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How to Deal with a Firestorm of Controversy on Your Blog (Before it Suffocates You)

This is a guest contribution from Sherice Jacob.

You’ve just hit Publish. You don’t know what will happen from here, but at the moment, you feel relieved. You’ve just written one of the most controversial, eye-opening, highly-polarizing posts on your blog. You know it’s ripe for debate and there are going to be readers who take your perspective personally – as if you secretly wrote it for – and about – them.

Some bloggers will tell you that controversy is one of the best possible angles you can take on your blog. And for some people, it is. For others, it can be a disastrous downward spiral – but one thing is certain, people will love it, either way.

Case in point, the social meltdown that occurred on the Amy’s Bakery Facebook page after the company was featured on chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Chef Ramsay actually quit the episode because the proprietors refused to listen to him. That, coupled with thousands of comments from users on Reddit and Yelp added fuel to the fire. The husband-and-wife team leapt into the fray, alternating between defending themselves and cursing out the posters.

It was the perfect example of how NOT to handle controversy and criticism. 

It’s also worth mentioning that consequently, their page went from 2,500 likes on Facebook, to over 50,000. It’s doubtful that people liked the company as much as they liked the drama.

Why We Secretly Both Love and Hate Controversy

On the whole, we like to play it safe. Even as young children, we’re taught not to “ruffle any feathers” and to use our “indoor voices”.

But a good controversy demands that we draw a line in the sand and dare others to cross it. If you’ve got a topic so heartfelt and genuine that you just have to share it – do it. One post that’s near and dear to you will be worth more to your readers than ten “safe” posts.

The fact is, no one knows the topic like you do. Considering that you’re not riling up readers just to touch a nerve, and that you truly do value and believe in what you have to share – then you’ve already laid the groundwork for a good controversial post that makes a point while remaining open to discussion.

You Don’t Need to Seek Out Their Approval

While it’s nice to have readers in your corner vouching for your perspective – you don’t need to actively seek out their approval.

Nothing makes a blogger look weaker than stating their point and then chasing it up with “Am I right, guys? Am I right?” By the same token, don’t do a complete 180 degree shift and play the victim card. Hand-wringing and taking everything personally just gives the criticizers more reason to keep attacking you and your post.  Sadly, some people do this as a form of entertainment.

Know when to respond, when to walk away, and when to learn from your actions (and yes, you can do all three of these based on the comments in your post!)

  • If you’ve made your point as clearly and accurately as possible, you’ve done what you set out to do.
  • If you’ve made some mistakes, take a step back, acknowledge the errors and make corrections

Above all, don’t attack the commenters for posting their point of view, like the bakery company did. They simultaneously managed to proclaim their goodness, lash out at posters and play the victim card all at once.

Don’t Turn Your Audience into Mashed Potatoes

Know what bloggers and mashed potatoes tend to have in common? Lumps.

In that, as bloggers, we’ve been preached to so much about personas and demographics that we tend to lump all our readers together in terms of likes/dislikes/interests/lifestyles. Like MMO computer games?  Then you must be a level 60 basement-dwelling, cheeto-stained neckbeard!

Wrong.

Resist the urge to lump your audience together into neatly organized stereotypes and they’ll be a lot more forgiving of your observations (even if they disagree with them). Every user has a unique perspective, so making generalized statements toward a group, a product or a person is sure to inflame the others who don’t match that generalization, and resent being pigeon-holed into that group.

Agree to Disagree

Remember above all, that this is your blog. You can answer questions, post responses and make corrections on your own terms. Keep the discussion on track and resist the urge to give in to commenters who interrupt or veer off topic.  Stay focused and agree to disagree.  Who knows? Maybe after making your first controversial post, you can follow up with a “What I’ve Learned” lesson.

Above all, resist the urge to delete the post and censor the comments. Blogs are not a one-way street.

Your true readers will follow you to the ends of the earth and back, even if they don’t agree with you. And that’s what makes a controversial post so rewarding.

Want to improve your blog, but don’t know where to start?  Sherice Jacob offers comprehensive blog reviews with an emphasis on getting you more subscribers, more traffic and more sales. Learn more at iElectrify.com

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Comments

  1. Ti Roberts says:

    Brilliant piece, Sherice.

    Controversy definitely is highly attractive and addicting.

    I remember when I wrote my first controversial post. It spoke about how much I disliked SEO.

    Although I didn’t have a huge audience, the controversy of that post lite a flame and became one of the most popular posts on my blog and attracted a lot of attention. Even the attention of a few top bloggers in my niche who ended up offering me guest post spots on their blog.

    So in the end, my controversial post certainly served me well and did wonders for my brand, traffic and exposure.

    I think that’s where a lot of bloggers mess up. They get so caught up in the negative backlash that they are going to get from writing a controversial post that they forget about all the positives that could come from it.

    Again, great post, Sherice; thanks for taking the time to write it up for us. :)

    Ti

  2. Ferb says:

    I can see no matter what you do, even when you try your best, there are some people who wanna judge you and say that you haven’t done well enough instead of saying good thing and inspire what you do.

  3. Patricia Lim says:

    Maybe this time we can only learn from all of them intelligently.

  4. Ankit Bansal says:

    Great article. Many bloggers can relate to such stuff when people can get at you with their comments, you need to be calm and reply in a non controversial way making sure you are logical. These tips mentioned here will surely help.
    Thanks.

  5. Blogging or writing articles that are quite controversial will definitely make a head turner. Some may take it in a passive way but to those who are offended, the article will definitely be the object of debate and criticism. If this scenario sprouts, the best way to handle this is to keep calm and answer or reply back to the comments in a calm well manared tone, never add fuel to the burning argument for this will likely turn the heat even further.

  6. If your article isn’t a little bit controversial or polarizing, why write it?

  7. Well said Sherice.

    I like doing this; reminding myself that controversy does not exist….different opinions do. When opinions become emotionally-charged you have the recipe for some fireworks only if you engage in the wild drama.

    By writing controversial posts you see what you feel strongly about, or clear on, and how to respond to people who lack clarity.

    Cursing out readers or cutting them to pieces only shows how much clarity, or belief, you lack in yourself, and your argument.

    Resist this urge.

    Take a deep breath and respond in an intelligent manner….if you feel like responding.

    Thanks!

  8. Bert says:

    It’s really such a tough balancing act. Comments are so important to a blog yet managing them requires the skills of Mother Teresa and the Terminator. Who has that skill set? No one, which is why it’s so tough. After a deep breath focus on three things:
    1. Stay on point (don’t analyze personalities and motives)
    2. Be kind (don’t attack your critics)
    3. Don’t let readers attack other readers (it’s tempting to let other readers attack your critics but bullying is always bad)

    The SPI blog just went through a controversy, which someone should write up as a case study, and the comment section degenerated into a haven for readers bullying other readers. Don’t let that happen to your brand.

  9. Shana Norris says:

    Great piece. I can relate to that hesitation to offend. It’s a fine line and I’m still trying to find the perfect balance.

  10. GalyaJazz says:

    It is a very touching point: I hate being lumped. I feel vulnerable and finally stop reading those blogs.

  11. Adam Kielich says:

    They may not have loved the controversy but I met that restaurant has great SERP now.

  12. Blogging is all about views and sharing opinions.

    So as one of the comments stated that she wrote about how she didn’t like SEO was bound to get some kind of buzz going, as you don’t know prior to posting how many of your visitors have actually spent months or even years working to keep on top of their SEO ventures.

    So when you give your honest opinions on something but at the same time add some of your own experiences you’ve had with particular strategies, I think you can’t go wrong with that.

    But as for the couple mentioned in the article…

    …When someone like Gordan Ramsey is trying to help you and give you advice; in my book you would have to be crazy to ignore what he is trying to get across to you.

    Yeah their Facebook likes may have gone up but I bet it was only for the controversial factor and not purely business beneficial.

    All the best and what a fantastic & eye opening post.

    Regards
    Gavin

  13. Selena says:

    Controversy may attract attention of readers but what i personally think that it is not smart move to use it quite often.

  14. george says:

    controversies can have good and bad effects.

  15. akshat goel says:

    sometime controversial posts starts your blog…. I have seen many bloggers who rise from these types of posts..

  16. Brent White says:

    There will always be critics, but if you can accept that from the very beginning and look at them as an opportunity to engage and therefore spread your voice even further, then you can use it to your advantage.
    Brent White
    http://www.gigitalmarketing.com
    http://www.facebook.com/gigitalmarketing
    http://www.twitter.com/gigitalmarket

  17. Flash says:

    Opinionated posts always generate the most interest and discussion, but as pointed out above, it can be taken too far to the point of causing offense.

    Great article!

  18. Being controversial gets you noticed and people talking about you.. Just look at Katie Hopkins and her statements about only letting her children play with kids who have certain names and not ‘common’ ones… Ridiculous statement to make, but the Youtube video hit 3 million views in 2 days and then 7 million views within one week.. The Good Morning talk show could never have paid for that many views! Controversy sells.. Embrace it if you are a blogger.. Speak what you feel and take it on the chin if people do not agree with you.

  19. You cannot make everyone happy with your blog articles. The best thing to do is to keeping doing your thing, writing and showing love for the world of blogging. There will be those who might make you feel down but that is why you can always turn back to participating in your passion and niche. Great post!