Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Perils of Taking a Stand

Having an alter-ego with many fans has been an amazing learning experience.   My alternate identity is something of a brand now, and as such it gets a fair amount of scrutiny.  Probably the hardest thing I’ve had to adjust to is openly sharing my beliefs and ideologies. 

Fans of writers, musicians, and anyone in the public eye like to think they know the people they follow.  They tend to want them to behave a certain way.  If that public persona does not act the way a substantial number of fans prefer, the backlash can be incredible.  Sales tank, people make a public fuss on Facebook, and you can become persona non grata in an instant.  It gets ugly. 

Alt-Tam is not allowed to discuss certain things because of the potential repercussions to her book sales.  Anyone looking to grow a successful business or maintain their clientele should follow this rule as well.  Only political pundits can ignore this, because they make their name and brand on supporting their party’s interests.  They thrive on preaching to their existing choirs.  But let’s face it; there are not many Rush Limbaughs or Glenn Becks out there.  Most of us have to keep our appeal broad and not offend the general public if we want to succeed. 

Case in point:  A musician friend of my husband makes a big deal out of his party affiliation.  He uses his Facebook account to not only trumpet his favorite politicians’ rhetoric but to also blast the opposing party’s every move.  He calls the other side names.  He calls the other side’s supporters names.  He belittles, with inflammatory language, any small detail not in keeping with his beliefs.  He does not encourage thoughtful debate, only complete agreement with his stance.  He takes great joy in using his ‘freedom of speech’ to find anything and everything to bitch about when it comes to the opposite party. 

Guess what?  It has royally bit him in the ass to the tune (pun intended) of few to no bookings.  He’s not playing gigs these days. He is not making a living.  He is hurting.

Even those bands or prospective clients who might agree with him do not want to hire this man.  Yes, he has every right to share his convictions.  He has every right to be adamant about what constitutes right or wrong in the arena of politics.  But employers and clients also have every right to refuse him work because they find his stance offensive.  That’s the way it goes. 

Another example is a local barbershop where my husband used to get his hair cut.  The barbers in that particular place are very good at what they do.  They are also very vocal about their feelings on politics; feelings my husband does not share.  So guess what?  He stopped giving them his business.  He got sick of hearing how dumb his candidates and party are.  No doubt it has cost them other clients as well. 

Obviously there are lines one will draw, and rightly so.  My alter-ego recently had to make a stand.  One of my followers made a comment on Alt-Tam’s blog that offended many of my other readers.  As much as I did not want to say anything that would probably cost me a fan, I had to.  Damage was being inflicted by this person, and it had to be stopped.  So I crafted a carefully worded rebuttal, explained my blog was not a place where people could be belittled, and warned that future derogatory language would be dealt with swiftly.  I gritted my teeth and posted it.  Just as I thought might happen, the combative commenter was offended and tried to publicly shame Alt-Tam on social media.  However, the rest of my readers quickly weighed in to support me.  I apparently chose the right battle to fight, and from a couple of comments, managed to attract a few more readers in the process.  The person who posted offensively may very well choose to leave awful reviews on my books in retaliation, but she is one of many readers.  Hopefully, it won’t hurt things too much. 

Share your thoughts and beliefs with your family and like-minded friends.  You do deserve to be heard.  But if you would grow your career and business, if your bottom line depends on your public persona, then you really do need to keep divisive subjects out of the public discussion.  Be professional.  Think about how you would feel hiring someone who believes the opposite of what you do.  Are you going to give business to someone who insists on giving you their opinion without caring you might feel differently?  Do you want to be that person who makes others uncomfortable to the point that they avoid using your services or supporting your work?  Of course not.  You want success.  You work hard for it, too hard to trip yourself up in such a way.  Play the game and play it smart.     

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