Chris Brogan recently shared a post titled no enemies. And that’s a nice thought. It makes me feel fuzzy and warm inside. Except it is hardly the world we live in, and in fact I would say the opposite: if you’re not making enemies, you’re doing it wrong.
Last year I wrote a post about the fact that you need enemies and explained how they can light a fire beneath your digital marketing. I think the reasons outlined in that post still hold true today.
As Robert Greene stated in the 48 laws of power:
Law 2: Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies
Be wary of friends-they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.
This law is crystal clear when you look at some of today’s most popular brands of media.
Think about it, on the web enemies are a shortcut to attention. The strategies of some of most popular sites can actually be defined in one word: conflict. There is a reason TechCrunch, Gawker and similar publications have risen to meteoric heights of popularity. They’re not making any friends by telling stories through a polarizing lens. That’s not their purpose. And in a world where every company is a media company, the approach most potent for you may not be so different.
Yet most business and people shy away from this. They’re afraid of what others might think: their bosses, peers or industry. But those things do not pose relevance for a leader who fears nothing.
As strategists we can’t be closed off to a certain approach because it carries certain risks or taboos. Just the opposite, we need to be open to any and all possibilities.
If you are truly passionate about your category your opinions about it will naturally be strong. This will run counter to what others think and that’s perfectly OK. Don’t shy away from it. I’m not saying to be disingenuous or not true to yourself. I’m not saying to lie or make things up. I’m saying to let your raw passion for what you do shine, whether that runs in opposition to others or not.
If your communications involve walking on eggshells and you’re afraid you might make an enemy or upset someone, you’re not really embracing the social web. Making enemies is a natural byproduct of being a part of our society, and thus if you’re truly being social this will happen on the web. If not, how much personality are you really injecting?
This is not a negative thing so don’t take it as such. The web and the world itself involve balance: between enemies and allies, friends and strangers, supporters and defectors. We need enemies to push us to the next level, challenge us and cause us to think and improve. They give us perspective and remind us of our purpose.
Embrace the full range of emotion and possibility in your content and interactions even if it might involve creating an enemy. Letting that stop you inevitably means falling short of your potential as a creative.
Quick end note / disclaimer: I don’t mean to make enemies randomly or simply piss people off and damage your reputation. I mean to go about it as a planned, strategic measure. If you do approach this without thought you’re going to create a much worse situation.
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