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Should Any Topic be Out of Bounds?

In normal, polite conversation, people tell us that we should stay away from the topics of politics and religion. Does the same go for social media and blog discussions?

There are probably other topics just as controversial, but I think in most cases these topics come under the heading of politics or beliefs for shorthand.

This year the politics discussions will go into overdrive. In the last USA presidential elections political blogs did very well, both in terms of traffic and revenue. I expect this time round for it to be even more of a phenomenenenon.

If you are not a political blogger though, should you mention political opinions? What about if you have both political and non-political blogs, could this cause problems? Can your religious beliefs get you into trouble?

Topic Friction

Politics is an obvious cause for friction, if you didn’t know better you would think friction was the whole point. People make all sorts of assumptions about a person once they discover they lean left or right politically.

Religion is politicized more than ever now. If you believe the media you would think that religion is politics.

But, you might think, aren’t we supposed to let our readers in on a bit of our personality? Didn’t you say we should paint a picture of ourselves being three dimensional human beings? There is the problem, many people see their politics, and certainly their beliefs, as being core to who they are. Should you hide this part of yourself?

How Much to Share?

I think it comes down to how you work, what your goals are, how open you want to be, and how forceful you are in your opinions.

If you are a freelancer or a consultant, I would caution against risking losing work through expressing your opinions off topic from your business blog. By all means have a separate blog where those opinions are discussed, but know the risks if your leads follow you around and find something they vehemently disagree with.

Openness is a two-edged sword. Sometimes you can share too much and put off the very readers you were wanting to get closer to. Again, this might be a good thing or a bad thing. If someone is so intolerant that they boycott you because of a privately held belief then you might not want them as readers, but on the other hand if you are beating people over the head with it I can fully understand why someone might be put off.

In most cases merely mentioning something will not do too much harm but getting into a heated argument almost always causes lasting issues. Polarizing an audience can be a route to success, but it forever labels you, and the internet has a long memory. You might find in a job or media interview it comes back to haunt you.

The way I deal with this stuff is to mostly keep it to myself, which you might think is the cowards way out, but there are some things I don’t think I need to share. Having said that some people have made assumptions anyway based on innocent things like newspapers I mentioned, my clients and who I write with.

Twitter Quotes

I asked for peoples experiences on the subject over at Twitter, here are two selected replies. First a great quote from Lyndon:

Lyndon Antcliff lyndoman Talking politics and religion in a commercial blog is like trying to diet whilst ingesting large amounts of Ben and Jerry’s. You think it’s a cool thing to do at the time, but in the end you always regret it.

Then I asked Muhammad if he received negative reactions because of his religion/politics:
Muhammad Saleem msaleem does getting called terrorist on Digg and my blog, multiple times count? πŸ™‚ Cost of doing business?

Over to You

Do you mention politics or religion in your blog or social media conversations?

Do You Mention Politics or Religion?
View Results
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Comments

  1. As I always tell to those who bring this up during our conversations; “we are political animals.” The other one is, “Everything is political. It all begins with sex.”

  2. As I always tell to those who bring this up during our conversations; “we are political animals.” The other one is, “Everything is political. It all begins with sex.”

  3. I generally don’t discuss anything on my blog that I wouldn’t talk about in my real-world conversations. While I do discuss religion and politics on occasion, it’s generally only in passing, and that’s the way I approach similar topics on my blog. If I have an observation that contributes, then I may write about it, as I did in my post, No, it’s not a joke Ò€” it’s amazing!, which is an observation on the debates held just prior to the New Hampshire primaries. However, that was an exception, rather than what I normally write on.

  4. I generally don’t discuss anything on my blog that I wouldn’t talk about in my real-world conversations. While I do discuss religion and politics on occasion, it’s generally only in passing, and that’s the way I approach similar topics on my blog. If I have an observation that contributes, then I may write about it, as I did in my post, No, it’s not a joke Ò€” it’s amazing!, which is an observation on the debates held just prior to the New Hampshire primaries. However, that was an exception, rather than what I normally write on.

  5. We’ve been blogging about this topic lately, the latest post being keeping your content neutral.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been offended, insulted, upset or condescended to because people don’t take the time to be careful and respectful of other people’s beliefs and values.

    Like you, Chris, I kept my mouth shut for a long time. The result? I was very, very unhappy and began to find myself resentful and bitter. (I don’t want to drop another link in here, but search our blog for “Blogging Personality and Conflicting Views.”)

    It’s an international world, and being respectful of all cultures, views and beliefs is important.

  6. We’ve been blogging about this topic lately, the latest post being keeping your content neutral.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been offended, insulted, upset or condescended to because people don’t take the time to be careful and respectful of other people’s beliefs and values.

    Like you, Chris, I kept my mouth shut for a long time. The result? I was very, very unhappy and began to find myself resentful and bitter. (I don’t want to drop another link in here, but search our blog for “Blogging Personality and Conflicting Views.”)

    It’s an international world, and being respectful of all cultures, views and beliefs is important.

  7. Chris, on my business blog I don’t talk politics or religion, it simply isn’t relevant to my niche. But on my personal blog I do. In fact, my last blog post is, “Karma – I Got A Problem With It” πŸ™‚

    But your point is well taken – don’t put it out there is you could regret it later.

  8. Chris, on my business blog I don’t talk politics or religion, it simply isn’t relevant to my niche. But on my personal blog I do. In fact, my last blog post is, “Karma – I Got A Problem With It” πŸ™‚

    But your point is well taken – don’t put it out there is you could regret it later.

  9. Chris, Political campaigns create lots of discussion about marketing, branding, leadership, ethics and more. The fact that news stories are so accessible makes it easy to relate to them. So, why not discuss politics if it is relevant to your blog’s purpose?

    I write on 3 blogs, one of which is focused on nonprofit innovation, specifically in Rotary International. The jabs and innuendos regarding racism and sexism created an opportunity to call attention to Rotary’s ethical foundation in the Four-Way Test. For that blog, politics gave me inspiration for a brief, simple post.

    For my other two blogs, if politics creates opportunities to talk about innovation, customer strategy, culture change, etc., I will sieze the opportunity.

    If politics offers inspiration that is consistent with the idea stream of the blog, sieze the opportunity.

  10. Chris, Political campaigns create lots of discussion about marketing, branding, leadership, ethics and more. The fact that news stories are so accessible makes it easy to relate to them. So, why not discuss politics if it is relevant to your blog’s purpose?

    I write on 3 blogs, one of which is focused on nonprofit innovation, specifically in Rotary International. The jabs and innuendos regarding racism and sexism created an opportunity to call attention to Rotary’s ethical foundation in the Four-Way Test. For that blog, politics gave me inspiration for a brief, simple post.

    For my other two blogs, if politics creates opportunities to talk about innovation, customer strategy, culture change, etc., I will sieze the opportunity.

    If politics offers inspiration that is consistent with the idea stream of the blog, sieze the opportunity.

  11. Hi Chris,

    What wonderful ‘hard’ issues you tackle!

    To speak or not to speak (about religion or politics) …

    that is the question. πŸ™‚

    It’s a bit of a tight-rope, isn’t it?

    We all have a constitutional right to believe what we choose in both religion and politics.

    And we also have a right to speak what we think/believe. So, we’re being quite ‘political’ to discern when, if and how much we’ll talk about religion and politics, right?

    In a broader sense, isn’t everything political?

    All things being equal, I much prefer to work with a client I like than to work with someone who’s a real dud, pessimist or anything else I find yuky. Wouldn’t you?

    To wax philosophical for a moment, I find it sad for anyone to have to be disingenuine, in order to NOT offend those who might adversely affect our income.

    This presupposes that one will be tasteful; not bamblasting, accusing or cursing another’s POV toward religion or politics … but rather, simply stating what they think/believe and why.

    However, most people most of the time are not mature or evolved enough to allow for this kind of discourse.

    For example, taken to the farthest extent in religious differences, one could say:

    My God’s better than your god. And if you disagree with me … that means I can kill you.

    I, personally, think both of these issues are totally man-made- up, in order to keep the bleating sheep in line. (Ooops, I made a statement that some may disagree with.) πŸ™‚

    It’s all nuts to me. We live in a world where the sane are crazy and the crazy are really sane, IMO.

    Try to make sense of it, and it’ll drive you crazy … IMO. In fact, I talked about all of this in my book, “The Wacko From Waco.” (Amazon or bn.com)

    Truthfully, though, I’m struggling with the same kinds of questions for my own copywriting blog.

    Do I just keep prattling on and on about copywriting … or do I talk about BIGGER things??

    If a copywriter doesn’t think deeply and observes everything around them … who’d want to hire them anyway?

    Excellent questions, Chris. And I still don’t know the answers! πŸ™‚

    Ciao,

    Carolyn
    http://www.kickasscopywriter.com

  12. Hi Chris,

    What wonderful ‘hard’ issues you tackle!

    To speak or not to speak (about religion or politics) …

    that is the question. πŸ™‚

    It’s a bit of a tight-rope, isn’t it?

    We all have a constitutional right to believe what we choose in both religion and politics.

    And we also have a right to speak what we think/believe. So, we’re being quite ‘political’ to discern when, if and how much we’ll talk about religion and politics, right?

    In a broader sense, isn’t everything political?

    All things being equal, I much prefer to work with a client I like than to work with someone who’s a real dud, pessimist or anything else I find yuky. Wouldn’t you?

    To wax philosophical for a moment, I find it sad for anyone to have to be disingenuine, in order to NOT offend those who might adversely affect our income.

    This presupposes that one will be tasteful; not bamblasting, accusing or cursing another’s POV toward religion or politics … but rather, simply stating what they think/believe and why.

    However, most people most of the time are not mature or evolved enough to allow for this kind of discourse.

    For example, taken to the farthest extent in religious differences, one could say:

    My God’s better than your god. And if you disagree with me … that means I can kill you.

    I, personally, think both of these issues are totally man-made- up, in order to keep the bleating sheep in line. (Ooops, I made a statement that some may disagree with.) πŸ™‚

    It’s all nuts to me. We live in a world where the sane are crazy and the crazy are really sane, IMO.

    Try to make sense of it, and it’ll drive you crazy … IMO. In fact, I talked about all of this in my book, “The Wacko From Waco.” (Amazon or bn.com)

    Truthfully, though, I’m struggling with the same kinds of questions for my own copywriting blog.

    Do I just keep prattling on and on about copywriting … or do I talk about BIGGER things??

    If a copywriter doesn’t think deeply and observes everything around them … who’d want to hire them anyway?

    Excellent questions, Chris. And I still don’t know the answers! πŸ™‚

    Ciao,

    Carolyn
    http://www.kickasscopywriter.com

  13. Most people are only interested in seeing their worldview confirmed. So many people already think they know the “truth.” That’s why I don’t do blogs on these topics anymore, and in nearly every case, there’s no reason to mention them on my business blog. I want people’s money, not their animosity.

  14. Most people are only interested in seeing their worldview confirmed. So many people already think they know the “truth.” That’s why I don’t do blogs on these topics anymore, and in nearly every case, there’s no reason to mention them on my business blog. I want people’s money, not their animosity.

  15. I generally just mention “God” in passing on my blog.

    One time, I went a little too far, and lost a few readers. I think you have to ask the question:

    “Who do I want to read my blog?”

    If that includes only people with similar religious or political beliefs then say whatever you want to say, otherwise keeping quiet is the best option. On the other hand, if it is controversial enough you will get tons of traffic and that could ultimately help your blog.

    I quite often struggle with this issue. If I had it to do over again, I would have made a decision about this up front.

    PS. I do have a political humor blog that I haven’t done much with in the last year, and I mention anything I want to on it. Maybe I should work on that again… it was fun.

  16. I generally just mention “God” in passing on my blog.

    One time, I went a little too far, and lost a few readers. I think you have to ask the question:

    “Who do I want to read my blog?”

    If that includes only people with similar religious or political beliefs then say whatever you want to say, otherwise keeping quiet is the best option. On the other hand, if it is controversial enough you will get tons of traffic and that could ultimately help your blog.

    I quite often struggle with this issue. If I had it to do over again, I would have made a decision about this up front.

    PS. I do have a political humor blog that I haven’t done much with in the last year, and I mention anything I want to on it. Maybe I should work on that again… it was fun.

  17. Lots of good points here. Only discuss politics if you’re comfortable cutting off a big chunk of your audience. (Which may be completely fine . . . just know you’re doing it.) Esp. in the U.S. at the moment, politics are tremendously polarizing. I think political conversation works better in a blog than it does on a forum, where I’ve seen it tear things to pieces in a hurry.

    Seth Godin’s good at discussing politics as an example in a neutral way, although if you’re careful you can (I think) glean his point of view. But he talks about political marketing the same way he talks about marketing of any other product, and that seems to work fine. Then again, Godin doesn’t allow comments. πŸ™‚

    The big trouble with discussing religion, IMO, is the possibility of saying something that’s ill-informed or misleading about someone else’s faith. Discussing one’s own religion is much safer territory, though it can sometimes seem oddly off-topic to me.

  18. Lots of good points here. Only discuss politics if you’re comfortable cutting off a big chunk of your audience. (Which may be completely fine . . . just know you’re doing it.) Esp. in the U.S. at the moment, politics are tremendously polarizing. I think political conversation works better in a blog than it does on a forum, where I’ve seen it tear things to pieces in a hurry.

    Seth Godin’s good at discussing politics as an example in a neutral way, although if you’re careful you can (I think) glean his point of view. But he talks about political marketing the same way he talks about marketing of any other product, and that seems to work fine. Then again, Godin doesn’t allow comments. πŸ™‚

    The big trouble with discussing religion, IMO, is the possibility of saying something that’s ill-informed or misleading about someone else’s faith. Discussing one’s own religion is much safer territory, though it can sometimes seem oddly off-topic to me.

  19. Whether I mention religion/politics or not depends a lot on who my audience is and what the topic of the blog in question is. For example, on my personal blog, I’ll openly state things about religion and politics (though, I tend to keep these discussions to the pub/coffee shop: arguing with friends and family is one thing, arguing with strangers about such contentious issues is quite another).

    But, for a blog that is business-related? I would do my best to avoid these topics. If I did mention them, I’d try to do so in a value-neutral way.

    But, again, it really depends on your audience and your blogging goals. To use offline situations as an example: you might discuss religion and politics with your friends at every opportunity, but you likely wouldn’t discuss these things while at lunch with a client. When you’re thinking about writing about controversial topics on your blog, think about your audience. Are you at the pub with your friends, or are you having lunch with a client?

  20. Whether I mention religion/politics or not depends a lot on who my audience is and what the topic of the blog in question is. For example, on my personal blog, I’ll openly state things about religion and politics (though, I tend to keep these discussions to the pub/coffee shop: arguing with friends and family is one thing, arguing with strangers about such contentious issues is quite another).

    But, for a blog that is business-related? I would do my best to avoid these topics. If I did mention them, I’d try to do so in a value-neutral way.

    But, again, it really depends on your audience and your blogging goals. To use offline situations as an example: you might discuss religion and politics with your friends at every opportunity, but you likely wouldn’t discuss these things while at lunch with a client. When you’re thinking about writing about controversial topics on your blog, think about your audience. Are you at the pub with your friends, or are you having lunch with a client?

  21. I would have to say ever tpic is fair game as long as it is used in the right context. Not for shock value, but for true debate.

  22. I would have to say ever tpic is fair game as long as it is used in the right context. Not for shock value, but for true debate.

  23. Hi Chris, you said:

    “Openness is a two-edged sword. Sometimes you can share too much and put off the very readers you were wanting to get closer to”

    and I’d add: “…and sometimes you find out too late that you have been too open and have gotten closer to readers you didn’t want to get close to.”

    I think it boils down to one word: Discernment.

    I work on it constantly:)

  24. Hi Chris, you said:

    “Openness is a two-edged sword. Sometimes you can share too much and put off the very readers you were wanting to get closer to”

    and I’d add: “…and sometimes you find out too late that you have been too open and have gotten closer to readers you didn’t want to get close to.”

    I think it boils down to one word: Discernment.

    I work on it constantly:)

  25. Ed Erickson says:

    Depends on the SoNet conversation, depends on the blog. Erica has it right. Discernment.

    btw, design comment — I like your pull quotes — however, I think you overused them. Two would’ve been enough.

  26. Ed Erickson says:

    Depends on the SoNet conversation, depends on the blog. Erica has it right. Discernment.

    btw, design comment — I like your pull quotes — however, I think you overused them. Two would’ve been enough.

  27. I think your decision should be based on the average IQ of the audience you’re targeting…

    πŸ™‚

  28. I think your decision should be based on the average IQ of the audience you’re targeting…

    πŸ™‚

  29. This is a really interesting article, and is a topic that is often raised over at my blog from community developers wondering whether they should encourage or even ban specific subjects from being discussed. At the end of the day, I think your policy depends on your own goals and the atmosphere or ‘personality’ of your community.

    Controversy can be fantastic for an online community (I consider a blog to fall into this category), just as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. The rewards are high, but so are the potential risks!

    – Martin Reed

  30. This is a really interesting article, and is a topic that is often raised over at my blog from community developers wondering whether they should encourage or even ban specific subjects from being discussed. At the end of the day, I think your policy depends on your own goals and the atmosphere or ‘personality’ of your community.

    Controversy can be fantastic for an online community (I consider a blog to fall into this category), just as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. The rewards are high, but so are the potential risks!

    – Martin Reed