AB Thinks  →  3rd April 2019

Communicating as Normal – five tips from a writing pro

AB Thinks

TV producer, screenwriter, comedian and poet Henry Normal dropped in to talk to AB’s Katie Macaulay for episode six of the Internal Comms Podcast.

The co-founder of Baby Cow Productions had plenty to say on a wide range of issues related to the subject of communications, drawing on his background in insurance, writing and production, as well as his family life as father to an autistic son.

Here are our top five quotes from a lively conversation covering everything from pitching a new sitcom to engaging a theoretical workforce of 50,000 people.

#1 Know your audience and find the gap
“The most common mistake [TV writers make] is not understanding who they’re writing for. The BBC has got four channels and they’re very different, as are Channel Four, ITV, Sky, and Dave. Those are your battlegrounds and you need to tailor the attributes of a script to make it work for that battleground.”

#2 How to engage a workforce
“You need to communicate what the adventure is, because going to work just to work is not enough. So whatever it is that you’re doing, the first thing to communicate is what a great thing it is to do.

“Insurance can be boring, but you can’t build an empire, build trade or send something safely to Australia without risk. So the core value of insurance is helping industry, helping enterprise, helping things work by mitigating that risk. That’s the thing that makes you want to come to work.”

#3 The key attributes needed to succeed in a creative career
“You need two modes of operation: a business head and playfulness. But you can’t do them at the same time. You have to be able to compartmentalise.

“It can be that your creative side is 10% of the time and your working side is 90%. But if you don’t have them both, I don’t think you become rounded. I also don’t think you do the job as well. You need to deconstruct what you’re doing and find ways of making it better.”

#4 The rules of comedy
“You always punch upwards, in terms of power, so you don’t make jokes about someone less powerful than yourself. And to go along with that, you don’t make jokes about what people are, you make jokes about what people do.

“People make jokes about Trump’s hands being small, but that’s not his fault. But he tells so many lies, so you can absolutely make jokes about that.”

#5 Interacting meaningfully with people
“You can’t see everybody in the world, so you can only work from a local basis. I try to be kind to the people I do see, and try to learn something from them. All you can do is interact with those around you. Humans aren’t built to interact with more than 100-150 people, because we are essentially animals used to living in small groups.”