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Should Your Brand Enter Controversial Conversations? [The Weekly Wrap]

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And that’s a wrap of the week ending Sept. 4, 2020

This week I’m asking whether we should be more controversial. CMI founder Joe Pulizzi and I talk about whether Google should replace universities. And I point you to an article that asks whether you’re ALL-IN with Content Marketing.

Listen to (or watch) the Weekly Wrap

Our theme this week is controversy. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, is said to have written, “Controversy is only dreaded by the advocates of error.” That may be true. But as Prince sang, “I just can’t believe all the things people say.”

Let’s wrap it up.

Listen to the episode (time stamps apply to both the audio and video versions):

Watch it, too:

One deep thought: How controversial should your content be? (2:43)

If there’s one rule 2020 has proven, it’s this: Controversy gets people talking.

Controversies are everywhere these days. They range from the profoundly serious (the state of politics, civil rights, and health) to the unmistakably silly (whether toilet paper should spool over or under – it’s absolutely over, by the way).

Literally anything can spark controversy – including the fact that the Merriam-Webster definition of “literally” says the word now also means figuratively.

But I digress.

In marketing, developing controversial content often causes controversy among team members. Some brands take a side in a provocative debate to inspire conversation, get wider reach, and pierce through the noise of media. They see it as a form of steganography – a way to embed brand, product, or sales messaging within the body of content around a controversy.

Brands take a side to inspire conversation, widen their reach, or pierce through media noise, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

Remember Gillette’s 2019 branded content campaign The Best Men Can Be? It intentionally addressed toxic masculinity among young men at the height of the #MeToo movement. Those who see the campaign as successful point to the extraordinary levels of heated engagement it received. Those who see it as a failure point to the same.

Should your brand take a more provocative stand on hot-topic issues?

Well, how much does your audience trust you?

Research shows that the level of conversation a controversy produces depends on two countervailing trends. The more controversial a topic, the more people will find the conversation interesting. However, the more controversial a topic is, fewer people want to discuss it because they’re uncomfortable about sharing their opinions.

The study also found that people were more willing to talk about a highly controversial topic with a close friend.

These findings suggest trust is a big factor when it comes to whether the right audience will share in the discussion when brands enter a controversy. If I trust you, I’m more likely to engage with you in a conversation on a highly controversial topic. If I don’t trust you, I may question why you’re talking about that topic.

Trust is a big factor for audiences in deciding to share when brands enter a controversy, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

That’s one reason why Gillette’s campaign struggled. The brand hadn’t earned the level of trust from its audience members that would enable them to feel comfortable participating in that conversation. So, yes, Gillette created a lot of heated discussion, but it wasn’t with its audience – the very people it wanted to converse with.

This week’s person making a difference in content: Joe Pulizzi (7:03)

We’re 85 episodes into this podcast and I’m finally having my good friend Joe Pulizzi on the show.

Joe is the Amazon bestselling author of Killing Marketing, which I co-wrote with him, plus Content Inc., and Epic Content Marketing, which was named a “must-read business book” by Fortune Magazine. His latest book is his debut novel, The Will to Die.

He’s founded three companies, including the Content Marketing Institute, and launched dozens of events, including Content Marketing World. His foundation, the Orange Effect (OEF), delivers speech therapy and technology services to children in more than 25 states.

Joe and I chatted about the opportunity in education today – and how brands may be missing one of the biggest audience-building opportunities of all time.

This a fun conversation, full of all kinds of shenanigans.

Here’s a little teaser:

This is content marketing’s opportunity to bust out of the content marketing silo of ‘We’re doing our blog, or podcast, or video series over here’ … and nobody else in the organization knows what the heck we’re doing, to now moving in to say, ‘We can build the leading educational institution for our industry.’

This is #contentmarketing’s opportunity to say: “We can build the leading educational institution for our industry,” says @JoePulizzi via @CMIContent #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

Listen in, then get more from Joe:

One content marketing idea you can use (31:46)

As Content Marketing World approaches, I thought it would be fun to feature a 2016 post from Joe that might be a little controversial:  Go All In With Content Marketing or Do Nothing.

Joe writes: “I always ask the speakers at Content Marketing World to cut the extraneous and jump right into the substance of their presentations. I’m going to take my advice with this post.

“If you’re not ‘all-in’ with your content marketing program, you should stop.”

If you’re not all-in with your #contentmarketing program, you should stop, says @JoePulizzi via @CMIContent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

And that means the converse is true too: If you’re going to do it, do it.

The wrap-up

I hope you’re enjoying the show. If you love it, I’d sure love for you to review it or share it. Hashtag us up on Twitter: #WeeklyWrap.

To listen to past shows, go to the main Weekly Wrap page.

How to subscribe Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute.