Seldom do fire-and-brimstone threats offer laughs or communication lessons.
North Korea’s bellicose leader, Kim Jong Un, offered both yesterday when he threatened, in a statement directed at President Donald Trump, “I will surely and definitely tame the deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”
Yet it was the word “dotard,” that caught fire, in the form of a trending #DotardTrump hashtag and a flurry of internet users educating themselves on the burn heard ’round the world:
📈 Kim Jong Un calls Trump a mentally deranged U.S. dotard. Searches for ‘dotard’ are high as a kite. https://t.co/HztPoLSjXi
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) September 21, 2017
“Dotard,” which derives from “dotage” according to Merriam-Webster.com, refers to one in a period of senile decay. According to a Google tool, the term peaked in popularity in 1823, though it has made a surprising resurgence in the 21 st century.
Some social media users appreciated the old-school scathing:
“Dotard”! No country is better at Dickensian insults. pic.twitter.com/TcWNGsU33X
— Dan Zak (@MrDanZak) September 21, 2017
Others recognized both the humor and the impending doom the statement conveys:
Snickers, enters fortified bunker.
— Z. Czarny (@czarnyz) September 21, 2017
Lessons from political mud-slinging
The widespread response to Kim’s snipe—arcane or not—shows the power of words and offers lessons for PR professionals:
1. Speak in a language your audience understands. Carefully consider your intended audience before drafting news releases about corporate events. Front-line employees may not care about profit margins, just as investors might not care about new employee benefits.
2. Take extra caution when communicating across cultures. It’s far too easy for words to be mangled in translation. When communicating across borders, find someone native to the culture to proof your words.
3. Your words represent you. Whether you are trying to earn respect as a world power or an up-and-coming professional, speak for the position you want, not the position you have. The ability to hold a conversation with your superiors will help show them what you’re capable of.
With regard to unleashing a barrage of insults—if that is your wont or desire—let us recommend Steve Martin’s master class in the 1987 re-imagining of “Cyrano De Bergerac,” titled “Roxanne”:
PR Daily readers, what was your reaction to North Korea’s statement?