When a controversy is brewing, should you take a stand on your podcast? If the topic is important enough, you may feel compelled. But how deep should you go, and how will that change your show?
Last night, I got into a fight on a podcast. OK, that’s not entirely true. But during the recording of the podcast, we waded into a heavy topic that’s burning through the podcasting community right now. All of us in the recording were of a similar mindset, so there wasn’t much fighting. But when the episode is published, it’s going to be controversial. So yes, of course I’ll let you know when it’s out!
The topic we engaged in was about podcasting, and one I’ve considered bringing up on Podcast Pontifications. And that got me thinking about the decision process of podcasters like yourself considering throwing their proverbial hat into the ring.
Should You Bring Your Podcast To The Fight?
Shows that cover current events or have established their entire format around shock value naturally cover controversial topics. It’s built into their very DNA. But for the rest of us, especially those of us who have niched-down our focus, the decision to wade into controversy should be a considered one.
That consideration requires, I believe, a strong answer of “yes” to the following three questions:
1. Is the topic worth it?
If you’re going to interrupt your normally not-controversial production efforts to present your opinions of an argument, the controversy at hand probably needs to be a pretty big one. Minor annoyances and trivial matters (recognizing you have to define those terms for yourself) likely aren’t worth the risks, as you’re about to see.
Of course, you’re entitled to your own opinion. But do you feel the need to express your opinion on your show? That leads me to the 2nd question...
2. Is your podcast the right platform?
You don’t have to jump into the fight. You control the contents of your show. Even if you have strong opinions on a worthy topic, your show may not be the right venue to express that opinion. You may decide a more prudent course of action is to use other platforms to express your opinion and keep your podcast out of the fight, even if the controversy is in your domain.
But then again, you absolutely can use your podcast as that vehicle as well. So long as you’ve considered the ramifications of taking such action.
If your podcast is all about brass polishing, but you’re really passionate about the plight of bald eagles, is your podcast the right venue to raise the issue?
If your opinion runs counter to conventional wisdom—and I’m all about opinions that run counter to conventional wisdom—are you the right messenger?
Are you ready for the blowback which may naturally come from those who take issue with your decision to use your show as a platform for the controversy? Are you prepared for the email or social media complaints? Can you stomach the bad reviews? The lost subscribers or supporters? What about the negative press? Those are all natural and likely consequences you must prepare for.
3. Does your audience want you to be controversial?
Because your show isn’t one done for shock value or one that covers current events, some of your listeners appreciate the safe harbor your show offers them. Some of them are going to be taken aback by the shift in your tone as you veer out of your lane to cover a controversial topic.
But on the other side of that are those listeners who appreciate your engagement in an important topic who will appreciate knowing you’re an ally. Assuming you’re offering the opinion they want to hear, that is.
Wading vs Swimming In Controversy With Your Podcast
If you answered all three of those questions in the affirmative, you next need to decide how deeply to dive into the topic.
You may choose to go all in, dedicating an entire series of episodes to give maximum exposure to the controversy at hand, bringing in experts and flexing your latent journalistic skill set. If the topic is important enough to you, you may be willing to invest dozens—if not hundreds—of hours creating episodes that accurately reflect that importance.
More likely, you may decide to devote an entire episode to the topic. If it’s in your podcast’s domain of expertise, this is likely a more straightforward option that only warrants a brief “I’m doing something a little different today” mention at the start of the episode to brace your audience for the impact.
You could opt for a simpler solution and dedicate a portion or segment of an episode to the controversy. Assuming your show has distinct segments. And assuming you’re not concerned that the entire episode won’t be tainted by the inclusion of your opinion. Because it will be.
Your best move may be to make your opinion a bonus episode. One that lives outside the flow of your normal episodes and is properly titled and tagged so that listeners can choose to listen or not. That puts some choice in their hands while letting you stay true to yourself on a topic that’s important to you.
Whichever option you choose, you need to check back in. Because publishing a podcast has consequences. You decided to raise your voice, so you need to monitor the reaction. Else you’re just shouting to the void.
Set up a monitoring program for your name and the name of your podcast. Don’t assume that detractors or supporters will properly tag you. You have to seek it out. There are plenty of social monitoring tools you can use to achieve that goal. Also, keep a close eye on your comments, your reviews, and your social properties so you can keep the conversation going.
Personally, I'm not afraid of controversy, and I rarely shy away from it. But I’m well aware of the consequences of making my opinions known. I’m happy to take all of the blow back and I’ll suffer through whatever happens.
But only you can decide whether or not to make today's controversy your next episode.
I think we all know podcasters who struggle with this question, especially when the controversy is in the domain of their podcast. If you know someone struggling with the question, send them a link to this article. Perhaps it will give them perspective. And I appreciate one more person reading or listening to Podcast Pontifications.
Finally, if you want to support me and the thoughts I bring to you four days a week, please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and sign up for a membership.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
While other PAPs (podcasts about podcasting) tell you what to do, Podcast Pontifications tells you what to think about, with insightful thoughts for working podcast like you, designed to make podcasting better.
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