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From the CEO's Desk: Can Emoji Use Hurt Your Brand Comms?

Updated: May 17, 2023

As a strategic communications pro and former journalist, it's my job to obsess over the spirit of a message—and understand how a chosen tool, technique or medium may weaken what people really mean to convey.

Since the fall 2022 return-to-office push began in corporate America, media outlets from Axios to Business Insider have been charting emoji use on social platforms and at work through emails and messaging apps like Slack. And with new reporting this week showing that remote work rates went UP last month even with calls from business leaders to limit WFH time, I'm thinking a lot lately about how prevalent – and problematic – emoji are for everyday communications at times when face time with full teams or even close colleagues is scarce.

But why are these little social icons such a fail? Because, as the name suggests, they are meant to express emotion, not articulate points. And as an abbreviated language, they allow way too much room for interpretation. In fact, generations from Alpha to Boomers interpret them in wildly different ways.

a smart phone screen showing emoji

So, do you think sending someone a 👍 is passive aggressive or rude? Gen Z definitely does ... but often Gen X doesn't.

Something for PR leads, comms teams, social media managers and really all of us to keep in mind every day.


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