“You’re Stupid.” When Cutting Edge Articles Go Bad…

I love spunky articles and blog posts. When a writer takes an unusual stance or approaches a topic with razor-sharp wit it makes me excited about a piece, often ends up in my saved/bookmarked file and is forwarded on through various social media channels. As much as I like an offbeat approach, I practically cover my eyes and cringe at some ‘devil may care’ stances that fall flat.

One reason why these posts miss their mark is they lack true understanding of who is in their audience. There was a post from a PR rep that recently made internet waves. The blogger confronted mom bloggers who want to get paid for reviews or other corporate sponsored posts. The reaction to the post – on a wildly popular blog that focuses on women building their blogging brand and growing their business – fell flatter than a souffle during an earthquake. The cutting edge/tough love tone came across as condescending to most of the businesswomen that responded.

“You’re stupid if you…” or “You’re crazy if…” or my fav “Only idiots…” abusing your audience will only get you so far. Eventually people will get tired of being berated and find someone else who can give them the same information without the insults. Make sure you don’t overplay your hand.

Another reason why certain blog posts/articles don’t succeed is they cross the line by just being plain mean. There’s nothing wrong with being controversial, there is something terribly wrong with being mean and nasty. Have an opinion, or a unique way of looking at a subject, but settling scores, consistently stoking internet wars and taking cheap shots fizzles an audience out pretty quickly, despite a brief spike in traffic and buzz.

Got a controversial stance or topic? Make sure you keep three things in mind: facts, focus and familiarity with your audience. Supporting facts will allow your piece to stand on its own merit. Staying focused on the facts will keep an opinion from turning into an unproductive (and long) rant. Finally, I cannot stress it enough – knowing your audience will make or break your piece. It’s one thing to want to fire up your audience about a subject, it’s another to have them fired up AT you because you just don’t get them.

Controversy can be an effective tool to starting a conversation, but without supportive facts, smart editing and reader connection the piece may just miss its mark.

Do you have an example of an edgy piece that worked? How about a conversation started that missed its intended audience? Share the link with us!


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