All publicity is good publicity, right?
Deciding to write about a controversial topic on your blog or take a stance on something that has ardent supporters on each side could mean lots of eyeballs, linkbacks, comments, and overall attention. But is that really and truly a good thing all the time?
Obviously, getting more people to read your blog and link to it are positive things – especially if your business model includes revenue from advertising. Every single view and click means more money in your pocket.
However, you could be sacrificing long-term success for short-term gains if the way you handle the controversy turns people off and makes them want to stop coming to your site or buying your products. That’s why it’s so important to think about how you should approach any controversial subject before you actually hit publish and face whatever the reaction of the world is going to be.
With that in mind, here are several tips for how to broach anything controversial with the public.
Think long and hard before deciding to take a stance. Just because you’re presenting a controversial topic doesn’t mean that you have to reveal to people how you feel about the issue. It’s possible, for example, that by coming out for or against gay marriage you will cause some people to stop visiting your site. Depending upon how strong your feelings on the issue, this might be worth it or it might not. It’s also quite possible that you’ll lose some of your audience but regain it – and then some – with new people who share your feelings. But remember: you don’t have to take a stance. Simply bringing up the issue and throwing out facts counts as covering it – that’s what journalists are supposed to be doing!
Present facts and arguments from both sides. Even if you are going to take a stance, that doesn’t relieve you from giving each side equal time. Be as rational and thorough as you can in presenting arguments – and use that same thoroughness if you decide to tear down those arguments.
Be civil. Unless your intention is to anger a lot of people and make yourself look like a juvenile (and hey, lots of people have turned this kind of shtick into big business), you want to try to avoid insulting people or points of view. You can say you believe something is wrong because of A, B, and C, but make sure none of those letters equate to, “it’s just stupid.”
Continue to interact. Some people are happy to write a post to instigate a discussion, but then decide they don’t really want to answer comments or continue to communicate with their readers. Most of the time this leads to disaster, because as the person writing the post or running the site, you are essentially the moderator. If you back out and just watch, there’s a decent chance that things will devolve quickly into fighting and name-calling.
About the Author: Steven Chalmers covers a web conferencing service provider, and you can click here for more information. He is an experienced blogger and web graphic designer, and loves consulting small businesses on their online practices.