So, last night at The Emmy Awards former White House press secretary made a little cameo with a familiar rolling podium.
The celebrity reactions were pretty top notch (ahem, Melissa McCarthy).
However, what wasn’t top notch was the timing of it all. These days, we could use a bit of a laugh to break up the common thread of dread that many people feel towards the Trump presidency.
But this moment didn’t quite break the ice. In fact, it generated huge mixed reactions.
I thought Spicer cameo was great. Totally threw Trump under a bus. The timing in the Colbert monologue made it clear the joke was on Trump— Dave Cannella (@orlandodavec) September 18, 2017
Please don't normalize Sean Spicer. #Emmys— Laurie Crosswell 🌞 (@lauriecrosswell) September 18, 2017
The degree to which Sean Spicer has faced no consequences is a glimpse into the post-Trump future.— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) September 18, 2017
It also made us think about the sweet spot for timing messages.
On the surface, this cameo could have been simply humorous without the consequence.
Sean Spicer is now making fun of himself on national TV instead of Melissa McCarthy doing it. Cue the LOLz.
However, context points out that The Emmys should have known better.
Those who said that getting Spicer up on stage to joke about how he lied to the American people is an example of “normalizing” disregard for transparency to the public had a point.
Despite the antics that surrounded Spicer’s press conferences, they were still important moments that exemplified how the Trump presidency felt it would share information with the public.
Unfortunately joking about serious issues generally has the effect of making them seem less serious.
It’s just like when Pepsi intoned that sharing a can of pop would smooth over tensions during protests.
We all know how well that went.
So this is how we’d suggest your messaging doesn’t get garbled with the wrong tone.
1. Context. Context. Context.
Know the facts of what you’re talking about. Can it be perceived another way? What’s the public’s current attitude of the messaging at hand.
Sometimes the idea of writing that great one line of copy overshadows thinking about how that line will initiate a ripple affect once deployed.
Connotation is really everything here. Smart messaging understands its place and the role it plays.
In this case, it just made light of the wrong thing. People saw the joke of Spicer making embellished comments as press secretary as a blow to public accountability.
Probably not what The Emmys were going for. But context would have reminded producers that this wasn’t going to communicate the right idea. Humour is a great way of breaking down walls and connecting with audiences. It just has to be used in a smart way that’s cognisant of what walls it’s breaking.
2. Choose another path.
Stage time only has so much to offer.
Most people probably assumed that Trump jokes would come up. Fair enough.
But when it comes to putting out messaging, things should be chosen carefully. Colbert probably could have chosen another way to make the same kind of joke. Did that joke really add any value to the monologue?
The mixed reviews have us mixed too.
Pointing out the audience of an awards show is a various obvious route to go. It’s the clearest thing to poke fun at. However, obvious is not always the most effective.
During last year’s Emmys, we posted a 3-minute master class to humorous speaking. Check it out to see what we mean here.
3. Consider the timing.
Sure, this could go under context. But it’s just so important on its own.
The political atmosphere in the US is currently very polarized. Tensions are high over what some are dubbing the North Korean Missile Crisis. There are still divisions over race, even in 2017.
The last thing people want at an arts event is to tap into it all more. Now we’re not saying that current events should be totally ignored. That’s nearly impossible to do.
But commentary on these things are usually better reserved for the host’s own platforms, separate from the event.
The timing just wasn’t right here. People see awards shows as a time of celebration.
While there’s no designated hour for all the points of conversation in the world, it’s worth considering how certain times affect people’s reactions.
Obviously this 30 second clip divided a lot of people. There’s no exact formula for getting timing right every single time (see what we did there?), but there are ways of elevating the content so it doesn’t come across as misaligned.
We’re sure you have opinions on Spicer’s 30 seconds on stage. Tell us what they are @TheTiteReport.
At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.
What will win this week?
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