Lots of people make careers out of controversy. But constant controversy can take a toll.
You could get by with a lot of controversy in the early days of your blog or books in order to gain critical mass. But soon you’ll need to take your foot off that particular pedal.
The goal (when it comes to rocking the boat) is to select topics carefully and to space these pieces at least a month apart.
That way you avoid burning the conflict candle at both ends.
In this 12-minute episode you’ll discover:
- How to effectively challenge an authority’s idea or position
- How to expose a dirty secret (without appearing sleazy)
- How to challenge the status quo
- How to appropriately attack someone’s character
The Show Notes
4 Ways to Get Attention by Rocking the Boat
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Demian Farnworth: Howdy, and welcome back to another episode of Rough Draft, your daily dose of essential web writing advice. I am Demian Farnworth, your host, your muse, your digital recluse, and the Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media.
And thank you for sharing the next few minutes of your life with me.
Let me warn you: a steady diet of controversy will eat you alive. Think Lindsay Lohan. Alec Baldwin. Julian Assange. Any president. Fox News. News of the World.
These people/things age fast. And they learn how to cheat to stay ahead. That means your catch-hell strategy needs to be carefully planned. Slowly.
A lot of people make careers out of controversy. You could get by in the early days of your blog or books creating conflict every day to gain critical mass. Soon everyone needs to take your foot off the pedal.
By then it might be too late. Your readers will expect controversy. And demand it. And now you’ve cultivated an audience of assholes.
Instead, select topics carefully and, there is nothing scientific about this … simply space them a month apart – more or less. More likely more. That way you avoid burning the conflict candle at both ends.
1. Challenge a Popular Person or Position
We look up to celebrities as authorities. Often their word is gospel so when we call it BS we bring attention to ourselves. How dare we challenge their wisdom!
Well here’s the deal: he who puts his pants on like me is like me in another respect, namely, he’s a human. And if you’re a human, there’s a good chance you’ll goof once and a while and say or do stupid stuff.
Choose a conventional idea on the market and argue against it. Make sure you have a good argument, though. People will see through your thin little veil. But if your argument is rock-solid, you are likely to get a substantial response from big names.
I did this and got responses from people like Seth Godin and Mike Elgin, who’s probably one of the most famous Google Plussers. Often through their responses you get introduced to their audiences.
2. Expose a Dirty Secret
Remember Julian Assange? He has made an enviable career out of uncovering the skeletons people and institutions hide in their closets. He went from sheer backwoods obscurity to international popularity king in less than five years.
He built that empire by going to war against a common enemy. People eat that stuff up.
If you’ve got the dirt on a person or organization that will make people’s jaw drop–you may want to consider sharing it. Especially if people’s lives are at stake. Create a common enemy you and your audience can hate together. And it doesn’t have to be a person. It can be cancer, a company.
3. Challenge the Status Quo
If you think guest posting [a popular method for building a blogging audience] is a stupid idea and proof that it is, then write the post.
If you think prayer SHOULD be in school [notice the status quo is the opposite], then write the article.
And make sure you tell us why.
Everyone wants to know why and will respect you for your compelling argument, even if they still disagree with you.
4. Question Authority
This includes established rules, laws, best practices. What’s at the heart of questioning authority is that you are going straight for the throat of the person or decree.
In other words, you don’t just think a person’s ideas are stupid…
You think THEY are stupid.
You have to be careful on this one, though, because you can easily slip into a character attack. Do that and you look like the fool.
There are cases where this is appropriate, though, like when you’re dealing with the Robert Mugabees of the world. Dictators and sociopaths need to be taken down. And we need people with courage to do it.
Now, off the top of my head I can’t think of any sociopaths or dictators in the blogging, tech or writing world. But I’m sure they’re there. Got any ideas?
So tell me, what am I missing here? What tips can you share on writing in such a way that will cause controversy? What do you think makes up a scandalous article? Share ideas on the comments or Twitter.
And by the way: if you haven’t yet, drop me a rating and review on iTunes. It’s the best way to support this show. Besides, I love hearing from you. Makes me want to work harder.
So, until next time, take care.