Back from Northern Voice, and it was fantastic! I love the concept of people getting together to talk blogging and online communication in a non-’business’ kind of way. Of course, as someone who earns a living from helping businesses flourish online, I am a huge fan of opportunities for people to learn how to improve their online marketing. But it’s also very nice to step back from that every once in a while and simply enjoy the free flow of ideas.
That’s what Northern Voice 2011 was for me. A free flow of really great ideas.
While there, I had the very great privilege of being part of a panel discussion titled Courting Controversy: Dancing With The Devil with Rebecca Coleman of The Art of the Business and Lorraine Murphy of Raincoaster Media. During the panel, the three of us weighed the pros and cons of controversy as a means to drive traffic, intentional or not. It was fun, absorbing and frankly, I think I may have learned as much being on the panel as the standing room only audience did. Be sure to check out Raincoaster‘s and Rebecca‘s blog posts about out time at Northern Voice too! And my earlier Courting Controversy post written per-panel.
Best part, there is even a cartoon!
Bring On The Controversial Content
Lorraine, being the most controversial of the three, had a lot to say on managing the negative blowback from putting controversial content out onto the internet. She got things going by being adamant about staying true to yourself and your voice. The internet is a great moderator of authenticity and honesty. Savvy internet users can spot a con job within a fraction of a second. And if you think you can create content that doesn’t ring true for attention-getting sake, then you will be ripped a new one by the very online community you’re wanting to build (for example the 2006 Christmas campaign featuring kids rapping about wanting a PSP, or should I say actors pretending to be kids cleverly asking their parents for a PSP for Christmas and then other Sony representatives pretending to be teens commenting on how super awesome the video and PSPs are in the comments)
I came to the discussion with my marketer hat on. And in my opinion, controversy brings a whole lot of attention, but that attention usually doesn’t go the way you want it. And if you’re blogging, or creating any kind of content, to help build your business’s online profile and support an overall marketing campaign, you better be pretty confident you’re driving your audience’s attention to the relevant information (two for one shoes, saving the wetlands, moving locations) and not having potential customers get caught up in debates, arguments, and having to defend your business from the haters.
Creating Controversy For Controversy’s Sake
Creating content for controversy’s sake is not the way you as a business owner want to go. Sure being edgy and topical gets you attention, but it’s not the kind of attention you can control, or turn into sales. And why waste your time defending your business against haters, trolls and the generally pissed off, when you’d really rather be growing your business?
The example we used as a controversial post on the average blog was Nerdy Apple Bottom’s now infamous post My Son Is Gay. The site is a standard parenting blog (by the way, people who blog about their family life do not want to be called a “mommy blogger”. Tip for avoiding controversy. Thank you, Amber Strocel). But in this post, the writer wanted to express her frustrations of her community’s negative reaction to her son dressing up like Daphne from the Scooby Doo gang. The reaction she got was enormous. Was she prepared for the immense increase in traffic? Probably not. Was she prepared to become the spokesperson for PFLAG? I don’t think so. Nerdy Apple Bottom was just writing something real and raw and expressing herself honestly. And that can be very controversial.
Best Preparation For Controversy Is To Be Prepared
As Nerdy Apple Bottom learned, no one can predict controversy, nor is anyone immune to it. We can’t be sure what’s going to set people off, and insight controversy (one of my SEO posts resulted in quite a few angry emails that I was a hack). But what we can control is how we react to it. When the time comes, and if you’re doing your online marketing it will, that you’ve unintentionally taken a whack at the internet hornet’s nest and pissed off a whole bunch of people be respectful, patient and honest. Engage in dialogue (not 7-year-old name calling), and definitely have a sense of humour about it all.
My take away from the Northern Voice panel discussion: The worst thing you can do when courting controversy is to think that by ignoring it it will go away. The best thing you can do when controversy sidles up and asks for a dance is to graciously accept and bring your most pleasant smile, and comfortable shoes, ’cause it’s going to be a looooong waltz.
Features photo by Riley and Amos