IT HAS often been said that humour is a highly effective communication tool.

Celebrities, including actors, singers and even politicians, take great pains to inject humour in their communication in an effort to create a greater impact with their audiences.

It has become increasingly evident that humour can help organisations and individuals to differentiate themselves from the competition.

It can boost staff morale. It can help you achieve instant rapport with customers and clients.

The former chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines, Mr Howard Putnam, says: "Fun is a pervasive spirit that encompasses an organisation and enables it to think positively and be productive."

Many organisations have learnt that injecting fun into business can also contribute to the bottom line.

The Pike Fish Place, in Seattle, Washington, is an example of a company that has become world-famous for introducing the concept of "play" into its workplace. Its fishmongers entertain customers by throwing and catching fish as they go about their daily work. Its CEO remarks that they are "not really working but playing"

Even in Singapore, it is interesting to note that many senior managers and executives, including those from the public sector, have been attending seminars on how to have fun at work and how to inject humour into their management style.

In public relations, there are many situations where the use of humour can help people to achieve greater impact with the media.

I remember one occasion when I was trying to interest the press to provide coverage for the signing of a joint-venture agreement between my client and his German counterpart.

My client was in the portable toilet business, and his company was signing an agreement with the largest portable toilet company in the world.

It was the kind of event that would hardly interest the media. So we decided to use some humour to spice up the signing ceremony. We convinced the two CEOs to seal their deal by shaking hands while seated on the portable toilets.

They were game for it and we managed to get a full-page story in The New Paper with the headline "Flushed with success". Our clients were overjoyed with the coverage.

Ikea is an example of an organisation that uses humour not only in its commercials but also in promotions. Some years ago, it conducted an in-store promotion that required customers to spend the night on their favourite piece of furniture, after which they were allowed to take it home - free of charge.

The promotion not only resulted in overwhelming response from customers but also generated extensive publicity in the media.

From furniture manufacturers to portable toilet distributors, from politicians to fishmongers, irrespective of the nature of their business or profession, they have all benefited from the use of humour.

Matt Weinstein, the author of a best-selling book, Having Fun At Work, has listed some factors to be considered when using humour. They are:

* Humour must be relevant to the audience. Introduce humour that is appropriate to the audience in terms of age, education, social background and so on.

* Humour must be simple in form and delivery. It is most effective when it is simple in substance and easily understood. It should also be easily conveyed or presented.

* Humour must not be offensive. Be aware of taboo subjects like race, religion and gender.

To end on a humorous note, I would like to share a quote by Matt Weinstein: "If you take yourself too seriously, there is an excellent chance you'll wind up seriously ill."