3 Questions to Ask Before Posting Something Controversial

17 November 2016 | 15 Comments

Cats are rarely controversial. Especially Biddy as a kitten.
Cats are rarely controversial. Especially Biddy as a kitten.

When you run a crowdfunding campaign, you’re running a business. When you’re running a business, everything you post online is an extension of your company’s brand. This makes the keyboard a precariously powerful tool.

Every Facebook post about your family may endear you to your customers. Every tweet about the election may anger half of your followers and delight the other half. Every blog entry, video, podcast, Kickstarter update, and forum comment has a direct impact on the way people perceive and feel about your company.

I’ve found over time that I shouldn’t worry too much about this, lest I never post anything. Instead, I try to be aware of how people will perceive specific topics, and I write about them or comment on them in a judicious manner. I’ve failed miserably at this a number of times, of course.

Recently I wrote a controversial blog post. I knew it was controversial because I had previously participated in discussions online about it.

Before publishing it, I sent it to one of our advisers. I asked him if he thought I should post it. Instead of saying yes or no, he replied with the following 3 questions:

  1. What is your biggest reservation about posting this? In other words, why am I even hesitating to post this in the first place? For me, I was worried about bringing up a situation that had already calmed down on its own.
  2. What is the worst that could happen? In many cases, including mine, this will be some variation of, “This could piss off a lot of people and do permanent damage to our brand.”
  3. What is the best that could happen? Sometimes this might reveal an answer that far outweighs the concerns. For me, the positive effect seemed minimal, as I knew I wasn’t going to win over people who were already unhappy with the situation.

As the result of asking those questions, I decided not to publish the post, despite having spent several hours writing it. That was tough, but it was the right call for me and Stonemaier Games.

These questions are my new guidepost for any controversial post or statement. I wish I had this guidepost years ago, as I’ve been asking the wrong question. I was asking, “Should I post this?” That question wants an immediate destination, but what I really needed was a path.

Perhaps these questions will be helpful for you, or perhaps you use a different system to filter yourself. If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Also read: Kickstarter Lesson #181: Love Your Competitors


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15 Comments on “3 Questions to Ask Before Posting Something Controversial

  1. Its interesting that some people have bought up twitter and other methods of posting and political/non-gaming posts. Personally I’d never post something as a blog on my company website that wasn’t a) gaming related and b) intended to help someone else in the gaming community. Now I think that Jamey was intending to do that with the unposted blog, he just realised the law of hypocratic blog posting c) that will not do more harm than help. It can be tricky to measure that last one, I feel like ironically the nicer a person you are, the more you under-rate how annoyed some people will be. If you take everything in the spirit of assistance then you assume everyone else will to, which is possibly a weakness in the legendary Stegmaier niceness, but I like to think not.

    I do think people should only post things related to their business on their business page personally. Not because people shouldn’t be able to air their political views without losing customers, but because I come to a business site or a boardgame site because that’s what I’m interested. I don’t find the fact that Jamey owns cats controversial, but if half of his gaming blog because posts about their admittedly adorable fuzzy little faces, I’d stop reading. Cats are rarely controversial, but they can be off topic.

  2. I was literally writing a possibly controversial post that was causing me to hesitate. But your 3 questions have given me clarity, and in fact will be using those 3 questions as a guide from now on. Thank you for the awesome advice Jamey.

  3. Jamey, that is well stated. I am grateful that you have not posted politically, as you are the face of Stonemaier. While they may be your opinions, and you have the right to them, it is bad business to alienate a large potential customer base.

    Which leads to my biggest beef with the Gamers4Her open letter: while they may have had valid reasons for backing Hilary, what was given were caricatures of her and Trump, and many gamers were basically called evil. I’m openly controversial; I’m not a designer, author or publisher at this time, and if I become one, that identity will be tied to it. The letter was bad business, and I’m grateful you didn’t sign it, whatever politics you possess.

  4. One question I ask myself before posting controversial is: “If anything I said was printed out of context as a newspaper headline, could readers perceive it badly?” Like you said, the upside is often small, and the downside is often large. I typically refrain from posting anything controversial, but then again, I don’t post to social media very often!

  5. I agree about the path, for sure. I generally don’t post the majority of what I write in response to a controversial topic. But, usually, the act of writing it out allows me to process the situation in a more reasonable way. It might start out pretty strong, but then as I read and re-read the words, I start settling down and either decide not to post or tame it WAY down. ;)

    1. “the act of writing it out allows me to process the situation in a more reasonable way.”

      I’ve definitely been there too, Michael. I find the process of writing something to be incredibly helpful. And when I’m at my wisest, I don’t post it right away–I take a break and revisit it with fresh eyes before I click “publish.” :)

  6. Stellar post, and I agree. And I’m totally that guy that posts controversial stuff all the time.

    Twitter tells you how many new follows you have and who, but not how many UNfollows or who. I’ll say this: During the last 2 weeks around the election I’ve netted a net +0 followers … hrrrm… but about +30 new ones have followed. : / – It really is interesting how people will “unfollow”, “unfriend”, or mentally blacklist you because you do not actively agree with them.
    Note, most of my posts were neutral, unity oriented, or disseminating general factual information. I never said “Vote for X” or “Don’t vote for Y”. I’m actually non-partisan, and generally anti-stupid behavior regardless of its source.

    My issue is something that you discussed some years ago: The fact that once you’re a business, especially in a community as active as ours, you are not allowed to have an opinion apart from that of your BUSINESS. If John says “Trump is our next president”, a number of anti-trump people now won’t buy from Gate Keeper Games, even though the statement is neutral and factual; or vice versa when you mention Hillary.

    That is something that I just don’t get. – I disagree, like most people, with 50% of the country on 50% of the issues too; possibly more because I’m not part of a party affiliation. It’s part of living in a world this divided. But I don’t disrespect others on the either side. I think we should be able to share our opinions and still keep our friends. You can share yours and I won’t unfollow you.

    Bottom line: We need more unity. That doesn’t always mean getting people to agree with you. In fact, it rarely does.

    1. John: “I think we should be able to share our opinions and still keep our friends.” I think that’s a powerful statement. I’d like to think that too, and the way I share opinions has a big impact on that. I think customers are a bit more fickle than friends, though. Friends give you the benefit of the doubt, while a customer–even if you’re friendly with them–may be much faster to unfollow.

    2. In my opinion, all political stuff shouldn’t be posted by companies at all. For their own good. When the UK was voting to leave or not EU, there were such a big emotions involved that some people were cancelling their very old friendships in life and as well on Facebook. If someone can cancel 10+ years old friendship then most likely he/she will stop buying from the company. It’s not rocket since!

      By posting political opinions, the company won’t get much but can lose a lot. I consider unprofessional when I see the company posting about that. Even if just showing the facts. And the company will lose not only because some agree with you or not. It’s more that everyone hears about politics everywhere and they are fed up. When they go to a publisher, and they see politics again, they give up.

      This is just my humble opinion by the way ;p

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