are you seeing this in your own work as well?
Tim: Yeah, I am for sure. And I did, actually I worked with Tyler and Vidyard at their user conference where we talked about this very thing, using humor to connect through video and how powerful that is. And we didn't get on the topic of length at that time, but I definitely think yeah we all have to be better writers and get the point across faster and quicker, and just because the attention spans are shrinking for sure.
Jay: You have historically executed a lot of your videos for Cisco and before that IBM, for YouTube. Because it's been around the longest, well the second largest search engine, all the things that we know to be true about YouTube. Now however, you see people doing a lot of video on Facebook. What's your take on that? Is that a viable place for your work to live on behalf of Cisco or do you feel like that's a different animal?
Tim: Oh, I think it's definitely viable and I think it's important to post native video to Facebook.
Jay: Sure.
Tim: In the past, maybe two years ago, I was keen on getting it on YouTube and putting the YouTube link on Facebook to help grow those views to help with ranking.
Jay: Facebook doesn't like that very much.
Tim: No they don't and they let you know. They discriminate against you. I posted directly to Facebook, but it works. It's a big enough screen, you know. And you can blow it up to see what you need to. YouTube is so much easier to share outside of Facebook world. I do like that, so now I just post to both.
Jay: What about other places where people are making video, maybe not longer form or sort of a narrative, but maybe sometimes, I'm thinking about Instagram video or even now the explosion of story, right? It started with Snapchat, now we have Instagram stories, now Facebook stories. People have said there's going to be Microsoft Excel stories, like everything's got a story layer now. And so everybody's sort of doing this multi-part, "here's me walking to the mall and what all." There's a lot of that happening, including many brands we've had on the show and listeners to Social Pros are experimenting with stories. Do you feel like that is a viable storytelling medium for the kind of work that you do? Or is it just too restrictive and tricky?
Tim: Which one specifically?
Jay: Well I think it's probably both. It's the regular really short Instagram video and then that sort of whole idea of stories.
Tim: Yeah, like I never experimented with Vine. Some artists-
Jay: Pretty short.
Tim: Yeah, seven seconds.
Jay: Some great stuff. Some amazingly creative work.
Tim: Some comedians just blew up only by doing Vine videos and I tend to ... The type of comedy I like to do is a little more dry, a little more cerebral and it takes a little bit longer to build the tension and have the payoff. So, that wasn't really my style. You can certainly get slapstick across in a shorter format. And that would work well for Instagram for sure. But I also like doing some longer series and I think there's room for that. Probably not so much in corporate content marketing. I think it's more important to get out there, let's get a laugh and have people share this. And then maybe just have a link back to the blog. For those, not a heavy call to action but a link back to a blog site for people who want to learn more.
Jay: Partially so they can measure, and I wanted to ask you about that. I know it's one of the things that bothers you, which is people measuring the impact of video sort of based on that cursory and obvious views, right? How many people watched this? Well okay, I mean I guess that's better having nobody watch it. That doesn't actually mean ... Just because somebody watched a video doesn't mean you've accomplished any of your business objectives.
Tim: That's right.
Jay: And so how do you go about looking at the effectiveness of your work inside Cisco and say, "Hey this isn't free?" You know, they got to pay you and they got to pay your team, and they got to have production and all those things. And probably some amplification, as I'll ask you about. So there's a real cost associated to your work. How do you paint that mathematical narrative internally to say, "This is killin' it?"
Tim: Yeah, well so I take a non-math approach. Particularly because I failed that in most years. But a qualitative, I think the qualitative results really make a difference. And so how I do that ... We did a video, a little comedy series. And one thing is very important. This is off-topic slightly. But make sure you set the objectives right. Our goal is not to sell a quarter of a million dollar router. Okay? And I still get asked the same question.
Jay: With a funny video?
Tim: Yeah, that's right. But one time we said here, we put a pitch together internally. We said, "Look, if we can get four of our top analysts to re-tweet this, we'll call it a win." And based on that, we got the budget we needed and we did a little comedy geared toward analysts who followed Cisco. So these analysts are critical influencers over our large major enterprise and service brought to customers. So if they can say something positive about Cisco, it helps us a great deal.
Jay: Should help your conversion rate, sales close rate.
Tim: Yeah that's all of those things, exactly. And so we did, and we had some really nice feedback via Twitter. One analyst, we won't mention his name but he said, "I peed in my pants at this thing." So whenever ... I think that's the metric.
Jay: If somebody pees in their pants, that's a win.
Tim: If it requires, depends or a change of underwear, then I think you've been successful. And so, what we did is you know I will just go and capture all those tweets, put them in a PowerPoint presentation. That's how we communicate and you send it up the line. And people share that, and when you see, wow, this person was moved to this point of saying he was really connected and they've re-tweeted it and there shows a level of connection with the little comedy video that you've done. From someone who really matters, to your customers, then I think you say, "Look, this is a win."
Jay: What's fascinating about that Tim is, it's not a strategy necessarily that you're trying to influence your customers but influence the people that influence your customers. So that one step removed. It's a very higher order thinking about the role of this kind of content. I think it's really fascinating.
Tim: We did a documentary. This was not comedy at all. But it was a documentary called "The Network Effect." And the idea was, "Let's tell the story of small service providers. The "mom and pop" internet service provider who supplies in the third world economy mostly, who's allowing a man who might be a banana grower, to instead of just walking down the street and selling bananas, you know now on the internet allowing this guy or gal, whoever they might be, find a broader market. And, we didn't mention Cisco at all through it. We released it like in five minute segments, like six chapters, five minutes. And that one was won, it was a Webby Honoree. We also had a TV network called "Shorts International." These are the folks that have the right to distribute all the Oscar-nominated shorts. They came to us and said, "Look, we want to put this together in a long form documentary." And so we edited all together and made a 60-minute show out of it, and got a bunch of free TV out of it.
Jay: Nice. So the long form can work very well even in a comedy. So for, and again telling your story of your customer's customer in that case.
Tim: Yeah, sure.
Jay: When you create these projects, certainly using social media to make people aware of these new videos, etc. I'm sure is part of the playbook, is that something you're involved in or do other people inside Cisco or an agency, who decides kind of how to make this thing "pop" using social once it's done?
Tim: Once the video is produced?
Jay: Yeah. How do we launch this thing? Are we doing LinkedIn ads, are we doing Instagram ads, are we just emailing it to customers or employees? What's the sort of launch protocol?
Tim: Well, when I started there about seven years ago, I was doing all of that. And then our team has grown now, which is a wonderful thing because we have people who are experts in doing that promotion. And, we will work with them up front, tell them what we're doing, get input from them on what they think might help and work, and see if we can shape it into the story. And then we let the social promotions team run with that. And they have the relationships on buying media and all that type of theme placement. Yeah.
Jay: Speaking of social media, there is, I don't know if I would call it a movement, but certainly evidence that some brands are trying to kind of hang their hat on humor as their differentiator in social media. You think about maybe something like Wendy's Twitter account. Something you're familiar with. Whether it's something that's kind of funny and snarky in a way that, I'm kind of on record in saying I don't particularly like that approach. I think it's sort of off-brand. Only because they are not like that anywhere else. They're not like that on Facebook, they're not really like that when you go to the restaurant. But on Twitter, they have this very specific tonality that definitely works for them from a Twitter engagement perspective. I'm less sure that it works for them from a business perspective. But I'm starting to see more and more brands try to use humor to stand out because it's harder and harder to stand out. Attention is a commodity. Do you feel like that can work in social? That humor is an effective differentiator in a short form thing like a tweet?
Tim: Yes, I do think ... First of all, I do think brands have a little more ... It's like a casual Friday. Social media, I think, is like casual Friday for them. They can let their hair down a little bit, maybe a little bit more relaxed. So we may put something up on social, you know on a YouTube channel that we might not necessarily put up on the page. And, I do think you have to be very careful and respectful of the brand. But at the same time, that doesn't mean that everything needs to look a like. And a lot of people get caught up in that. And that's the death of any video on YouTube. If it looks exactly like the last one, it becomes predictable. You know, it's just not interesting. I think there's latitude there, and yes, and I think particularly in social media just because there's so much clutter out there, I think that's a wonderful place for humor, and to practice and experiment with humor and see what happens. I do think tone is important and so you may ... Some brands could open a separate specific Twitter account maybe for one particular campaign for that brand, have a character maybe who's tweeting their voice and see how that works. So you're not taking anything away from the rest of the brand. Yeah.
Jay: One of the things that I have heard is that humor is circumstantial and it can be interpreted by different people. And I'm sure as a professional comedian, you have experienced that. What is your advice and counsel? Because funny to you is not necessarily funny to me, is not necessarily funny to any one particular listener. And we've got tens of thousands of listeners to each episode of this show. Thanks to each and every one of you. What do you say to people maybe in a corporate environment who say, "Well, yeah I understand being funny with this video is probably going to standout, but what if somebody doesn't find it funny?" What if they're offended, or whatever the case may be?
Tim: So, I start off by offering a guarantee. That, first of all, they'll be plenty of people who don't think it's funny and there's probably going to be someone who's offended. And it's important to-
Jay: And now we've got that out of the way.
Tim: Yes, now let's go on. And I think, one thing I like to set expect- ... Now listen, now I've gotten through life because I've lowered expectations and everything I've done. And I think when you're doing the pitch to executives who may or may not be that familiar with social media, I will start off by showing them a piece that has received rave reviews, whether it's from us or someone else. Get everybody's head nodding, "that was a brilliant piece." And then I go show them the negative comments that that piece received. So people say, "Oh yeah, because" ... Look, I've been in plenty of launches and a few large fortune 100 companies where people have been, "Let's go do it. Let's go take the risk." And as soon as those negative comments come, that's what they see.
Jay: Yeah, they're like, "Runaway!"
Tim: That's exactly right. There just not stomach for it.
Jay: "Take it down."
Tim: And you show them ... Look, sometimes I'll show there's a wonderful negative yelp review on a vacation spot, and I think it was for Death Valley. You know, just what a horrible place this is. I'm like, "Dude, it's Death Valley!" You know?
Jay: Yeah. It's in the name.
Tim: Yes, it's in the name. Exactly.
So I think setting expectations saying, "Look, you're on the internet where people can be anonymous and they're, you know"-
Jay: Well, and on YouTube in particular. I mean there's no such ... I mean YouTube is from a comment's perspective, okay? I mean that's bottom of the barrel. It is really is, and so, I don't know this to be true, this is purely supposition, but I don't believe there is any video YouTube that doesn't have negative comments.
Tim: Oh yeah.
Jay: I mean, it doesn't matter what it is, right? "It's the birth of Christ," and, "I hate this video!"
Tim: Yes.
Jay: It doesn't matter what it is, right? People are trolling on YouTube all the time.
Tim: Just ready to gripe at something.
Jay: Yeah. Yes.
Tim: Yes. So, I think, one, you need to set expectations and let people know that, look, somebody will be offended. Look, also as a standup comedian, I learned ... And I'm always clean, and I don't think I'm too edgy, and I do a lot of work at churches. But at the same time, I've understood people, I've found that people have gotten offended. And you know a lot of human nature is ... When we get offended at something it means that there's something that's inside of us, you know?
Jay: Yeah. We're human.
Tim: Yeah. We're dealing with shame or regret, or something like that. And then what you said sparked that feeling in me. And I'm upset at something internally. So, look, that's going to happen, and I think it's just critical you set those expectations. Not everybody's going to get it. One of the things that irks me the most is when people say, "You know, I like this video. It's not going to be global." What do you mean by global? Well, do seven billion people have to understand this and laugh at it? That won't happen.
Jay: Yeah.
Tim: And the more, I learned this in this standup, the more specific you are in a story the more universal it is, because the truth is inside those specifics and it resonates with people.
Jay: Kind of intuitive, right?
Tim: Yes. Yes.
Jay: Try to be broad and apply to everybody, but then it loses focus and it feels fake.
Tim: It feels fake and generic. And how can this be. Why aren't you giving me specifics of this? This couldn't be true.
Jay: That really happened to you when you told me exactly what happened.
Tim: That's right. And so, I may not know where you're going for your coffee stop, or whatever, in Mumbai where you're getting your tea, and that kind of thing. If you give those details, there's something inside that that's unspoken that's going to resonate with me, and I'm going to connect. So I think we have to ... That's a big hurdle we got to move over in the space and say, "Yes, it's not going to resonate with anybody." But as soon as we start taking off layers and making it generic, and removing specifics, that might either offend somebody or people might think it's to edgy, then the video's dead, it's not even worth producing.
Jay: Yeah. If you didn't have a budget, what would you do?
Tim: I'd do a lot more caption work, a lot more stuff on Instagram with funny captions. And that's a really easy way for people to start. It's not writing a blog post. You're writing, you know, you need 10 words. Like on Letterman, when I use to freelance there, all of our headline jokes were like between 22 and 25 words. You got to get the right words. You got to get the right context, not too much context or you'll give a way the joke. But it makes it easier to start out producing because you just got to go take a photo with your phone and then write a caption. And I think the easiest way to start off is to work with irony. Take a picture of something and then write down, here's what I think is ... If I wasn't here and I'm looking at this photo, this is what I think is happening. Let me write down the explanation. And then flip that. What's the exact opposite of that? And then you get to irony. And you start making it funny there. And so it's an easy simple way to turn out social media, that could start of be funny and connect with people.
Jay: That's a great idea. I love it. And yeah, simple photos or get just get photos sent in by customers or users or whatever ...
Tim: Oh yeah. Even better.
Jay: Just send us a bunch of photos and we'll figure out what the caption will be.
Tim: You know what? That's perfect. Something like that is great. And you can even have a comedy writing contest with your customers and see what they come up with.
Jay: Oh that's a really great idea.
Tim: Yeah, a lot of comedy comes from pain. That's really where ... Because when you start, like in your first standup comedy class, they teach you to ... What's your pet peeve? They'll ask you to write about your pet peeve. And that gets you to being angry. And once you get angry you strip away all your pretense. You're not trying to be polite anymore. Once you really get angry, you're not polishing anything but we see the truth in you. Okay? And so, writing about pet peeves and your pain is really important because then you become vulnerable and you're authentic, and we can see that. Now the safe way to do that in a business context is to write about a customer's pain point. What is the pain that you're experiencing? Once you do that, you should tell that story. Now you showed empathy for the customer. It's like, okay, we're doing comedy about the pain point here. This is also a pain point that we can help solve. We'll get to that later. But, we understand what you're going through. And you heighten that a bit and that's kind of a real easy place start.
Jay: Yeah. That's fantastic. I love it. I actually had a meeting with my team. I can say yesterday, about doing more content myself because, I don't do it very often, but every time I some sort of a rant, whether it's a angry Jay blog post or angry Jay video. It succeeds disproportionate to what I do typically.
Tim: Wow.
Jay: And so, I thought, well I think I could actually do that consistently because I am frequently annoyed. But, there's this question of do you sort of want to be the dated reference coming next, soft of the Andy Rooney of digital marketing, right? Where you're just sort of like grouchy Jay Baer says-that-this-sucks guy. Is that the position that you want to stake out for yourself? And I'm like, well I don't know about that but it seems to always work.
Tim: Yeah.
Jay: When you sort of put a point on something that everybody else identifies as an issue.
Tim: That's right. I think your readers feel like they've gotten into you even in a more intimate way. And I think they're like ...
Jay: I think that's it. It's closeness.
Tim: Yes. Yeah. Definitely.
Jay: So me what angers you and it reveals something about yourself.
Tim: Right.
Jay: I think it's a really interesting perspective. That's why Tom Fishburne of "Marketoonist" is such a brilliant cartoonist. We'll make sure link that up in the show notes at Listeners, if you're not familiar with Tom Fishburne's work,, it is a tremendous series of cartoons about the absurdities of modern marketing. We'll make sure you get a handle on that as well.
Tim: Yeah.
Jay: You, as you alluded to a moment ago, are not just funny person who makes funny videos for a major corporation. You are, in fact, a comedian, a quote-unquote "real comedian." I don't mean to say quote-unquote. All the people say they're real comedians, you actually are. You are trained by Amy Poehler. You've been on Conan. You've been on Saturday Night Live. You've been on tons of shows. In fact, it was one of my great thrills a year or so ago to turn on John Oliver's show and there's Tim Washer, right? On the actual show, on my HBO, on my television, in my home. It was very cool.
Tim: I remember you sending me that note. Thank you. That was fun. Yeah.
Jay: Yeah. It was a blast. And so, you do this. Do the people you interact with in professional comedy circles think it is hilarious that you work for Cisco, making videos? Are they just like, "What is your day job, again?" Or does it just seem so strange to them?
Tim: Yeah, for sure. Because the worlds are very different, the people on a set, or on a late night show, or just ... It's a very different world in the corporate, buttoned-up type. But, sometimes those questions come up about, "Okay, what's that like?" And, you know, like wearing a suite and all that stuff. I think ... And you know the thing is that some of those people, particularly on the late night shows, there's a dark edge to them for sure.
Jay: Yeah. Yeah. That's how they got that gig, right?
Tim: Yes. That's exactly right. And sometimes that doesn't work out too well in the corporate space. And I've definitely butted heads. That's hurt me for sure from a career standpoint, just being direct about my opinions about things. Because sometimes that's not always welcomed in a corporate world. It's a very different world but it's a wonderful break for me to have, this kind of escape. And at the same time, it really feeds the creative that comes back and helps me at the corporate side.
Jay: Do you have a set production that they say, "Alright Tim, we need ... We want six projects a year." Or, you just sort of like when you have something interesting to do it, or how do they figure out what to squeeze out of you?
Tim: Yeah. It's a function of both of those things. So, sometimes it's driven by okay here's a button. Many times marketing budget is going to be tied to a big product launch.
Jay: Yeah, okay.
Tim: So a lot of times it'll be campaign driven.
Jay: Campaign driven.
Tim: Yes. Exactly. So I'll get those and start working on ideas, and pitch ideas along the way. And then, sometime there may be an event outside of the company completely that somebody will say, "Let's do something on this. Let's play on this." And then sometimes I'll just pitch an idea. Whatever it is and we'll go try to find the budget for it somewhere.
Jay: Do you work with some of the agencies that work with Cisco or do you keep your counsel and sort of have your own SWAT team?
Tim: It's really more of a SWAT team where ... Comedy is so much about chemistry. So, there have been times when I've worked with some other funny people who are really funny, but if there's not chemistry there, it doesn't go too well. So, the first video I did at IBM was with a friend of mine Scott Teams. He was at New York. He's now at L.A. producing and directing for the sundance channel, a show called "Rectify." So I don't get him too often now, only when he's on a break. But, another friend Garth Beams, who was from Late Show, was their animator, and he did a lot of the IBM Smarter Planet Campaign animations with me, and then a lot of stuff at Cisco as well. And it's so critical to have a really good rapport, and where you can finish each other's sentences, and just bounce ideas off of. I don't think comedy work unless there's a really strong chemistry. So it is kind of different to kind of-
Jay: You can bring in your collaborators though-
Tim: Yeah. Look, that's been a great thing. Especially on the editing side, when you do a video, or shoot a video even ... You know, I've freelanced with a lot of companies where they've said, "You know what? We're all set. We've got our own video crew here." I'll just ask, "Well, have they done any comedy?" "Well they do all of our town hall videos, and they have those nice little mics that clip on your lapel, I mean they know what they're doing." And it's like, that's not really comedy. You know what I mean? It's ...
Jay: Yeah. Unintentional comedy.
Tim: Yes. That's right. And so, I'm just at the point now where it's just like, "Look, we can try it with your folks, see if they get it right." There's probably a chance we'll have to redo it. "Alright, let me work with some guys who know comic timing." Yeah.
Jay: Yeah. It's a different kind of shoot, right?
Tim: Completely.
Jay: More cut-aways, and things like that.
Tim: Yeah. That's right.
Jay: Lot more B-roll.
Tim: That's right.
Jay: Yeah.
Tim: Definitely. And one thing we do ... I remember we did this comedy with our top 100 customers, the CIOs of our top 100 customers. And of course-
Jay: Also known to be hilarious. CIOs, as a general rule, the funniest of all the Cs.
Tim: Jay, I was ... Somebody came to me with this project, my manager, and I was really nervous about it. I was like, they're gonna have an entourage, and their marketing people are going to be there, and it's just not going to work. But I was so wrong about that. They were all at like a Ritz-Carlton somewhere. What we did is they got us a conference room to film in. And I was like, we can't do ... You're going to kill it. That environment's going to take you right to the talking points, thought leadership, blah, blah, blah, this meaningless stuff. We've found a restaurant, it was a nice steakhouse there. And they weren't open until the evening, so they let us shoot during the day. And we just figured, okay look, I'll play a waiter, and I'll come up to the customer, and interrupt them on their meal, and we'll get a little dialog, and they can tell us, okay, "Here's what we've done. And here's how we've used technology to be leaders in our industry." But that will unfold over this funny conversation with this awkward waiter. And that whole thing was improvised, and the customers were great. And they had a blast doing it. And there were no talking points at all, they talked like a human being. It just worked out really well. So there are those experiences where you take a little bit of risk, and you try to do something differently, and it does. It yields something that really works well.
Jay: It's amazing they would do that without a script. They're just going to wing it. It's spectacular.
Tim:   It really is. Yeah. It really is. What we did is we promised somebody ... Look, we're going to have, it'll be three-camera shoot, but we're going to ... I forgot this is my point that I was- We're gonna anchor one camera on you, tied on you, the customer.
Jay: Yeah.
Tim: Okay. So, if all else fails and you're not happy with the comedy, we still have an interview talking about you're a leader in your business. And that's what we'll use.
Jay: Sure, yeah. You got the basic version. Yeah.
Tim: And then you also let them cover the points they want to upfront. And that's on camera, and you're done. And they just sigh relief and they're like, "Okay, I'm okay to play now," and then you go from there.
Jay: So you always keep the camera rolling, right?
Tim: That's right.
Jay: Because you want the good stuff after they say "cut." You don't actually "cut."
Tim: You keep it rolling. Yeah, because that's when people let their guard down and they're not so buttoned-up. And obviously, you treat that with respect and try to find ... They look so much better, you know? And they like it so much better. And I've never once had someone say, "Let's not use that." I want to use more of the candid stuff. And it's worked out great that way. Yeah.
Jay: What else works out great? Awkward transition are the two sponsors of the Social Pros podcast. As always, show's brought to you by Salesforce Marketing Cloud, a company you have not worked for.
Tim: Not yet. Nothing to talk about.
Jay: You never. Exactly.
Tim: Not in this country.
Jay: Adam, who is employed by Salesforce Marketing Cloud, not on the show. This is week is mentioned because we're live here at content marketing world with Tim Washer form Cisco. Love Cisco, though, one of our clients as well. Thank you for your patronage. However, our friends at Salesforce Marketing Cloud do have a fantastic ebook that Social Pros listeners should download, because you're going to learn a lot. It's called, "More Than Marketing," exploring the five roles of the new marketer. It breaks down the five new essential marketing skills that we all must have in order to continue to be employed in this industry. There's interviews in there, stories, there's facts, there's figures, there's research, after some cool interactive features, too. So, if nothing else, just kind of see how they built interactivity into the ebook is worth a click for sure. Immediately actionable steps to help you master your new talents as well, go to Also this week, an ebook from my team and I at Convince and Convert called, "Three Types of Social Media Metrics and Why They'll Get You Promoted." All about how to measure social media better, how to have different versions of reports based on whether you're reporting to yourself or your manager, or your manager's manager, et cetera, it's super useful, we put a ton of time into it, I think you're going to like it. Got to And as always, friends, all the links to assets that we promote here on Social Pros are available at as are the show notes and excerpts and audio files for all 284 prior editions of this, here, podcast. Tim Washer, if somebody wants to be funnier in their social media, in addition to your Instagram captioning tip, which I love, what else can they do? What should they think about first?
Tim: I would think, again, in thinking about pain, what's the customer's pain point and starting with that idea is a good way to do it. There's a topic-
Jay: But amplifying it, not making it ... The pain point is that they can't get enough leads, so let's talk about how you take it and then ratchet it up, right? So, because when you ratchet it up it gets funny. If you just stay it normal, then it's not funny, right? It's just a bullet point.
Tim: That's right. So ratcheting it up, there's a method called heightening, which is the same thing, you raise the stakes. So you take that idea and you raise the stakes. You can also find the pattern of, okay I can't get enough sales leads ... Put it in a different situation. So, it's a dating scenario, where you can't get enough leads for your dating.
Jay: Yeah, sure.
Tim: Or you take the product, they can't get enough leads, and maybe you make a Tinder profile for that product. And you play out a couple of other Tinder profiles, for you might swipe left or right, whatever it is. Just play off of those ideas that we typically see on a dating site.
Jay: Software dating.
Tim: Yes. And then put it the traits and the attributes about that product, and how those might look. You know, "Loves to cook dinner, loves music," that kind of thing. You know, "A dog lover," all those things we tend to brag about how that product brags about itself on a Tinder profile. There's a wonderful writing technique for comedy writing called juxtaposition. And it's just taking ... And this is what anybody can do when you're tying to be funnier. Taking two unrelated ideas and finding a pattern in there that's a little absurd. And, if you don't have an audience to take a suggestion from, I try to also assemble three- or four-hundred people in my room, take some random suggestions. But there's a random word generator you can get online or an app will do that for you, and you put in the number of words you want and you'll get, you know, "fireball" and "caramel," for example. Anyway, then you'll take each word and you write down kind of the rules ... it's a word association game. So take "fireball" and then we write the things that makes us think of, you know, "spark, light, sulfur," and then "caramel" over on the other side of the page. You web. You write a circle around it and then, "apple, Halloween," write down ideas there. And then look at all these ideas you have on your page, and see if you can find a pattern that connects one idea with the other. And that'll generate a new script for you.
Jay: I love it.
Tim: Yeah, it's a simple thing to do.
Jay: So you go, "flaming Halloween custom," or something, now you've got-
Tim: Oh my gosh.
Jay: So, that would work perfectly. You take that, maybe just "Dora The Explorer who catches on fire and then the fireman shows up," and you could write a little sketch about that. But that's exactly what you're trying to work to. Because you have a blank sheet of paper, and then three minutes later you got it filled with ideas, and you can come up with some sketches. And that works with for caption, you could do a video out of that, all kinds of things. There you go. Social Pros listeners, that's how you do it. Two unrelated words. Create a phrase map, a circle around each of those words, and then tie them together, and you got yourself the seed corn for being funny. Tim, how did this happen? Your career path is so fascinating to me.
Tim: It's been called unfocused by many but I like fascinating.
Jay: It's called "alinear." How did this happen? You probably did to go to improve comedy school thinking, "Yeah, if I play my cards right one of these days, it's enterprise software videos."
Tim: That's exactly right. It was an epiphany moment for sure.
Jay: Yes. Exactly.
Tim: I was working in sales, Xerox, and then went back to business school, and studied in marketing, moved up to New York City, and worked as a marketing analyst for a while. And then there was one moment that hit me in church, actually, where I realized I had an obligation to pursue comedy. I really, honestly did not want to do that. I had no interest ... I mean I knew I could make people laugh, but I didn't want that pressure or the expectation.
Jay: Yeah. To be having to eat based on that.
Tim: No, that's exactly right. Yeah. And I also thought my dad ... My dad's Presbyterian minister and he's such a gracious man, and he always steps out of the lime light. Whenever somebody ask him to, "Hey. Come" He always shines on other people, and I love that about him. So I had this value of "I don't want to step out in front." I had some negative associations with that. But I realized it was an obligation. So I went and started improv and, as you mentioned, I went to Upright Citizens Brigade and Amy Poehler, this was before she got on SNL, she was my instructor. And I got to the point where I quit my job, took about a year and a half off, just to see what would happen, to write a screenplay. And, it's so funny you find out very quickly when you give something up, you find out how much value, how much of your self-worth is tied to that. I mean I went depressed immediately, because I went from have a team and comfortable salary and a nice title at a large company, and gave all that up because I thought wanted to do this-
Jay: To unemployed screenwriter.
Tim: That's exactly right. I mean, listen, it feels unemployed. I mean, it was tough. So I spent the first six months trying to dig myself out of the depression, and then take in somebody's comedy classes here and there. And after about two years we, my daughter was born, and that came through adoption, and that's one of those things that happens when you don't necessarily know the timing of that, you don't have as much nine-month lead time with certainty- So I was like, "Okay, I got to go get a job." And, I was trying to find something where I could use humor in the business background and combine the two, and of course that led me to IBM. You know, the funniest-
Jay: Of course.
Tim: The funniest corporation on the planet, according to the world wide web. So, I thought it was over actually. I thought comedy was over. But the second day I was there somebody sent me a note and said, "Hey," it was a executive ... "I got a speech next month. Can you write a joke for me?" And then-
Jay: You said, "Can I?!"
Tim: That's exactly right. So I did, and that worked out well. And then a couple months later I pitched this idea of doing a comedy video, and we did it, and it worked. And that was 2004, I think. And then from there, that became my job, was to write and produce. And then when YouTube came out in 2005, it became a writing a breeze comedy videos for YouTube. And that's what I've been doing for the last whatever, 10 years or something.
Jay: Amazing.
Tim: Eleven.
Jay: We'll make sure to link up some of your greatest hits in the show notes as well. So, folks listening at Social Pros can see some of your outstanding work on behalf of Cisco and other clients as well. Tim, I want to close out with a few questions we've every single guest, here and now in episode 285 on Social Pros. We'll have to go back to the archives and see how you may have answered this previously. Question number one: what one type would you give somebody who's looking to become a social pro?
Tim: I think discovering your voice. And in comedy you do that ... I talked about the pet peeves things. I think anybody, even if you're not doing comedy, write about your pet peeve. You know, write a page on it. And you'll discover the things that piss you off and that lets you know a little bit about who you are, and what your voice ... And it takes a while to kind of discover your voice, and what you're passionate about writing. But that's the most important thing, is to understand what you love to write about and how you love to write about it.
Jay: Yeah. I think it probably helps in a corporate environment, too, just sort of having a consistent perspective and even a personal brand.
Tim: Oh yeah.
Jay: This is kind of my thing and everybody knows it and there you go.
Tim: Right. Absolutely.
Jay: Last question for Tim Washer, Creative Director at Cisco is if you could do a Skype call with any living person, who would it be and why?
Tim: You know what? I remember last time you asked me this. I don't think we said Skype, but it was Norman Lear.
Jay: Yes. I remember that.
Tim: I think he'd certainly be on the short list for sure. He produced the best comedies that history's seen, all the family and ... He was so brave in taking on racism. And he did it through humor. When you use humor, you make people laugh. They open up. We talked about you create some empathy with them, and they let their defenses down, and they're open to thinking about new ideas, or thinking about things differently. And I think Normal Lear did that so well, and still does some of that as well. But I'd say he'd be on the top of the list.
Jay: I think that is a fantastic answer. We'll make sure to link that up as well. Anybody who is not familiar with some of Mr. Lear's, maybe you're a younger person who's not familiar with some of his early pioneering TV work, we'll make sure to link it up on Mr. Tim Washer, so great to see you. Thanks for doing this in person in your darkened hotel room here in the Hilton, downtown Cleveland, here for Content Marketing World.
Tim: That's right. The vampire diaries edition.
Jay: Yeah, we really need to ... We should get a picture of this and post that in the show notes too, because this is a little bit of an unusual production.
Tim: I'd say uncomfortable.
Jay: Yes.
Tim: Can we say that?
Jay: Sure, we can say awkward, for sure. Friends, thanks as always for listening to the show. Adam and I love each and every one of you. We'll be back next week with more from Social Pros.
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