The Slippery Slope Of Being Provocative

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The only way to get attention is to do something that will get you attention (duh).

Apathy sucks. It’s the way of the world. As a former music journalist, I had the opportunity to interview Gene Simmons from the rock band KISS (yes, he of Gene Simmons Family Jewels reality TV) more than a few times over the years. I once asked him how he resolves the artistic side of being a musician with his obvious passion for all things money. He uttered, "I’m pissed at a nickel because it isn’t a dime." Simmons makes no qualms about the fact that KISS is as much of a brand as it is a band. He also once mentioned to me that apathy does suck. He liked the idea that people either loved Kiss with all of their heart and soul or hated them with all of their guts.

Gene Simmons has put in the time, proven the naysayers wrong and managed to build up a big enough war chest of wealth where even if you don’t agree with him, he’ll still go to bed and wake up with a smile on his face. Can you say the same thing?

Twitter does one thing amazingly great: it allows anyone who has any kind of thought in their head to publish it to the world. It’s an amazing thing and a dangerous thing. Most of us (including yours truly) still have years of professional work ahead of us to really get to the point in our lives where it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about us. We need to manage our personal brands, our corporate brands and the channels in which we publish our thoughts a whole lot better. It’s easy to Blog about a bad customer service moment. It’s easy to tweet a mouthful of bad words because your client got up on the wrong side of the bed and is taking it out on you. It’s easy to be provocative just to get a reaction.

Just because it’s easy, it doesn’t mean you should do it.

Be aware of everything you are publishing to the world. Be aware of the words you choose and how your employees, clients and potential clients might perceive them. Lately, I’ve seen many marketing and communication professionals dismiss this. They’re looking to grab attention by being provocative, and while being provocative in these channels is an acceptable part of how you build audience and community, it is probably not the best long-term plan in terms of growing your business, client base and overall validation as to why someone would want to work with you in the long-term.

Being provocative could also be the exact reason why someone does want to work with you. It may be worth it to really take some time to figure out and define your "voice" and what, exactly, you’re trying to accomplish by taking part in these online social channels in the first place (back to understanding the overall strategy before digging into the tactics).

The sad fact is that most people don’t even see how much damage they might be doing to their professional careers.


  1. I couldn’t disagree more – “managing” yourself – whether being deliberately provocative / deliberately muted – must be wrong in an already over-homogenized / bland world
    every real player I’ve met and done business with, values honesty – in whatever guise – “managing” a reputation is most of the time – very obvious and a receipt to never get noticed
    Authenticity and humanity – however than manifests itself in what you do – is what gets you visible

  2. I have to agree with the last post by Mark. Mitch, you seem to be depicting a world somewhat like 1984 (the book, not the year), in which we have to restrict our self-expression, however thoughtful and well considered, in fear of how it will play out to higher powers (employers, clients). If all we do is cater to those audiences, the conversation is going to get quite sterile.

  3. Being provocative just for the sake of garnering attention is as insincere in my mind as always censoring yourself.
    It is a fine balance and I would suggest that the balance is somewhere nicely inbetween. (omg if my inside voice was streamed on twitter or anywhere else for that matter i would be in BIG trouble 😉
    But as I say with my 13 yr old – say whatever you want and in fact, do whatever you want – just be prepared to live with the consequences 🙂

  4. Not at all. The amazing thing about these platforms is that we can publish anything and everything. If you’ve been following this Blog, you’ll know that’s where I stand.
    I do think it’s important to remember (and consider) that everyone is watching. We have seen enough instances of chronic “foot in mouth” disease online. You would think that marketing and communications professionals would be better at understanding the implications, but there has been a swell of those instances lately.
    I thought it was important to note that being provocative simply to build online community traffic or for the sake of being provocative (if it’s not tied into your overall strategy) can be harmful in the long term.

  5. Right, and it’s lamentable that with all this opportunity, we are somewhat stifled by fear of the consequences of offending, or just disagreeing with the wrong person (client, boss), however well considered and responsible (though provocative) our positions may be.

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