Much contested on the Internet and in the real world, puns basically are AP Style convention in the PR world (don’t fact check me on that). In marketing and PR, there is a tendency to lean on puns to add a sense of personality to your writing. It can be a good tactic, but only when used sparingly and done well. To help you get there, I’ve compiled a few key tips for creating punderful PR writing.
Never Pun for Pun’s Sake
Every pun should serve a purpose, whether it’s to break the ice or break up complex thoughts with a little comic relief. It also should make sense in the context of your writing. For instance, avoid making a nautical pun for no porpoise in a best practices article about taxes (or, for that matter, try to force a nautical analogy just because you thought of the pun and really want to use it). At its core, a pun serves to connect disparate ideas through commonalities in sound or spelling. Therefore, the best PR puns take full advantage of this to connect the dots between relevant ideas for the reader, while giving the story color and dimension.
Don’t Try too Hard
This is absolutely crucial. Often, the subtle difference between an endearing pun that attracts just enough attention and a cringe-worthy disaster that only attracts eye rolls is how hard it looks like you tried. As someone to whom puns come with great difficulty, I know this can be a struggle. The longer you spend trying to come up with the perfect pun, however, the more likely it is that your pun is terrible. Just trust me on this. Good puns are like your missing socks: you’re most likely to stumble across them when you’re not looking.
Consider Your Audience
Though I fail to understand why, not everybody loves puns as much as I do. Try to keep the audience in mind when you insert puns into your writing.
First, consider the industry and why it is reading your writing. Are people seeking cybersecurity expertise or guidance on holiday gifts? Your silly puns may not hack it in more serious subject matter.
Second, if you’re writing to an individual, such as a journalist, then that person’s sense of humor (or perhaps, lack thereof) is an important part of how your pun may be received. Often, if you don’t know the journalist well, you can get an idea of her humor by looking at her writing or Twitter page. As always, Twitter is a goldmine of information.
In general, the key to punning is to tread lightly. This is true especially in PR, which can be serious business. You want to avoid starting a conversation on thin ice because you began with a bad pun. Well-placed wordplay can be delightful and an effective communication tactic, avoid abusing it. Even I am guilty of this sometimes, although for the most part I controlled myself throughout this article. Still, the punniest of us often get carried away with our enthusiasm. So do as I say, not as I do.