Controversy sells! It generates an emotional response that gets people talking. If you want your content to ignite discussions, drive organic traffic to your site, get social shares, stimulate interest in your brand, and generate links or mentions, you should experiment with controversial topics. However, if not approached carefully, controversial content can bring the wrong kind of attention and damage your reputation. That is why we have prepared this guide to show you how to write conversational or controversial content that works for your brand.
What controversial topics are suitable for your brand? Any digital content you publish—including conversational or controversial content—should align with your brand image, values, and mission. You don’t have to jump into the trending controversial topics of the day, like politics or sexuality, just to spark debates.
Good controversial topics should resonate with your target audience. You want to target a specific audience and get them talking.
Ideally, you should choose exciting topics within your industry that have a low level of controversy. Research shows people engage primarily with issues of low-level controversy. If a topic has more than a moderate level of argument, it reduces high engagement potential. In other words, avoid highly sensitive issues, or you risk alienating some people.
When writing about a controversial topic, start with the end in mind. What goal do you want to achieve with the issue? Are you addressing those with similar views and inviting them towards an action? Do you want those with different opinions to view the subject from your perspective? Are you addressing those who haven’t considered the issue? Do you want to educate the audience on the topic?
It’s essential to identify your goal once you choose a topic. It will help you focus on one key issue and create well-organized content. If you address several issues without solid facts, it can look like a rant. Stay focused and write content that achieves your goal. You should also edit your content thoroughly and remove text that appears offensive, irrational, or emotional.
Your content should make your point in a way that doesn’t hurt people’s feelings and encourage readers to share their opinions.
It goes without saying that you can’t disagree with popular opinion without backing your ideas and expecting people to share or link to your content. A survey by McCann shows that 42% of Americans don’t trust businesses because they make huge claims without providing credible data sources. So, if you want to increase traffic while enhancing your reputation and credibility, you must get the facts straight when writing about controversial topics. Avoid writing based solely on emotions and focus on factual information.
You should also check and double-check the facts you include in your post so your content can stand up to scrutiny—link to reliable and accurate sources. If an article comes off as a rant about your opinions, you risk losing an audience. It is challenging, especially on topics you have an unwavering belief in, but it’s the best thing to do for your brand.
Write authoritative content using solid facts, give the audience your takeaway, and invite them to share their opinions in the comments section.
For conversational or controversial content to generate great results, it needs to spark debates that benefit your brand and audience. It’s a good idea to use techniques that have been proven to work when starting with contentious topics. Below are some of the tried and true ways you can approach controversial content:
Editorial writing is one of the best ways to approach a controversial topic. It means you are presenting research and statistics in the third person. The article is not about your own opinion but focuses on giving factual information. This is a good approach if you don’t want to turn the audience against you but instead engage with them.
For example, “New research by XY concludes that organic traffic has dropped by 60%, not 80%, as ZX reports.” It means that you present the data and approach your post from all perspectives.
In the last paragraph, you can express the side you support with a reason and include a call to action.
You can take a popular topic and create a perspective that sparks a debate. Take the “The ‘Content is King’ Myth Debunked” article, for instance. The article writer, Derek Halpern, states that design is more crucial when someone visits a site for the first time.
Such content makes people rethink a common belief. Keep in mind that even though the topic is controversial, the content should be relevant to your brand’s services/products.
You can generate controversy or conversations by contrasting two topics, such as arguing that a vehicle model A is better than model B. You can choose to take one side and explain why with factual information in your article.
This technique works because it challenges common opinions in a non-offensive and reasonable way.
Wait a few days before handling a sensitive topic. Always think about the timing of your post and respect people’s sentiments. While jumping into a recent or trending topic can mean more exposure, it may not be the right time. You may need to wait until people have evaluated all sides of the issue, then you come in with credible information that either holds up or opposes their opinions.
Before you publish your controversial content, it’s important to get opinions from one or more people. They will tell you where your content is extreme, offensive, or any other thoughts they may have about it. It will ensure that you deliver on your goal without driving readers away.
Whichever approach you use for your controversial content, some audience will disagree. That’s a sure thing! Remember that how you react to the conversation your post sparks matters more than the content itself.
You can minimize backlash by defending your arguments respectfully in response to negative comments. Avoid engaging with trolls and respond only to those creating a healthy debate. If you engage in arguments in the comments section or social media, you may say something that you will regret.
You can also set up a notification-response system with tools like Talkwalker Alerts to get alerts for certain kinds of responses generated by your content. This will help you monitor the reactions of your audience, for instance, offensive language, and act before things get out of hand. When your brand name or specific terms are mentioned across the web and social media, you can get alerts.