We can tell you from experience (both good and bad) that there is a right and a wrong way to approach a hot or controversial topic on your blog.
Whether you pick a side or present an unbiased perspective, you’re inviting your readers to respond, and to be vocal. You’re inviting feedback both negative and positive, and potentially from outside your usual readership.
Playing it safe is a route many of us take for any number of reasons. Perhaps you’re non-confrontational by nature, and would rather not ruffle any feathers. Perhaps you have decided for yourself that your blog will not be a hotbed for debate.
However, if you’ve got the itch to express yourself, question an authority or take a stand for or against something, your blog can be a powerful platform to incite conversation and perhaps change. Doing so with smarts, grace, humility and eloquence can also open up your blog to a new audience, a new chapter and maybe teach you something as well.
Where to begin? What subject to tackle? How to approach it?
Hot and controversial topics are usually so because they ignite passionate feelings about the issue at hand (often from both sides). While you might not want to come out of left field on your fashion blog with a political tirade, consider how a political/religious/ethical/emotional/physical/financial topic might affect your readers. At IFB, we recently looked into the social media growth of fashion brands during NYFW, bloggers as celebrities or publishers, as well as the debate over the current state of street style. There are a lot of different opinons on each of these topics, and we brought them to our readers attention because we felt they were important to highlight, as well as to start a conversation in our community.
Your approach may be like that of a detective: sniffing out stories and actively seeking out potential topics, while always keeping a watchful eye on news outlets, blogs and social media conversations. Or, you may prefer to hang back, knowing something, somewhere, will inspire, enrage, influence or excite you enough to post about it on your site – when the time is right. With the heavy potential to draw attention to yourself and your site, take the approach that feels most natural to you and the content structure you’ve already established.
To guide your post and give it strength, here are a few key elements to consider including:
- Background Information: Set the scene for your readers. Give them enough information to know why you’re posting on this topic, and how it became relevant for you as well as the community or demographic at hand.
- Facts: Like a lawyer making their case, you want to lay out all the facts to prove your point. The more concrete evidence you can supply the more validation your opinions carry. This might involve using proven statistics, visual graphs and charts, or results from studies and surveys.
- Sources: Where did you get these facts and figures? Show it, prove it, cite it.
- Quotes: It could also be helpful to include supporting quotes from leaders in the subject at hand, influencers or peers who share your sentiments (as well as those who oppose it). Ask trusted people in your network to weigh in as well. It’s important to reach out to anyone you might want to quote, whether or not you think they will respond, because you can state in your post that you contacted so-and-so but they couldn’t be reached for comment.
- Your Opinions: Naturally, since this is your blog, your opinion and thoughts are of a very high value, and important to your readers. Share them with conviction!
- The Reasons Why: This ties in with providing background information and including your opinion, but divulging why you feel how you do, and why this issue inspires or motivates you will resonate with readers. As this is your personal blog, the more personal you get, the stronger connection you’ll build with your audience.
The problem with giving advice about how to tackle a controversy, questionable behavior or hot-button issue is that there are no finite rules. What is successful with one audience may not work with another. It’s important to do your best to understand your readers, be true to yourself and show understanding towards those who might disagree with your point of view. The strongest cases are made with ardent conviction supported by factual evidence. Now go forth and stir the pot!