How controversial do you have to be to get attention? [Copywriting Know How]

Attention is our number 1 survival mechanism. Without attention, everything dies. So it comes as no surprise that it’s the lynchpin of the marketing and copywriting industry.

(the above may be obvious, but I find it comforting to know why and how things work before exploiting them – see the PS)

There are of course a million ways to create attention, but top of the click-bait brigade is controversy, so we’ll start with that.

It’s not for the faint hearted. I once used controversy to get media attention. I ended up being called an idiot (it was deserved) when I tried to push my desktop based software to an emerging cloud software industry claiming that the cloud was a load of hogwash. It didn’t end well.

Hence, I don’t recommend using controversy to be, well, controversial, leave that to the villains (and idiots) – the villains are hard skinned and don’t care, and the idiots have no idea until the shit hits the fan (and I can tell you, it gets messy).

There’s another way of looking at this though. Self-help gurus call it being courageous, that is, moving out of our comfort zones to do things we’d never normally dream of doing.

But that can still go wrong. You can be controversial just to be controversial, but if you don’t really believe it, you will be found out – like I was (it’s hard to contain a lie).

However, being controversial is not controversial at all if it’s just you being you. If you believe in something so strongly that you cannot help but tell the world about it, then do it with as much gusto and energy as you can.

Make it your duty to let the world know. If, during that process, you come across haters, it’s a guarantee that you’ll also come across lovers (haters cannot exist in a vacuum), and it’s those lovers whom you’ll eventually be attracting in droves.

So what the gurus are really telling us is to “be you” (and if being you means you hide in a corner and keep things to yourself, then that’s fine too – as long as you’re doing it because you want to – just don’t expect to attract very much).

The crucial thing about controversy is having the guts to tell the world what you think, why you think it, and why they should too.

Do this in everything you put out and watch what happens. It will surprise you.

PS. Whilst it’s obvious that animals survive because of attention (“if it moves, eat it”), plants and other less able life forms survive on it too. It’s why trees, flowers, and fungi give off so many amazing scents, and have so many different colours and shapes. Attention comes in many forms.


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