Quick-witted with a disarming and charming response may seem to be attributes of a seasoned PR pro, but there’s a growing consensus that comments meant as tension–breakers are venturing into the arena of snark. That’s why the PR Consultants Group has declared today a Snark Free Day.
Snarky exchanges between PR pros and journalists are nothing new, but they seem to be getting more acute. The most recent high profile exchange came from Microsoft’s Frank X. Shaw and former New York Times technology writer David Pogue. (Pogue announced yesterday he’s leaving the Times for Yahoo.)
We’ve even seen sarcastic exchanges between corporate heads and customers, such as Ryanairs’ Michael O’Leary recent debacle on Twitter, in which he insulted customers, employees and, during a Q&A session, swore in an apparent attempt at humor.
The above participants knew they were going at it hammer and tong. But, according to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, online communications intended to be humorous are misread 56% of the time, while the senders expected their recipients to get the joke nearly 80% of the time.
So, humorous or sarcastic comments are often misperceived as snarky. We know you’re clever, and quick with a witty rejoinder, or you wouldn’t be in the PR world to begin with. But, maybe communicators need to dial it back a bit when it comes to snarky behavior.
1. Don’t reach for a joke. If an easy, playful comment is there, make it. But anytime you leave yourself open for interpretation, expect to be misunderstood.
2. Sarcasm is a no-win situation in print or online. You can be sarcastic in person, because so much of sarcasm relies on facial cues, tone and mannerism. But the last guy to make sarcasm work consistently in print was Jonathan Swift (and he was clinically insane).
Follow Brian W. Kelly: @bwpkelly