You’re funny, you’re clever, people love you at cocktail parties. If only you could apply this whimsy to your professional life without looking, well, frivolous. Good news: Your authentic persona should show through in the office and online—to a degree. Washington, D.C.-based public relations strategist Carol Blymire, founder of Blymire Communications, explains how to distinguish between funny and flaky.
Let your platforms have personality. Here’s where social media can really come in handy: It’s a prime showcase for your passions and ideas. “There’s nothing more boring than a website or Twitter feed that’s stale, full of corporate-speak or jargon, and doesn’t share anything about how the person ticks or what they’re interested in. You can be an influencer, a rock star, and a real pro—but if you come across as all work and nothing else, you might lose out on opportunities,” Blymire says. The trick is selectivity. “Letting a little bit of your smart and funny side out can help attract the kind of people you want to work with and be friends with. On the other hand, too much humor can repel people who need you to represent them.” Less is usually more. Unsure if you’ve gone too far? It’s perfectly OK to ask a trusted, objective mentor for honest feedback about your social media presence.
Letting a little bit of your funny side out can attract the people you want to work with and be friends with
But don’t cast yourself as the company clown. “If you think everything is hilarious or you’re desperate for laughs, people won’t trust you as the awesome human you are. Just as you don’t want to be the person who always brings in brownies to work, you don’t want to be perceived as the comic relief,” Blymire says. “Chances are, you may not be as funny as you think you are—but no one wants to hurt your feelings and tell you that. Everyone has a different sense of humor, so be aware of how your ‘comedy’ is perceived and adjust accordingly.Share the spotlight. Be generous with praise. It benefits you and others. “Sharing other people’s good work on social media helps establish you as an influencer and a cultivator of interesting, informative content,” Blymire says. “Try sharing comedy clips, funny articles, or comedians’ tweets with others. It’s fun to share and showcase things you think are funny without having to be the funnyman yourself.” Just remember: Who you like is who you are. Retweet with caution.
Think twice. If you wouldn’t say it in real life, don’t say it online. “Jokes about race, sex, disability, disease, crime or politics? Avoid at all costs. First, because it’s not cool. And second, you run a greater risk of hurting one person than making twenty people laugh. You also run an enormous risk of damaging your brand and your career,” Blymire warns. Amazingly, such gaffes are all too common. “Learn from Justine Sacco, who tweeted what she thought was a joke about the people of Africa before she got on a flight there. When she landed, her phone blew up with angry responses, death threats, and a call from her boss firing her. All for a 140-character ‘joke,’” Blymire warns. Plus: The celebrity or politico you mock on Twitter just might end up joining your company board. Awkward.
You’re probably not the next Seinfeld. Have a sense of perspective about your abilities. Please.“If you’re really that funny and use your weekly staff meetings as your own personal HBO special, quit your job, move to LA, and start doing open mic nights. I mean it,” Blymire says. Otherwise? “Keep it in check and do your job and be kind, interesting and helpful to those around you. It goes much further in the long run.”