Analysis, Commentary And Controversy Are Proven Frameworks: Ignore Them At Your Own Peril

I like Chris Brogan.  I’ve even referenced him among social media power users I recommend this community connect with.  With that said, I don’t agree with everything he  says and have disagreed with him in the past.  I’m going to disagree with him again today.

Before I get further into it, I’d like you to consider this:  in any industry, especially those that are new (at least to some) there is a natural tendency to agree as default with leaders.  This is something that always bothered me about marketing industry conversations.  What it creates are hordes of Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse clones.  These guys are great, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t mean you should be them or blindly agree with them.  Unless you want your voice lost in perpetual obscurity.  The world doesn’t need another Chris or Darren, the world needs and wants you, but not if you’re a parrot.  Be unique, take changes, disagree, analyze, use a sharp wit and stand out.

In a recent post, Chris advises his readers to not analyze others:

If you’re spending your time analyzing what other people in your space are doing, citing why they’re wrong, and providing your commentary about all the things they’re doing, what does your next potential customer come away thinking?

Of course Chris would say this.  Chris is a leader in the digital marketing industry.  And it’s in his interest to promote the notion that you shouldn’t analyze, disagree or prove wrong because as a leader in the space these items don’t reinforce his position.  By acting as blind echo chambers for leaders in any industry, you play right into their strategies.  I do hope you realize they have strategies:  digital communications is chess, not checkers.

To answer his question:  if you’re just agreeing with others and not having opinions or taking sides, it tells prospects you’re just another drone.  And if you’re in the marketing or PR industry, why would a prospect choose to work with a partner who is bland?

The whole reason for hiring a marketing consultant is to find someone who thinks creatively/strategically, is far enough at the edge of the industry to analyze/respond to conversations, campaigns, and competitors and who is irrationally committed.  Those who provide commentary about the industry are the people who care most about it – and it’s a signal you’re not merely following “best practices,” you’re actually involved.

Causing controversy works, period.  Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, Mike Masnick and other A-listers frequently take a stand on issues and analyze the actions of others.  And all of them are successful with their goals:  Arrington’s sharp analysis/controversial nature doesn’t hinder his ability to find sponsors for his blog or events, Scoble’s opinions (positive and negative) have been the basis of his reputation and success, and while some consider Masnick snarky, he’s actually bringing a dose of logic to an illogical world (those profiting from this naturally take issue).  A main reason these people have the audiences they do is because of their fearlessness in responding to the actions of others.  This guarantees a compelling read, even when you disagree.

Techdirt, with nearly one million subscribers is the marketing monster behind their consulting practice, Floor 64.  You want to go tell Mike that providing commentary isn’t valuable?  Right.  Or tell Rae Hoffman or Lisa Barone at Outspoken Media that sharp analysis or criticism isn’t successful?  They’d have issues with that too, I’m sure.

In a world where every company is a media company (as Brian Clark eloquently states) those who are heard, win.  You simply don’t have the leverage necessary for your content marketing to deliver leads in the first place until you have an audience, as your audience is the key element to gain social proofing.  If you want to discount analysis, criticism or disagreement from your strategy to build that audience go for it, but these are razor sharp elements that have composed proven frameworks of influential media since media existed.