An Underused Strategy: Cause Controversy


A  strategy used frequently by some now ultra-popular bloggers and web personalities in their early days seems to have fallen by the wayside:  causing controversy.

We can’t know which of the hugely public controversies between A-list bloggers years ago was actually a conscious play to attract attention or just a by-product of their debates.  That is irrelevant though, controversy is an art which can be planned and done with eyes wide open.  It is concurrently one of the most effective and underused strategies.

Directed, controversy can:

  • Generate large amounts of links at scale (linkbait)
  • Potentially convert hordes of new subscribers if the dialogue is drawn out over longer periods (people can become addicted to the story and want to see it unfold)
  • Spread the recognition of your name/brand far and wide (you are temporarily put in the spotlight and become the hot topic of your niche in the social web, bringing you large scale awareness)

Your brand, company, or even you could use controversy to catapult your digital presence ahead of competitors and to top of mind in your niche.

Controversy can short-circuit your road to popularity if you are able to properly orchestrate it.  It is better to be known for something, anything – even if it is slightly controversial – than to be anonymous.  In a world of long tail media, you will be perpetually lost if you don’t create ideas that spread, and controversy is a devastatingly effective approach.

But what about your digital reputation?

While reputation is integral, you are in a greater position of power to create a positive one if first you are known.  Turning around a less than perfect reputation is a far easier task than being unknown and trying to have your ideas heard.  People are exceedingly forgiving, it is part of human nature.

I could go into this further but I want to leave the creative elements of this to you.  The social web makes it easy to spread controversy – so be sure you have a larger plan in mind as an approach this potent can quickly get out of control if you haven’t prepared for all contingencies.

An Indian Fable provides a metaphor for the efficacy of this strategy:

A wasp named Pin Tail was long in quest of some deed that would make him forever famous.  So one day he entered the king’s palace and stung the little prince, who was in bed.  The prince awoke with loud cries.  The king and his courtiers rushed in to see what had happened.

The prince was yelling as the wasp stung him again and again.  The courtiers tried to catch the wasp, and each in turn was stung.  The whole royal household rushed in, the news soon spread, and people flocked to the palace.  The city was in an uproar, all business suspended.

Said the wasp to itself, before it expired from it’s efforts, “A name without flame is like fire without flame.  There is nothing like attracting notice at any cost.”

Indian Fables

We all enjoy having a story to tell and something to talk about, especially if it’s controversial.  You’re making this innate quality of our species work for you.

Will you conjure the next big story everyone talks about?  Orchestrate strategically and controversy could be that boost that gets your name/brand/company out there and opens up doors for exposure and eventual influence.

image credit: Björn Meyer via Shutterstock