With political statements appearing anywhere and everywhere right now, is there a line to be drawn between your author persona and your own personal political stance? Naomi Blackburn shares her thoughts on this important issue.
Naomi is founder of the Goodreads group Sisterhood of the Traveling Books, as well as the Nordic Noir group, dedicated to discussing Scandinavian mysteries. This year, Goodreads ranked her at # 11 on their top reviewer list, in both the U.S. and in the world (2011 rankings). As a reviewer, Naomi is brilliant, insightful, and, as she puts it, “brutally honest.”
Please feel free to leave questions for Naomi, as well as any suggestions you may have for future posts. I hope you enjoy the column!
The Author CEO: Keeping Political Views Private
by Naomi Blackburn
As The Author CEO has progressed, I’ve visited more and more social media sites and author websites, and I’ve noticed an overabundance of political posts, having nothing to do with the author’s books. Most of these political posts aren’t even pertinent to the author’s writing. In business, discussing politics or religion in the workplace is one of the biggest taboos. We will discuss religion at a later date. Today, I want to focus on politics.
It can be fun and passionate to debate political views-heck, I do it myself-but it is something that should be done in private. Argue politics in a business setting and this lack of judgment can be costly in regards to followers and book sales!
Discussing politics-a big NO-NO in the workplace!
I’ve been a political junkie for as long as I can remember. One day, when I was a newbie in the business world, my manager overheard me discussing a congressional race with a co-worker. After pulling me aside, my manager chastised me for discussing politics in the work place – it was a NO-NO! Now, I, being a young ‘un at that point, couldn’t see the harm in doing this. Now that I have, hmm-hmm, matured, I get it!
If you’re shaking your head, not sure you agree, take a look at the polls. Politically, this country is split right down the middle-and political news draws impassioned, often angry responses. If I were to engage in a political discussion, chances are I could offend-even be viewed as looking for a fight with-the people I interact with. Like religion, politics is a very touchy subject. Political arguments have led to brawls in the workplace. For an author, verbal brawls result in the loss of potential or current readers!
Do you really want potential readers to pass on your book without giving it a fair shot?
A friend recently asked me to review her resume. She had just finished her MBA, was starting her job search, and wanted to make sure all was copacetic prior to starting to send out her resumes. One of the things that jumped out at me was her statement about working on a presidential candidate’s campaign. While she was proud of her work with the campaign, it had nothing to do with the position she was applying for. I informed her that the average recruiter gives each candidate’s resume 30 seconds before either moving it forward or passing on it. A candidate should never give a recruiter any reason to automatically pass, particularly because of an easily avoidable issue like a difference of political opinion.
Readers are the same way. With an overabundance of choices, readers can look for reasons to take a pass on your book. While it might seem unfair, this is life! Do you really want to risk this? Do you want to get into a political debate with a potential/current reader that could result in a loss of sales?
An author’s websites and social networks are his or her workplace!
Authors – it’s crucial to realize that your social media sites and websites are not only your resumes, but your worksites, as well. When potential readers go onto your sites, they want to know about your books: sometimes they want basic information about you, but mainly they care about your books.
As already mentioned, 50 percent of potential readers do not agree with your political beliefs. As a business person, do you feel that it is smart business to potentially offend prospective customers? Are you willing to lose cash in hand to voice your personal beliefs?
The following information should not be on your professional Twitter, Facebook or websites, unless your book specifically covers these topics:
- Political beliefs
- Name calling the opposition candidate or party
- Name calling a person who disagrees with your politics
- Unless you write about it professionally writing about political issues should be non-existent on your sites!
- Obscene language
Public figures, including authors, need two personalities-professional and private
What to do instead? Really, it is about having two personalities-personal and professional-and KEEPING THEM SEPARATE! Here are a few things you can do to protect your image and brand:
- Have two sets Twitter and accounts, one public and one private. Use only the personal accounts to discuss your personal beliefs. Don’t forget to check your settings – be sure the personal accounts are set to private, so only those you wish to share with can see them.
- Use Facebook pages for professional marketing and your profile for your personal networking. Invite professional contacts to follow your page. Keep personal contacts separate. I rant and rave about politics on my personal FB profile and Twitter account, but they are well hidden so that professional contacts cannot find them.
- Very Important!! Set your Facebook posts to Friends. This is done by clicking on the globe in the ‘What’s on your mind?’ box and changing it from ‘public’ to ‘friends’.
- Friend only real life friends on your personal accounts. I have a friend who had combined the two and had both business acquaintances and friends on his ‘friends’ list. He posted pictures of himself holding a shark he had caught off the coast of Florida. Problem was he had been sent down to Florida to attend a healthcare conference by the hospital he worked for. Whoopsie! This simple mistake could have led to the loss of his job. Within a couple of days, he let his business acquaintances know he would be removing them from his Facebook page!
So, have I drilled it in enough?? Remember, you are small business owners and first and foremost. You need to focus on building revenue from book sales! Don’t let political differences get in your way!
About Naomi Blackburn
Naomi Blackburn holds an MBA and has worked in the field of business development, consulting and sales for 12 years. A former social worker, she’s helped hundreds of clients meet their life goals. An avid reader and top Goodreads reviewer, she comes to the world of books from a reader/reviewer’s perspective. She strives to help authors achieve their goals by teaching them to think of themselves as CEO/entrepreneur of a small business and helping them negotiate the business side of selling books.
Needed to be said! I have unfriended/blocked authors who have gone on political rants, acted hysterically. Most jobs don't require you to keep that tight a line but authors are definitely up there. hehe When you're a famous author you can take a bit more risks.
You aren't the only one. Another author just said the same thing. The purpose of writing this wasn't to take political sides, but more to let authors know that it impacts their image. How serious does the author take their FB, Twitter and Websites? It lets a reader have insight into how serious they take their book. Funny thing is that, yes, "famous" authors can take the risk, but it still reflects on them too.
Excellent advice, Naomi.
I make it much simpler – I don't discuss politics at all – anywhere on the internet (save for the occasional utterly ambiguous comment that is usually intended to halt someone else's rant).
Thanks for your comment, Pete.
Naomi, I couldn't agree more. Every day I see posts on Facebook, Twitter, G+, and all the others with writers pushing political views. It doesn't matter whether I agree with them or not. It's just not the place to argue it. And yes, religion is another taboo for "workplace" discussions.