How To Write Political Articles As A Business Owner
Last week, a couple of friends shared on Facebook how they’ve been losing “followers” because of the ‘political’ posts they’ve been sharing recently. They’ve also experienced abuse, heckling and trolling. This got me thinking about how we can write political articles as a business owner and not lose the tribe you've worked so hard to build.
I was badly bullied at school so I understand why speaking out can be scary – particularly when public discourse has taken a turn for the worse and can be downright nasty at times. But equally I understand that I’m very fortunate in terms of the opportunities available to me as a middle class, white woman. (Privilege is not a word we use in this context in the UK although I understand it’s a widely used term in the US).
My relative good fortune is one reason I feel a moral responsibility to use my platform to talk about leadership and business in a geopolitical way. But there are three other reasons why I think it’s important that to speak up about the causes I feel passionately about.
The first is quite simply that social justice and human rights are central to my values and purpose. If I didn’t discuss these topics, as I did about Charlottesville for example, I wouldn’t be true to myself.
I write and teach about leading with integrity. What kind of leader would I be if I didn’t do my very best to lead by example?
Speaking out gives others the courage to do so too, particularly during these febrile times when discourse is crude – “F**k business” said Boris Johnson with no apparent retribution, when challenged at a private reception about the clamour from Airbus and BMW over the threat Brexit poses to jobs and investment.
As the philosopher Paulo Freire said. “The norms have already been destroyed. If our leaders will not take a stand, the rest of us are surely obliged to.”
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I’ve been outspoken about issues that are important to me for many years. I’ve organised a number of protest marches and rallies. I’ve lobbied MPs and local representatives and run campaigns on issues to do with social justice, harassment and discrimination. This experience has given me the confidence to speak out.
That’s not most people’s experience. If you’re worried about sharing your point of view on your platform, I hope this article helps you to decide the right course of action for you.
Here are four questions to consider when you're writing political articles for your website.
1. IS YOUR POINT OF VIEW CONGRUENT WITH YOUR BRAND?
Not so long ago, the idea of business publicly taking on political and social positions was considered an anathema. Now we almost expect it. Having a dedicated point of view is what defines our most iconic, successful brands, and a key way in which a brand differentiates itself from competition. In fact, according to a 2014 study, around 75% of millennials believe that businesses should share a point of view about issues and influence others to get involved in an issue.
I believe, done well, having a distinctive point of view differentiates us in a crowded, noisy world. As the writer Elie Wiesel, once said: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” When companies or brands lack a clear point of view, the net effect can often feel a lot like indifference.
2. WILL MY AUDIENCE BE UPSET IF I SHARE MY VIEWS?
Possibly. But a lot of your audience will appreciate seeing you take a stand and hearing what’s important to you. Quite possibly they will feel empowered too, and encouraged to take their own actions.
For me personally, seeing other business owners share their anger and frustration over Trump’s family separation policy gave me the confidence to step up. When last week I decided to organise a rally at the US Embassy on 30 June, I was worried that I’d be a lone solitary figure. But that’s a very small price to pay for being on the right side of history. And thankfully I know of at least 100 other people who will be joining me.
The bottom line is if people are upset by my views, they shouldn’t be following me.
3. HOW DO I INCLUDE ‘POLITICAL’ POSTS ALONGSIDE MY REGULAR CONTENT?
The answer is to just do it. I try where possible to write about topical events so when I decide to share my musings on a leader like Martin Luther King or Charlottesville or the family separation policy, nobody’s surprised. Parenting bloggers will probably have the easiest time writing about the family separation policy. Founders of sustainable living brands will find it easy to talk about climate change. Maybe you have a story or experience that offers a small connection so that you can explain why a particular issue is important to you?
If you normally write happy, upbeat content, you may surprise people by sharing something political. But that’s potentially a good thing because it will definitely get people to take notice and read what you’ve written. For example, Joanna Goddard of ‘A Cup Of Jo’ normally writes positive lifestyle editorial on her popular blog. These past couple of weeks, she too has written on the family separation crisis. This resonates with her audience as they see this as genuine and straight from her heart.
4. WHAT IF PEOPLE WANT TO ARGUE WITH ME?
Some will and you just have to let it wash over you. This has happened to me, mostly over Brexit, and I find letting it wash over me gets easier with practice. I find the best way of dealing with disagreement is to be prepared. I research the issue thoroughly before I write an article for my website or post on social media so that if someone has a different opinion to me, I’ve got my facts and sources to back up what I’ve said.
At the end of the day, the platform you’ve created is your space, and that means you get to decide where and how the discussion goes. Maybe you have the time and energy to engage with dissenters. Maybe you don’t. You can always let them know that you won’t tolerate rude comments or engage in an argument. You have the option to turn off comments. I never engage with trolls, and block them from seeing my content.
Although I’ve titled this article ‘How To Write About Politics,’ I don’t actually view issues like the family separation policy and Charlottesville as political. To me, they’re about decency, respect and our common humanity. Anybody who disagrees is welcome to go elsewhere.
I hope this article has given you the confidence to share your point of view.
Question: Do you write political articles for your business? What reaction did you get? If you haven't, is there anything holding you back? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to share in the comments box below.
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