How to Write Content on Sensitive Subjects

How to Write Content on Sensitive Subjects


As a writer, the last thing you want to do is offend the reader. You could do that by writing something insensitive, condescending, or straight-up insulting. Sometimes you would take a stance on a divisive issue, earning high praise from one section of the audience while offending the others.

Copywriters and marketers usually stay away from controversial subjects. But this trend has changed in recent years. Brands like Nike are entering uncharted waters with campaigns that focus on racial inequality.

A lot of this has to do with young customers who want brands to be more socially conscious. However, companies themselves are aspiring to be more than just revenue-making entities.

Even if your firm doesn’t take political stances —there would come a time when you would have to write on sensitive matters. It could be mental health, addictions, relations, or any other topic that’s a bit delicate. This is where a single misplaced word can cause outrage.

In this article, you will learn how to write content on sensitive subjects that is respectful and in good taste.

Let’s dig in.

1. Be Respectful Even if You Have Picked a Side

Companies taking part in activism is a controversial subject on its own. In recent years, many brands have picked sides in social conflicts because they believe it’s the right thing to do.

No matter how just you believe the cause is, you need to avoid an extremely aggressive tone. Make your case with earnest words instead of writing something that’s demeaning to people on the other side of the fence.

You need to respectfully give your perspective to the readers. Whether you’re discussing the pay gap, civil rights, or climate change —use professional language and make sure your words are backed by action.

Some of the criticism of corporate activism comes from customers who believe the brand is being disingenuous and is orchestrating a marketing stunt. 

 Key Takeaways:

  • Avoid being unnecessarily aggressive
  • Don’t demean readers who might disagree with you
  • Make sure the words are backed by action

2. Be Accurate and Factual

You need to have accurate information while writing on any subject. However, on sensitive subjects, your information needs to be deadly accurate. One can get away with throwing in a false stat while discussing fashion trends but not health and wellness. Even financial subjects related to debt and retirement can be categorized as sensitive.

The information used on delicate subjects should be backed up by researchers at government institutions, charities, and other relevant organizations. Cite your sources and do some research to make sure they are authentic. Link back to sources that have some authority.

There’s a lot of misinformation on the web, and you don’t want to contribute to it. Brands that are caught misleading customers find it extremely hard to regain their credibility.

If you write about any store or brand, write clearly about their products, discount deals, and offers. People don’t need to search one by one, they like to read specific data about any store. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Use authentic data
  • Link back to authentic resources
  • Check and recheck resources

3. Give Your Marketing a Break

It’s never a good idea to use a sensitive issue to market your products. You don’t want misfires like Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad or Gap’s tweet about Hurricane Sandy. Marketing should take a backseat when you’re discussing a tragedy or a political matter that is contentious. Otherwise, you risk offending your customers and creating a PR disaster.

Even subtle marketing such as using the brand’s voice should be put on a halt. You don’t want to be sarcastic or joyful while discussing something a matter that’s deeply personal to a lot of your audience. Use a tone that reflects your serious concern.

Some of your previously scheduled content could inadvertently seem insensitive in wake of a recent development. For instance, many brands halted campaigns that were about “bringing people together” last year as it seemed to be against social distancing guidelines.

 Key Takeaways:

  • Never use sensitive matters for marketing
  • Don’t use the brand voice
  • Check scheduled content to see if it’s offensive

4. Use Politically Correct Language

Content marketers need to be politically correct. But political correctness isn’t static. Terms, phrases, and words that were previously uncontroversial are no more acceptable.

A few years back, the word ‘crippled’ was casually used to describe people with physical disabilities. Disability advocates have since campaigned against this word as it’s offensive and demeaning.

Writers and marketers should regularly consult with advocacy groups while writing on sensitive subjects. Using the right terminologies will show that you care about this issue. Content marketing has changed for the better in recent years and there’s no room for words that can seem offensive to a particular group of people. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Use politically correct terminologies
  • Consult with advocacy groups
  • Do prior research to see which terms are outdated

5. Put Empathy at the Center

Empathy is a fundamental trait for companies looking to improve their focus on customers. Your aim should always be to start meaningful conversations around touchy subjects. It shouldn’t be to demean and look down upon people who are going through a struggle.

Use empathetic language while highlighting issues like addiction or depression. Don’t be accusatory. Let those affected by these issues know that their experiences are valid. Sometimes your audience might only be looking for empathy.

Offer accurate and effective advice. Use sentences like “you’re not alone” and “here’s how you can back on track”. No matter what you do; do not make light of the matter. Doing this could get your attention from the internet for all the wrong reasons.

At the end of the day, it’s about creating a safe space where you can create awareness and also inspire some of the readers to share their experiences.

 Key Takeaways:

●     Start meaningful discussions

●     Offer empathy and reaffirmation to the readers

●     Don’t make light of the matter

6. Paint a Holistic Picture

Do not gloss over the details. While you might get away with this writing about anything else, sensitive subjects require you to go into depth.

However, there’s a difference between going into details and writing a lengthy blog post. You need to avoid digressing from the main issue.

Stick to the authentic information you have gathered through research. If you have some additional information that’s not directly related to the subject but could provide an interesting perspective to the reader, leave that for a future article. Write a series of blog posts if you want to provide more information.

Key Takeaways

  • Go into details
  • Stick to your research
  • Leave unrelated information for the future 

Conclusion

You might feel like you’re walking on eggshells with some topics. Discussing something that’s stigmatized or taking a righteous stand could have repercussions. But that’s no reason to skip controversial subjects altogether.

Good, authentic, and well-intentioned content around sensitive topics could help your business win hearts and minds. Beyond that, it could help your business make a genuinely positive impact on society.

Writers need to learn how to write content on sensitive subjects that is not only inoffensive but also heartfelt and genuine. Following the tips outlined above, they can map out a strategy to make this happen.