How to Deal with a Firestorm of Controversy on Your Blog (Before it Suffocates You)

This is a guest contribution from Sherice Jacob.

You’ve just hit Publish. You don’t know what will happen from here, but at the moment, you feel relieved. You’ve just written one of the most controversial, eye-opening, highly-polarizing posts on your blog. You know it’s ripe for debate and there are going to be readers who take your perspective personally – as if you secretly wrote it for – and about – them.

Some bloggers will tell you that controversy is one of the best possible angles you can take on your blog. And for some people, it is. For others, it can be a disastrous downward spiral – but one thing is certain, people will love it, either way.

Case in point, the social meltdown that occurred on the Amy’s Bakery Facebook page after the company was featured on chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Chef Ramsay actually quit the episode because the proprietors refused to listen to him. That, coupled with thousands of comments from users on Reddit and Yelp added fuel to the fire. The husband-and-wife team leapt into the fray, alternating between defending themselves and cursing out the posters.

It was the perfect example of how NOT to handle controversy and criticism. 

It’s also worth mentioning that consequently, their page went from 2,500 likes on Facebook, to over 50,000. It’s doubtful that people liked the company as much as they liked the drama.

Why We Secretly Both Love and Hate Controversy

On the whole, we like to play it safe. Even as young children, we’re taught not to “ruffle any feathers” and to use our “indoor voices”.

But a good controversy demands that we draw a line in the sand and dare others to cross it.If you’ve got a topic so heartfelt and genuine that you just have to share it – do it. One post that’s near and dear to you will be worth more to your readers than ten “safe” posts.

The fact is, no one knows the topic like you do. Considering that you’re not riling up readers just to touch a nerve, and that you truly do value and believe in what you have to share – then you’ve already laid the groundwork for a good controversial post that makes a point while remaining open to discussion.

You Don’t Need to Seek Out Their Approval

While it’s nice to have readers in your corner vouching for your perspective – you don’t need to actively seek out their approval.

Nothing makes a blogger look weaker than stating their point and then chasing it up with “Am I right, guys? Am I right?” By the same token, don’t do a complete 180 degree shift and play the victim card. Hand-wringing and taking everything personally just gives the criticizers more reason to keep attacking you and your post.  Sadly, some people do this as a form of entertainment.

Know when to respond, when to walk away, and when to learn from your actions (and yes, you can do all three of these based on the comments in your post!)

  • If you’ve made your point as clearly and accurately as possible, you’ve done what you set out to do.
  • If you’ve made some mistakes, take a step back, acknowledge the errors and make corrections

Above all, don’t attack the commenters for posting their point of view, like the bakery company did. They simultaneously managed to proclaim their goodness, lash out at posters and play the victim card all at once.

Don’t Turn Your Audience into Mashed Potatoes

Know what bloggers and mashed potatoes tend to have in common? Lumps.

In that, as bloggers, we’ve been preached to so much about personas and demographics that we tend to lump all our readers together in terms of likes/dislikes/interests/lifestyles. Like MMO computer games?  Then you must be a level 60 basement-dwelling, cheeto-stained neckbeard!

Wrong.

Resist the urge to lump your audience together into neatly organized stereotypes and they’ll be a lot more forgiving of your observations (even if they disagree with them). Every user has a unique perspective, so making generalized statements toward a group, a product or a person is sure to inflame the others who don’t match that generalization, and resent being pigeon-holed into that group.

Agree to Disagree

Remember above all, that this is your blog. You can answer questions, post responses and make corrections on your own terms. Keep the discussion on track and resist the urge to give in to commenters who interrupt or veer off topic.  Stay focused and agree to disagree.  Who knows? Maybe after making your first controversial post, you can follow up with a “What I’ve Learned” lesson.

Above all, resist the urge to delete the post and censor the comments. Blogs are not a one-way street.

Your true readers will follow you to the ends of the earth and back, even if they don’t agree with you.And that’s what makes a controversial post so rewarding.

Want to improve your blog, but don’t know where to start?  Sherice Jacob offers comprehensive blog reviews with an emphasis on getting you more subscribers, more traffic and more sales. Learn more at iElectrify.com