How do you respond to controversy? How do you engage controversy in your marketing efforts? Do you believe in the saying that there is no such thing as bad PR, or ‘Bad PR is good PR’?
I read something this week that got me thinking about this. It was a post (linked from image below) from real estate mogul and Shark Tank shark Barbara Corcoran published on LinkedIn.
This post discusses the benefits and challenges of controversy marketing from one persons perspective. However, this post is incomplete. People like you have a voice, and are encouraged to use it here. In any case, this specific example may have very well served its purpose, I’ll let you decide that.
Simply trolling LinkedIn I encountered the post by someone I didn’t even follow at the time. The post, entitled, “Shoot the Dog Early” had just gone live, and in a cursory review, it was creating all kinds of buzz. In a word, controversy.
Barbara Corcoran basically shared her view on how to keep a sales driven organization thriving: fire 25% of the least performing staff annually. LinkedIn has a bumper crop of folks in the sales profession, and it seems many didn’t care too much for Mrs. Corcoran’s approach.
Benefits of Controversy in Your Marketing
- Additional Exposure: People love controversy, they also love to SHARE it, as evidenced by the screenshot above.
- Opportunity to Penetrate New Markets: One of the challenges with people who publish content or are of celebrity status is that their ‘herd’ remains the same, or simply churns. Due to the sharing of the content, controversial content will undoubtably get exposed to people who would not have otherwise seen it.
- Galvanize Existing Market: Sometimes the best thing that can happen with a prospect or suspect in sales, is that they MOVE. Controversy motivates consumers to take sides. You are with the person/company or against them.
In the case of Barbara Corcoran, the post served to get additional exposure. She only had about 17,000 ‘followers’ on LinkedIn when I first saw the post and now has just over 19,000. The number who saw the post far exceeded her follower count by nearly 10x.
Challenges of Controversy in Your Marketing
- Damaged Brand/Image: Spoke with someone this week whose company is responsible for customer data security. When there was a security breach a few years ago, her company broke the trend and published the breach. It was a huge risk, and as she told me “nearly sunk the company”. In the end they set a new trend in the industry, and now employ thousands of people.
- Smaller Influence: If your aim is a wide, broad reach, being controversial in your marketing can hinder that effort significantly (see point #3 above).
- Remaining Authentic: There is the risk of striving to be controversial. When detected, this sews distrust in the market, and people will be skeptical of trusting you or your brand again. You need to make sure that what you are being controversial about doesn’t require much effort. The controversy comes as a bi-product of what you believe.
Barbara Corcoran, she has been around for years, and has little to lose being controversial. She only needs a few customers to be successful in the grand scheme of things, and seemed pretty authentic in sharing from her experience in the post.
Unless she has marketing aspirations that is a departure from what bred her success to date, she can afford to take a risk that is controversial marketing, as her transactions are very numbers ‘matter-of-fact’ driven (commercial real-estate). And when controversy is a philosophy she’s found true in her business, the risk is rather low.
Did you see the post from Barbara Corcoran? How do you react as a consumer to controversy in marketing? As a marketer?