Controversy Vs Personal Brand Building
According to some people, it’s totally OK to stir up controversy just to gain visibility.
President Donald J. Trump will be voted in tomorrow, and as we all know he reached “unpresidented” levels of notoriety through such tactics. Now this post is NOT intended to be political in nature, but I did want to talk about whether stirring the pot is a sustainable way to build your Personal Brand.
In short: it’s not. At least not as a consistent, sustainable path towards brand-building.
Here are some truths about using controversy for these purposes, for which I would like to offer some considerations:
1) Controversy is effective to create a shock in a crowded marketplace of ideas.
When everything blends in, and everyone looks and talks and walks the same way, making a bit of noise can help people pay attention.
However, when everything you say is controversial, or when you are among a group that is constantly seeking controversy, then guess what? The opposite effect actually occurs, and you end up blending in among the masses of people using this tactic just to be noticed.
I believe this is exactly what is happening these days on social media, where everyone and their mother is looking to “speak boldly” for the Likes and giggles, while more and more of us are just tuning out.
2) It’s good to stand for what you believe in, even if it’s a bit controversial.
This is absolutely true, as it’s a main tenet of being authentic, no matter what your position is.
The only two caveats with this is approach: Firstly, you need to be absolutely certain that you are standing for something you actually believe in, and aren’t just faking it to gain views. Many of us can be easily fooled by our own selves in this regard.
Secondly, you need to make sure that what you believe in is actually worth standing for. Many ideas people boldly use as platforms are just horrible when taken publicly. They’re better suited for the privacy of their homes, if at all.
3) It helps clarify your audience.
This is also true. Saying a hard truth or two helps disengage from people who are just idly standing by and aren’t really interested in you, and at the same time helps those who are meant to listen to you pay more attention to what you have to say.
However, once you do this a couple of times, each instance effectively filtering your audience more and more, you run the risk of placing yourself in a corner surrounded only by the people who will already agree with you even before you speak.
If your message is worth saying, more than likely you want to be heard by people who think differently, so that they can appreciate a point of view they had not considered.
Ideas that grow need space to grow out from, and it doesn’t help if you build a crystal bubble around yourself.
As you can see, being controversial presents possible short-term gains, but it’s not a sustainable method upon which your message can rely on every single time.
P.S.: Although parallels can be drawn to current political happenings, I just want to re-state that I’m not too interested in discussing politics here, unless it relates directly to the topic of Personal Branding.
Alex Rodríguez develops high-end digital marketing campaigns that transform brands and attract business. He is the author of Digital BACON. His clientele has run the gamut from top-level advertising agencies and Fortune500 corporations, through national broadcast networks, to award-winning production firms. He heads up the team at YMMY Marketing. Connect with Alex via LinkedIn or Twitter