Creating content for a brand can be extremely competitive. Sometimes in order to stand out among hundreds of other pieces of content just like yours, you need to step outside the box and push the envelope a bit.
First, we must address why controversial content is effective. Controversy brings out an emotional reaction from the reader. People share things that resonate with them. If your content becomes too predictable or repetitive, you may see your audience decline. By creating this content that sparks debate or emotions, your audience will be more likely to stick around.
Many brands are afraid of creating controversy, but if done correctly, great results are seen. Where brands find success is when there is a balance. In a post by Adobe’s Marketo blog, titled “3 Ways to Make Controversial Content Work for Your Brand“, author Andrea Lehr makes a great comparison, “these types of campaigns walk a very fine line. To maximize results, you want to stir the pot without having everything boil over since research has shown that too much controversy actually discourages engagement” (Lerh, 2016). I think it’s important that people who use this method to understand how to use it properly. Low-levels of controversy birthed great conversation and interaction where even just moderate amounts of it make audiences turn away.
When creating this controversial content, it’s important to think about the ethical consequences. In the post entitled “Content Marketing is Dead… And Controversy Gets Clicks“, author Matt Hodkinson talks about how an article with a shocking statement (Content Marketing is Dead) evoked an angry emotion out of him and he was quick to create his own post without even really reading what the piece had to say, which was that it wasn’t really dead. This content should not be created to spite others or to simply cause random chaos. The way to create ethical controversial content is to do it in a confident and factual way that relates to your company or brand. Show the readers each side to the story and present a point of view they may not have seen before. A great example of this is the “Love has No Labels” campaign by Ad Council. You might recognize this from a well-known commercial of couples standing behind an X-Ray machine. Bystanders only saw skeletons until the people revealed themselves. They were relationships of all colors, abilities and sexualities. This was intended to make people stop and rethink any unconscious bias they may have. Here is that video:
The most important aspect of creating controversial content is to be respectful of the opinions of your users. In a post by Convince and Convert entitled “5 Critical Precautions When Publishing Controversial Content“, author Pratik Dholakiya emphasizes the importance of a brand responding to comments on these sorts of campaigns with kindness and respect. Before even releasing the content, preparing for backlash is key. You should make sure to have an understanding of who your audience is and what they might say. Dholakiya suggests making preemptive responses and have plan on how to respond to potential haters. This way, the situation is controlled and you can avoid a crisis.
So yes, create controversial content. It can be a huge pick-me-up for your brand. Users are drawn to what evokes their emotions. Attention-grabbing posts will draw you crowds when done correctly and in small doses. Know who your audience is and prepare to handle any backlash you might receive with class. Results will show that this method will bring elevated awareness to your brand and take you to a new level of content strategy.
Hodkinson, Matt. “Content Marketing Is Dead… and Controversy Gets Clicks.” Inbound Marketing Agency and HubSpot Partner, http://www.influenceagents.com/brain-juice/content-marketing-dead-controversy-gets-clicks.
Hou, Zontee, et al. “5 Critical Precautions When Publishing Controversial Content.” Content Marketing Consulting and Social Media Strategy, 23 Aug. 2018, http://www.convinceandconvert.com/content-marketing/publishing-controversial-content/.
Lehr, Andrea. “3 Ways to Make Controversial Content Work for Your Brand.” Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership, Marketo, 27 Jan. 2017, blog.marketo.com/2017/01/3-ways-to-make-controversial-content-work-for-your-brand.html.