As I’ve been looking back at my blog posts this year, I’ve noticed that some of my post popular posts — from a traffic, commenting and social sharing perspective — have been when I took a stand on an issue.
One example is when I called attention to the problem with so-called social media “gurus” and where I think agencies should be heading to succeed in the social media space.
And, in another post, I highlighted the ongoing debate about the differences between PR and marketing and whether the differences matter anymore.
So, why did these posts work?
It gave readers a chance to see what I think and what makes me different. It opened up the chance for discussion and allowed readers — especially those who aligned with my viewpoint — to feel like they have something in common with me.
Why you should take a stand
As more and more businesses see the value in content marketing, the Internet is becoming overcrowded with “me-too” content.
Sadly, many businesses chicken out with their blogs for fear of backlash if they stand too strongly on an issue.
But, that’s a mistake.
If you look at the most popular blogs in your industry, I’m betting they have not been afraid to share their opinion.
It’s easy to write a how-to guide or a simple list of tactics. And while those are incredibly effective and should be the foundation for your blog, it shouldn’t be the only thing you write.
After all, anyone can write those kinds of posts. But, not anyone can be YOU.
You have unique ideas and a viewpoint that no one else has, so why not share it?
Speaking your mind can help you stand out in a noisy world. It can establish you as a trusted industry expert who cuts through the clutter to deliver honest analysis. Or, it can help readers better understand your views and why they might want to work with you.
How to share your opinion
Although writing a “flag planting” blog post can be valuable, it can also be a risky proposition unless you go about it the right way.
So, how do you take a stand? Here are some ideas to help you:
- Call attention to a problem in your industry — and what you would to solve it.
- Let your guard down and share what you think about a controversial issue.
- Answer a common question that many are too afraid to address.
- Open up discussion about up a news story that everyone is talking about and offer your perspective.
- Talk about how your company is solving a problem differently than the rest of your industry.
Whatever you choose to write about, just make sure that you’re not a troll who is slinging mud just for the sake of getting attention. Instead, provide a well-thought out analysis of your opinion and why you feel the way you do.
A balancing act
Although these posts can be incredibly effective, they shouldn’t be something you write all of the time. You don’t want to be seen as someone who is constantly making noise to get attention.
Instead, you want to be seen as someone who isn’t afraid to get in the trenches and answer your readers’ burning questions.
I promise that if you do that, you’ll find that readers will be lining up to read what you have to say.
So, throw in one of these posts every now and then to show readers what you are really about.
Yes, it can be scary, but the payoff can be incredibly worth it.
What blog post are you too afraid to write? What’s holding you back?
Image credit: Meme Generator
19 replies on “Are You Chickening Out With Your Blog?”
Good message here Laura. 🙂 Having a balance on your blog is definitely important. If you’re not making waves once and a while then you’re not really moving your industry forward. 🙂
Agreed! Thanks for stopping by and weighing in!
This is the fourth time in 2 weeks I have been told about the importance of being you. I will have to think if I am original enough to do this?
Oh really? Well, I’m glad a lot of folks are talking about the importance of this. And yes, of COURSE you’re original enough to be you. You’re the only you, right?! 😉
Good tips on writing a post in general here Laura. I think your 5 items when in context to your prime industry (or on point) can make all the difference in the world. One question though. Don’t you think a CTA tied to the post is critical or is that too obvious?
I have struggled with seriously controversial issues (and political issues) but hey, in architecture these types of concerns are few and far between. Righhhhht. If I venture down that road I need to ensure I have ALL my facts straight. Responsible blogging, huh?
The other concern I have is being able to address conflict in the comments. Agreed that we are not here to echo but if you do take a stand on a sensitive issue you had better be sure you can articulate your position well both in the post and in the comments. Thick skin is an imperative here wouldn’t you agree?
Ralph – I would never advocate for getting into sensitive issues like politics and religion. That’s not what I mean. Instead, it’s about calling out the problems in you industry or weighing in on an issue that’s relevant to your business or brand.
In one of my posts, I shared an opinion (wrapped in a “should you do this?” kind of post) and I did have people disagree with me. But, most people were really civil and were willing to share their alternate viewpoint. That isn’t always the case, but I think most people will behave. And, if they don’t, yes, you have to have thick skin and be prepared for the backlash. But, for me, I really like an open dialogue because it may help me see another side of an issue I hadn’t considered before. After all, I don’t have all the answers.
Does this make sense? What do you think?
After reading your reply to Ralph, Laura, I see where you’re coming from now! I thought you were inviting bloggers-for-business to take a stand on ANY issue that’s controversial or divisive, because of the traffic the post would invite. I’ve seen a lot of that this year.
Oh no! Not what I meant at all. I definitely should have made that more clear. There’s a big difference between taking a stand on a business issue and a political one. I steer clear of politics and religion like the plague!
Yes, it makes total sense to me.
After reading Michelle’s comments and yours it is clear that it makes sense in this space to be very clear. My last post was a tongue-in-cheek poke at the same issue; good communication. If we stay away from politics and religion we will simply need to be more creative in developing interesting fodder for engagement. It’s not easy to do but fun to try. On point, I say!
Ralph, I’ve seen those comment sections you’re speaking of! As a blogger-for-business, I don’t have the time to moderate comment sections that are exploding. Great point!
If I could just warn your readers here, Laura, that while you are absolutely right about the types of blog posts that get the most traffic, sharing your personal opinions on controversial and divisive contemporary issues is very risky. Is a large segment of your audience “on the other side” of an issue? Will it serve you well to alienate that segment? Is it worth it to you to lose them? (It may be!)
Ah! Very good points, Michelle. It’s certainly a fine line to walk, but I think there’s a big difference between sharing opinions on personal issues (i.e. religion, politics, etc.) and business issues.
People and businesses want to know what you think, how you do things and what makes you tick. I don’t think we should dive headfirst into controversial issues (especially personal ones) just for the sake of attention. But I think a well-thought-out blog post that articulates your opinion about your industry, what you’re seeing, how you’re addressing it, etc, can be really valuable as it helps people know where you stand.
And yes, you might alienate some people, but those are likely the ones who would not be a good fit to work with you anyway. Does that make sense? Do you think there’s a clear enough difference between issues of the day and the issues that matter to your business?
I’m talking specifically about #2 and #4 in relation to issues, news, or blog posts that reveal political and religious divisions.
I’ve seen many business bloggers, especially in the past year, use their blogs to take a public stand on one side of a controversial issue or another in a way that directly or indirectly paints “the other side” as ignorant, misinformed, or even a flat-out enemy of the public good. Their comment sections then become gathering places for like-minded colleagues who jump on the bandwagon, perhaps not realizing that there are many who read and never comment — but who speak with their wallets and word-of-mouth.
Last week, a well-known PR professional wrote a blog post expressing disdain for a business owner who warned his employees before the election about what was coming down the pike (layoffs) if Obama were reelected (“Obamacare” will push the business over his own “fiscal cliff”). She wrote about business owners who operate out of a place of fear, but it was clear from the tone of the post, and her tweets, that she believed he was using his employees’ fear to manipulate them to vote for Romney.
Her post certainly got a lot of traffic and comments, but not from “the other side,” which is a sizable segment of her target audience. I was surprised by the number of self-employed business owners who made negative assumptions about the business owner, even threatening to swamp his Facebook Page, based solely on the blogger’s article, and on the one news piece she linked to (if they read it).
That’s the kind of blog post I warn against for those who “blog for business.”
There is a marked division in our nation right now, and many of us have customers, potential customers, and referrers on both sides. The anger and animosity runs deep, and often silent. Most customers, out of fear of being ostracized, will not make their positions known publicly in the comment section of a blog, but will make choices with their wallets, and with whom they do business. I caution all businesses and brands to just be careful when speaking as their brand on controversial topics. Be diplomatic, not divisive. Ask questions, don’t make pronouncements. Seek understanding and discussion, not agreement and group-think. Make sure your customers and referrers on both sides feel welcome and respected for having different opinions, which are likely as well thought-out and vetted as your own, and can add to the discussion.
True. It’s bad business to associate one’s brand with politics through the use of a flag-planting post: you might win a loyal 50%, only to disenfranchise the other 50%. Why cut your potential customers in half?
Whenever I write these days, I am careful to imagine my readers are attempting to “read between the lines” for any political or religious “tells”. Why would they? Because I’m sure I do…
This is definitely one of those times where I could have done a MUCH better job articulating my point! As I said below, I don’t think it makes sense for businesses to get entangled in religion or politics or other hot button news of the day. I was talking about it more from an industry perspective.
Maybe it’s just me being in the social media space, but I think sometimes there’s a huge echo chamber in my world, so I think taking a stand against shady practices or showing how you do business differently can be immensely helpful. I think there’s a big difference between that and getting into highly personal and controversial topics.
Great points, Michelle. I know which post you’re talking about it – I read it, but didn’t check out the comments. I think that getting into politics – especially right now, is super tricky. Like you, I wouldn’t advocate that. I think we’re on the same page, I just didn’t do a good enough job of making my point!
I love this piece, Laura!
I contribute articles to a number of online mags, and one of the first things I ask myself before I put pen to paper is, “Have I ever read this before?” I try very hard to always write something new which I’ve never seen before. Likewise, if I read an article which is a duplicate of info I’ve read before, I find it very aggravating. Grrr. (I didn’t know there was a term for it, “me-too content”.)
Once you establish a habit of constantly trying to break new ground (or provide a fresh take on re-treaded ground), you realize you’re going to have to take a stand. Often. At first you may be tentative, and worry about backlash, but I assure you your fears are greatly outsized.
Some of the examples cited in the article and comments are exactly what I’ve written about: a contrarian approach to certain insurance products, to certain benefits, to ways of selling, or to insurance regulations. One commenter mentioned something about potentially risking one’s credibility, but I would flip this around: as long as you’ve *first* established your expertise and credibility, the path unfolds before you. Your very tradition of intelligent writing will help buttress a new, controversial stance.
I’ve not had too many bad experiences with commenters. You de-fuse these as you would an unpleasant guest at a dinner party: gracefully and with humor (hopefully).
Thanks for “taking a stand” on this issue!
I need to put together another post about why the term “content marketing” is useless marketing jargon.
Ha! Please do. I’d love to see that. 🙂