Corporate communications can be risk-averse and consequently unchallenging, but the objective should often be the opposite – to engage your audience by being thought-provoking and inspirational. Risky, even. By injecting your writing with honest views, spiced with character – and a well-pitched level of controversy – you can engage your readers at a much more fundamental level.
In the information-rich digital world, it’s becoming increasingly important to stand out in the corporate crowd. Bland sound bites – however well-written – may no longer cut it. On the other hand, original and well-researched industry stories – especially those that turn heads and raise eyebrows – will be lapped up.
They will also be liked and shared on social media, effortlessly spreading the corporate word. In its advice to contributors, The Financial Times sums up the need to exceed expectations nicely. “Since we aim to stand out, we reject pieces that would fit in. Make it personal. Tell us something others can’t, be funny or trade on who you are.”
Hitting just the right note of controversy, however, is not straightforward. It is almost an art form. Sounding off like Uber’s Travis Kalanick or Tesla’s Elon Musk does nothing whatsoever for your corporate image. In fact, arrogance is destructive. Trust fostered over decades between a corporate operation and its clients can be destroyed in a few ill-considered words.
Controversy is clearly not about being outrageous for the sake of it or saying something you don’t believe simply to grab attention. It is far more subtle and interesting – it’s about exploiting nuts-and-bolts knowledge or research to challenge opinions, provide new ways of thinking, and enable readers to gain a new level of understanding in their chosen field.
If you are in the financial world, for example, then you can reveal your viewpoint on a wide range of fascinating issues, from cryptocurrencies and the use and misuse of personal data to Trump’s tariffs and the impact of fintech. All are hot potato topics that can be treated in a novel and memorable way. Creating memorable content will deliver on numerous levels, by underlining you have an authoritative knowledge of your industry, the confidence to have an opinion, to be a leader, and to show that you are not afraid of criticism.
Bond… vigilante bond
Bond Vigilante – the popular blog of M&G Investments – is a good example of what can be achieved by creating a convincing and often edgy voice. Jim Leaviss, the head of Fixed Retail who runs the blog, describes himself as a fan of controversial soccer manager Brian Clough and outspoken singer Morrissey. On a recent visit to Japan, he revealed so-called anecdata about the economy as well as weaving a story about doing karate dressed as an astronaut.
“It’s been great to hear the views of our readers, however forthright!” he says, talking about the blog. “In one week alone I was accused of both being an apologist for the US Tea Party and a member of a Marxist sleeper cell.”
There’s no doubting the readability of the blog, and the impact it has. “Bond Vigilantes provides a quirky take on all the major issues and has been my go-to blog for many years,” says Haig Bathgate, Chief Investment Officer at TCAM. “Long may it continue!” Darren Ruane, Head of Fixed Interest, Investec Wealth & Investment, adds: “For the past 10 years, BV has provided excellent fixed market analysis packaged in a fun-to-read format (if that is not an oxymoron). Well done team!”
Top tips for writing content that is memorable for all the right reasons:
- Find your voice. This can take time, but try to create a consistent tone and style that is appropriate for your audience. Don’t be afraid to be personal and humorous.
- Be original. By offering new angles and insights you can create a reputation for fresh thinking.
- Be flexible. Yes, you want to be an authority in your chosen field, but sometimes you can cast your net wider and comment on issues and values that relate to your business.
- Be newsworthy. Try to stay ahead of the headlines by anticipating stories that will be trending and in the news. All kinds of news works – from big global issues to stories that are being debated in your company.
- Don’t forget the research. If you are running with an interesting idea you need to be able to defend your position robustly against those with a more conservative – and possible negative – mindset.
- Be rightly proud. A thick skin helps, but if your work is original and you do plenty of research then you have no need to fear criticism. Expect criticism from your readers. However, much of it will be positive and constructive.
- Create dialogue. The comments on the end of blog posts can be very productive in terms of assessing the views of readers. Respond in a measured way in the same tone you set in your blog.
At Paragon, we are great believers in Being Noticed, Being Heard and Being Sought After. Hitting your audience with exciting and challenging content is a great way of doing this. If you would like to talk to us about adding a little controversy to your words, we would love to help you. Why not contact our team?
Tags: Bond Vigilante, Controversial Content Marketing, Corporate Communications