I’m sure you can think of a time when something was happening in our social/cultural climate and you wanted to address it in your brand’s messaging, but you held back because you didn’t want to say the wrong thing or upset anyone.

Well, today I’m here with Peta O’Brien to talk about how you can bring politics and the cultural context into your brand messaging, without pissing people off!

We also talk about:

  • How we can have better conversations on social media
  • Rainbow Washing
  • Making the decision of when to bring politics into your messaging
  • How to choose the platform where you want to delve into these topics

Peta is a copywriter and messaging strategist who taps into empathy and her previous career as a youth worker to help her clients connect with their audience. She works with health and wellness startups and coaches who want to weave values through their messaging. She’s a politics geek with 2 children who loves escaping into a cheesy action film, or experimenting with her pile of cookbooks.** 

**And she’s launched a membership, The Soap Box – a supportive community for business owners with a social conscience, designed to help you share your political and social values in your business messaging. Without pissing off all your potential clients!**

Read the full transcript

Peta O’Brien 0:00
There has to be a better way of sensitively addressing the cultural context that we’re in and addressing the fact that our businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. But one that doesn’t mean just going Something terrible’s happened. I can’t sell you anything,

Meg Casebolt 0:15
right. Something terrible has happened halfway across the world, and my business has to come to a screeching halt because of the perceived implication of how this impacts me. You’re listening to social slowdown, a podcast for entrepreneurs and micro businesses looking for sustainable marketing strategies without being dependent on social media. Social media is a double edged sword. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected, but it also can feel like an addictive obligation. And it’s even more complex for businesses, your audience might be right there, but you’ve got to fight with algorithms to maybe be seen by them. So whether you want to abandon social media altogether, or you just want to take a month off, it’s possible to have a thriving business without being dependent on social media. This podcast is all about finding creative, sustainable ways to engage with your audience without needing to lipsync send a cold DMS, run ads or be available 24/7 Let’s get started. Hello, hello, and welcome to the social slowdown podcast. I am your host, Meg Casebolt. I’m here today with Peter O’Brien de who is heard her day job as a copywriter. But she also has a like a side and not maybe not even side hustle. Maybe it’s like your, your superhero Alter Ego is, is running a program called the soapbox, which is meant to help people who are running their own personal brands understand how to talk about politics and cultural issues in a way that feels important, but also not heavy handed and you don’t get tongue tied or you don’t feel uncomfortable talking about it. And so, you all know regularly on this podcast, I’m like, Oh, let me just like get off the soapbox for just this segment and put it down and then we’ll climb on and we’ll have a little you know, declaration and then we’ll put away the soapbox. But as far as I’m concerned, the soapbox is just in the middle of the square. And we are you know in Hamilton where he stands up and he’s a kid not the troubles that he’d revolution. We’re just not that guy.

Peta O’Brien 2:18
Cool. Don’t have to sing. You don’t.

Meg Casebolt 2:21
Bonus points if I can say oh my god tear this guy apart. Safina Hello, welcome.

Peta O’Brien 2:29
Hi. Thank you so much for having me. On my soapbox. I’m very excited. I feel like yeah, I should have given my voice and warm up and start practicing singing before.

Meg Casebolt 2:38
I think this is the problem with me recording at like 9am on a Monday is I’m a little loopy from the weekend, you’ve dropped the energy and I’m like, I just took my Adderall. I recently medicated and caffeinated. This is a problem for you. So tell me about how the political and cultural and societal commentary worked into your copywriting business. Let’s start there.

Peta O’Brien 3:03
Okay, so to begin with, not at all.

Meg Casebolt 3:08
Because we’re all so scared about?

Peta O’Brien 3:12
Yeah. So before I was a copywriter, in in my previous life, I was a youth worker. And I worked a lot with teenagers, I’m doing mentoring, counseling them on like emotional social issues, but also doing an awful lot of making political and cultural issues more accessible to them. Like kids are like, it’s nothing to do with me like, and I don’t understand what any of them are saying. And they’re not like it doesn’t, doesn’t have any impact on my life. So I did a lot of work trying to kind of make it more interesting and show them how actually it did impact them and then helping them make an impact on their kind of local and national politics. But then when I moved to copywriting for various emotional childcare reasons.

Meg Casebolt 4:01
Same reason I moved and running my own business emotional childcare.

Peta O’Brien 4:05
Yeah, indeed. Yeah. Like, you can’t sit on a skatepark or at like eight o’clock at night with a bunch of teenagers when like you’ve got a two year old that you need to put to bed. And it’s frowned upon to bring them with you. Although I did do it once and he had a ball. But that’s the story.

Meg Casebolt 4:21
I definitely brought my two month old to the bar and people were like, wow. But that had nothing to do with the work that was just me wanting to go to the bar. So

Peta O’Brien 4:31
you Yeah, so I, when I moved across the copywriting I was like, Okay, this is great. I’m really like, I’m really enjoying. It’s really fulfilling work. But, but there’s something missing. And I have always been politically aware, politically active. And I felt like in order to run a business, I had to leave all that at the door. Like all of the social conscience stuff, all of the thinking about the ethical implications. Asians of everything like all of that, I had to put it behind me, and maybe I could do it in my spare time. But when it came to my business, I was like, Well, no, I’m here to serve my clients, like, pay the bills, but food, that food on the table, that kind of thing.

Meg Casebolt 5:14
And like in order to do that, in order for people to trust me, I have to be seen as being professional and have to be seen as being polished and showing this more like, kind of, like, almost neutral corporate approach to business.

Peta O’Brien 5:28
Yes, yeah. And I, and I was more than happy to talk about my life. Like, I was very open that I was a, I was a parent of a small child. And like that was, that was kind of part of who I was. And my, my email newsletter was called, like Tales from the dining room table, because that was where I was, like, scrambling to get all of my work done. But the politics bit fell out that little bit too far. Like, because I didn’t want to turn people off. And I didn’t want to scare away potential clients. And also the online space felt quite combative. When it came to that kind of stuff. And whereas I was happy to do that in my like, personal life, like jump on Twitter and have an argument with anybody that felt more dangerous when it came to my business platforms.

Meg Casebolt 6:16
And when were you getting started with this? When was this transition into freelancing in

Peta O’Brien 6:20
2020? Okay, so we kind of went into lockdown. And yeah, I went, I couldn’t go anywhere and earn some money. So oh, look, there’s a laptop.

Meg Casebolt 6:34
That’s a business plan right there.

Peta O’Brien 6:36
Yeah. I can, I can hold the eight months old, and I can type this is the perfect career. So yeah, so around about 2020. And obviously, there’s like a lot going on in the kind of political current affairs feels like we’ve lived like about 20 years since then. And so there was yeah, there were things to think about. And the point where it went where I went, actually, I have to, this has to be part of my of my, like, career, part of my business plan, part of my messaging, I think was it had been a spate of there was there was a school shooting. And then like a week later, there was something else that I think there might be a natural disaster. And then the week after that, there was like, there was another shooting. And I had like an online network. And I was talking to other small business owners and other service based business owners who were like, well, I don’t really know what to do, I’m seeing all these big names online going, I’m going to step back from selling this week, or I’m not going to launch my program, because it just feels really insensitive to be selling right now. So I’m just going to take a step back, and I’m not going to post the things I’m going to post. And this is on hold, and that is on hold in response to these tragedies. And I have chats with with Mike kind of online business friends, and they’d say, Well, do I need to do that too? Because, like, if I don’t, am I going to look really insensitive, but also I have bills to pay. Exactly. But if I do, like this launch that I was gonna do is gonna pay like my next pay the keep my business running for like the next three months. And,

Meg Casebolt 8:23
and I have team members to pay to pay and this isn’t something where I can just push everything back a month. And even if I push it back a month, who knows what is going to happen next month, and next month, and next month, and like, especially in that like summer? 22? I would say like spring to summer 2020. There was so much like, everything was tumultuous. Everything was up in the air.

Peta O’Brien 8:45
Yeah, definitely. And I think there was that thing like, okay, so if I do it now, if I step back from sailing for this particular situation or tragedy, but I don’t do it for the next 1am I saying that I think that this tragedy is more tragic than the other one. And this group of people is more important than the other one. And, yeah, the more conversations like that, that I had with people, the more I went, there has to be a better way of sensitively addressing the cultural context that we’re in and addressing the fact that our businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. But one that doesn’t mean, like, just going Something terrible’s happened, I can’t sell you anything.

Meg Casebolt 9:27
Right, my Something terrible has happened halfway across the world. And my business has to come to a screeching halt. Because of the perceived implication of how this impacts me.

Peta O’Brien 9:41
Yes. And that’s yeah, so that’s kind of when I started exploring how I could use my political experience and knowledge and my marketing experience and knowledge and bring the two together in a way that would help businesses who don’t have the Have a massive bank balance that they can fall back on for those times when it’s considered insensitive to sell. And this soapbox was born.

Meg Casebolt 10:12
So tell me about the box. I’m in like the soap box is a membership? Yes. Where you’re having these conversations about how to do this? And did this start as you just kept having the one to one conversations and people wanted this sort of space? Was this, like a demand create supply? Or was this sort of an organic within you going like, this is the blue ocean? This is where I can be of service? Like, how, how did it begin?

Peta O’Brien 10:40
So I accidentally wrote the framework.

Meg Casebolt 10:45
Accidental framework, which is post is an accidental framework of someone going but how do I build a website? And I’m like, your 7000 words, right? Like, here’s the 15 step process. Sometimes we have all this information in our heads, we don’t know, until we sit down to write it. So you wrote an accidental framework, right? an

Peta O’Brien 11:04
accidental framework,

Meg Casebolt 11:05
I should probably write a book called mental framework. That

Peta O’Brien 11:08
would be Yeah, that would be a good one. Um, basically, it was. So it’s called How to talk about politics without, I don’t know if I’m allowed to swear, I can’t remember.

Meg Casebolt 11:17
Yeah, go ahead. Had it a little probably on it. And then people are used to it for me.

Peta O’Brien 11:22
How to talk about politics without pissing people off?

Meg Casebolt 11:25
I don’t even really swear.

Peta O’Brien 11:26
Yeah, yeah. I have to check these things. It’s

Meg Casebolt 11:30
like, now I should do that old school thing and be just like, your mom’s gonna just drop a couple. Okay. How would you talk about politics? without pissing people off?

Peta O’Brien 11:39
Yes. Because I’d been having Converse individual conversations with people. And they’d bit about this kind of, they’d say that they wanted to address it in some way, but didn’t know how. And I said, Well, why not actually, like, tell your audience what you think about something, why not have a conversation? And they went? Well, because I will piss everybody off. And all of my clients will run away. And I’m like, well,

Meg Casebolt 12:01
we’ll well. I mean, they go, Hey, I thank you, for him for stepping up, or I disagree with you. But I respect that you have an idea about this. And I’m willing to engage in a dialogue because I respect you.

Peta O’Brien 12:18
Yes. And that was what I had found, when I’ve done things like that on like, on my social media. And in conversations, I’d even the people who didn’t agree with me on everything, because I am like, I don’t know, nailing colors to the master raving socialist. But still like, but I’m still able to have conversations with people who aren’t obviously. So when I had those conversations, the people who disagree with me with me when this is really interesting, and you’re not talking to me, like I’m an evil person who wants to, like destroy everything that you hold, dear, can we talk about it some more? So the filter, the framework was kind of was me answering those questions like, How do I talk about it in a way, that doesn’t make me feel like I am scaring away all of my potential clients? Or that I’m using the platforms that I have to like, browbeat people into completely changing their minds and agreeing with me?

Meg Casebolt 13:20
Or that, I’m going to be trolled for the way that I believe things because people will disagree with me. Or, you know, there’s so many different things I do, will I look like, I’m trying to take advantage of a difficult situation in order to advance my own brand, by, you know, pulling on the coattails of something tragic. Like, there’s a lot of emotional and a lot of fear, but a lot of emotions in general, tied to these cultural and societal things going on.

Peta O’Brien 13:54
Yeah, definitely. It’s sometimes we’re all up in our head about things. And it’s just because we’re putting problems in place that aren’t there. But with something like this, like, these issues are important enough for you to take time to think about why you think the way you do, and to take time to approach them in a way that is like sensitive with with humility, as opposed to and I think it’s the people that kind of that run in all guns blazing, suddenly with a massive, like, Instagram post about some topic that they’ve literally never mentioned before. Ever. Those are the ones whose audiences go this, this is a bit weird, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about this. And maybe I’ll go start with somebody else. So put, doing the work to get to that point is really important. And that’s what the framework that I accidentally created. And it helps you to do the work to get to that point. So it feels more like an organic evolution of your views or your brand’s views on on a topic that you you’re bringing people with you As opposed to all of a sudden becoming Ben and Jerry’s.

Meg Casebolt 15:04
Yeah. And I think also, when you’re first starting to dip your toe into this idea of bringing your political and cultural values into your messaging, usually there’s something that’s either pushing or pulling you to start thinking about it either something has happened culturally, you know, for me, it’s like George Floyd’s murder Roe v Wade these were times that like my gut went something is wrong here and I cannot sit quietly anymore. But I’ve also had a lot of people come to me in this social you know, in the context of this social slowdown conversation, not so much the SEO conversation but the social slowdown conversation and go, you know, like when Roe v Wade happened I had a friend I coffee with a friend the next day who has literally a million Instagram followers, and people were DMing her Instagram inbox and going why haven’t you said something about this? And she’s like a hand lettering Instagram so it’s not necessarily directly correlated, but then she put up you know, they put up a post that was a hand lettered something about like body autonomy, you know, and about believing women and about you know, that that bent to it and then they got pushed back that was like, I can’t believe you went so liberal. It’s like, well, it was Roe v. Wade. Okay.

Peta O’Brien 16:21
Particularly Yeah, the bar is yeah,

Meg Casebolt 16:23
this is something that you’re gonna push back on and then like maybe you need to go find a conservative hand lettering Instagram to follow because nobody’s buying from our Instagram anyway, it’s just a hand lettering like, you know, and it’s, it’s, it’s a hand lettering Instagram. It’s not a political Instagram. But they got flack from both sides, both from Yeah, not speaking up on the topic, and then from speaking up incorrectly on the according to people, and then they you know, and then they were able to use the DMS to talk about their values to talk about why this matters. But sometimes you don’t want to do that in DMS. And so I think that there’s also this feeling of, like, how much of my social media time should be spent in the DMS, convincing people of things that are not related to my business, but are important to my cultural values? And how much of it can be, you know, how much it shouldn’t be on social media? Because, like, it’s, it’s a powder keg? Yeah, it’s an echo chamber, it’s a powder keg and, and do an even greater like to zoom out even a little bit more. I think a lot of people are trying to get out of social media, because they’re trying to get out of these, you know, potholes that, you know, you step on them, and you think that you’re just looking at cat pictures, and then all of a sudden, you’re getting a like Trump rant. You’re like, Oh, I didn’t know what I want. No, you did not steal the election. It gives you that like to watch cats fall off of like, like, what do they call the little scratching post? That’s gonna watch them knock water off the table. I don’t want to hear about like, oh, the insurrection was a conspiracy? No. Yeah. So I think there’s there’s this kind of two parts as consumers of social media and as creators on social media, the ways that these, you know, political pieces are impacting our experience, speak to that a little bit for me. And then I want to go back to the conversation about like rainbow washing and how to do it correct. Yes,

Peta O’Brien 18:27
yeah. So you’re right. Like they there’s some there’s a BBC pocos cooled America cast, where they do like, a weekly kind of, yeah, view on what’s going on in America. It’s pretty cool.

Meg Casebolt 18:44
Especially myself on social media, it’s like, I don’t have those, like nervous system reactions anymore to people. But like, I sometimes miss out on things.

Peta O’Brien 18:55
Yeah, this is a weekly thing. So you can come back and you can do that. That’s fine. And so their social media or Yeah, their social media kind of correspondent is running this experiment where she set up five fake social media profiles based on demographic and kind of data of different parts of the political spectrum. And so they’re monitored monitoring on Twitter specifically, the posts and information that they get shown and then what rabbit holes that takes them down depending on what they click on, and, like, at what point do you start getting pushed into like these polarizing or polarized points? And it is fascinating. Like how even the profile the like the profile that they’ve set up as like, like kind of in the middle like not really Yeah, kind of moderate gets pushed down these this kind of like right wing OR, AND and OR kind of left wing depending on what’s going And then at the time pushed down those rabbit holes, because these the algorithms are set up to drive engagement. And so they are set up to, to show us things that spark that kind of visceral, kind of either you like it or you hate it. And they want us in those pots.

Meg Casebolt 20:18
And watching because my Twitter experience is all romance novel recommendations and shit creek memes, but I mean, I mean, that’s, like, I’m not on Twitter anymore, because, you know, it just became the newest dumpster fire. But when I was, I mean, it was it was goofy, but I could see, especially in the romance space, how it could kind of drive into reproductive rights space very quickly. And so to that, you know, so even when we’re trying to remain politically neutral, we’re still getting driven into Yes, specific narratives. Because that’s, that’s

Peta O’Brien 20:51
what drives engagement. That’s what keeps people on the platform. That’s what kind of those those clicks and,

Meg Casebolt 20:57
and Twitter is a place where people want to fight to.

Peta O’Brien 20:59
Yeah, exactly. But I think we’ve been pushed into, because we’ve because all the conversations that we’re having about these things, in the last, I know, 10 years have been on social media. And because the social media algorithms are set up to put us in those, these are the things we like, these are the things and the people that we hate, and that are like, evil. That’s how we’re set up to talk about all these big issues, that there’s no space for nuanced conversation, there’s no space for, for listening properly, to how the people who disagree with you came to that perspective. And, and using that to inform what you know about them. But also using that to inform your own kind of point of view and not in a dammit, they’ve convinced me that I’m wrong. But just like everybody has, you can learn something from everybody. And it’s a lot easier to understand where people are coming from, if you hear a little bit more about their story and have a conversation about that, rather than jumping on your soapbox with a microphone and going, these are the things that I believe and you don’t believe them. And therefore that means you’re a horrible person. That I mean, that doesn’t get anybody anywhere. But because, because that’s how we frame all of our conversations. Now, in the public space, it has started leaking over into the into the like, private space, too. So like, when we had Brexit, like you’d families would fall out and did fall out and like not speak to each other. And you guys had similar thing around about the Trump election and and we can’t we find it hard now to separate what somebody thinks or the opinions and the beliefs that they have from who they are as a person.

Meg Casebolt 22:53
And that’s, that’s a moral failing in a lot of ways where we just think like, this person disagrees with me. And that makes them wrong, which makes them bad.

Peta O’Brien 23:03
Yeah. Yeah. And it also makes it harder if you were to try and kind of convince them that they might want to see your point of view, because you’ve set them up as the enemy. And like, that’s, yeah, there’s, there’s very little coming back from that.

Meg Casebolt 23:18
So how does that impact let’s bring this back kind of out of the personal. Because I want to, like start telling these stories about my Republican dad, and I’m like, No, make pull it back. It was very interesting, dinnertime conversation. You know, like, I think you can have these conversations around dinner tables in a respectful way, or they can go sideways, like my uncle, you know, like, you can, it’s, you can approach it the same way and have very different reactions. And so when we talk about it in, you know, around the dinner table, that’s very different, because you’re looking somebody in the eye, and you understand the context of where they’ve come from. And, you know, like with my dad and my uncle, it’s very different than some stranger on the internet who’s judging me and I feel like I’m being attacked. Yeah. Because I don’t know who they are. They just have created this belief system around me or around the topic or what they think I believe, yeah, and I’ve done the same to them. And now I have this pressure to show up and to talk about specific topics without really always understanding even what I believe about them, let alone how to express what I believe about them.

Peta O’Brien 24:30
Yes, and when you join that with being a business and being a brand, because these days, people want to make that connection with somebody behind a business or behind a brand. So even if you’re even if you’re not diving completely into the I am a personal brand space, you still have to mostly have some kind of there has to be some of you in your brand does, especially in the service space.

Meg Casebolt 25:00
Yeah, and especially if you’re in a small business online, it’s like, you can just be anybody else. But if you want to be recognized, here’s where SEO sort of comes into play to an extent. Like, if you want to be found for something specific, you have to be clear about what your company values are. And as I’m speaking to you, I’m speaking to you from the brand of Meg Casebolt, host of social slowdown or Meg Casebolt, human, right. Meg Casebolt, like registered member of the Working Families Party of New York. But I also have this sort of, like, we were just talking about, like your superhero alias, and like your day job versus your values, and like, I still am founder of love it for search and love it first search has values which are sort of based on my values, but also the team has collaborated to determine what those values are, and they’re not. There’s, there’s a differential here of when I speak as me versus when I speak as Meg Casebolt, versus what I speak as founder versus when I speak as right, you know, like, we have all these different, sometimes conflicting identities. And the more that you sort of, you have to decide how much your personal values are going to interlock and move along with your brand values and your your company values. And that’s not easy to determine. And I feel like I’m always sort of walking on a tightrope. It’s just I don’t have a good filter. So I think the podcast has maybe liberalized beloved first search brand, because I can’t bite my tongue. You know, the YouTube videos are very tutorial based. And then I get other podcasts. And I’m like, here’s another soapbox that didn’t even know I had this one. So how do you make that distinction of like, coming back to our messaging? How do you make the distinction of like, what are the topics that I’m willing to dive into? And what are the ones where I want to take a backseat and let somebody else do that? Maybe, instead of coming out and saying, like, here’s my position on climate change. I don’t know as much about climate change. So maybe instead, I create a, maybe I just don’t talk about climate change. Or maybe I say, here are the people that I’m following that I’m learning about climate change from these are the influencers that I’m trying to learn from, here’s some resources for you. Like, when when do you step up on the soapbox? When do you stand behind someone else’s soapbox? And when do you walk away from the arena? Or Market Square altogether? When you metaphor, Alexander Hamilton and when are you? Kelly’s Mulligan?

Peta O’Brien 27:46
Yes, good question. Okay, so

Meg Casebolt 27:50
can you bury Samuel Z buried on the thing Samuel C Born is the character of the West Wing, I’m sorry.

Peta O’Brien 27:57
It’s an easy mistake to make. It’s I think it’s a mixture of different things I always suggest so whether I am working through my framework and system with a one to one client on their copywriting and messaging, or whether I’m we’re doing it like together in the in the soapbox with with the community. I always suggested that people start with amplifying other voices that are already talking about that particular cause that they are interested in. So there is there is something to be said. Especially if you’ve not kind of thought about or been very active in this kind of type of messaging before, there’s something to be said in joining the conversation that’s already happening with humility, and not running in and going. Now I’m going to be talking about this thing. And now my voice is the only voice that matters because I’ve suddenly decided that I’m gonna be talking about this thing. So by by beginning with getting comfortable with the space and amplifying the voices that are already saying things that you agree with, that’s a really good kind of way of first getting your audience used to talking about those things. Because otherwise you get like a massive amount of whiplash, you’re like, it’s like the cat videos, kind of videos, abortion, abortion, abortion like that was going on. So it helps get your audience used to that. But it also helps like you get used to what it is that you want to say how you want to say it, and what particular topics you want to kind of zone in on. So that’s definitely an element the amplifying other people’s voices. And I think depending on the topic that you’ve chosen to talk about, and your own personal experience, that can be more or less important. So if there is a topic that you care about, and you don’t have any kind of direct personal experience, then amplifying other people’s voices is a lot more important than what you’ve got say on the subject.

Meg Casebolt 29:53
And then how do you know when when to talk and when to shut up?

Peta O’Brien 29:57
Okay, so you need to know your audience. I’m not very good at the shutting up, frankly, I mean, either

Meg Casebolt 30:12
let around the question, you don’t have a story here.

Peta O’Brien 30:16
You need to know your audience. So, and that’s the case, if you’re going to move into this, this space at all, but you need to know, what are the things that your audience care about? What are the things that are affecting their lives, because they, your audience doesn’t live in a vacuum, either. They’ve all got stuff going on. And if there so for that, take an example. Because it’s often easier to kind of do that. If your audience is full of moms, and you know, like, in America, and you know that they are sending their children off to school every day. And there have been more and more school shootings that have made the news, then, ignoring that that’s going on, doesn’t make any sense. Because whatever decisions your audience are making right now, whether to engage in your content, whether to buy from you, whether to be active in whatever communities you’re kind of running, whether to share whatever it is that you’re kind of selling, whether to read your emails, all of those decisions are happening within the context of those tragedies, and the fact that they are sending their kids off to school, and spending the whole day being terrified of a phone call. And yeah, maybe it would be easier not to mention it at all. But if you are trying to speak to the audience, to your audience in the context that they’re currently living in, then they be real, that acknowledge that you know that that’s what’s going on in their head right now. So that would be when I would like speak, I think if there’s a topic that is very close to your heart, but maybe isn’t something that the majority of your audience are particularly interested in or affected by, then maybe that particular rant is not for your brand’s email newsletter. Maybe it’s for your personal Whatsapp group.

Meg Casebolt 32:22
Yeah, I think that’s a pretty good, you know, distinction, especially when you’re first dipping your toe into this and saying, What should I talk about? What should I not talk about, you know, find those things that resonate with you and resonate with your audience where you can find some common ground where you can state your opinions on things. And then I think one of the key things that you talk about PETA, and correct me if I’m wrong, is talk about this stuff before the tragedy strikes. So that should something bad happened knock on wood, it’s not coming out of left field, it’s not Oh, I’m jumping on this bandwagon. You know, if you and we’ll come back to the term about rainbow washing, which, you know, I sort of alluded to earlier, if the only time that you talk about LGBT rights are is during pride month, and then your entire feet and everything you talk about is just, you know, pictures of rainbows. And you know, just that without a nuanced conversation about, you know, these trans rights bills happening in Florida. And if you aren’t, if it’s not happening all the time, then it does look like a bandwagon effect, then it does look like you’re just trying to hitch your wagon to what someone else is talking about, instead of having it be foundational to what you’re doing. And if trans rights isn’t one of your things, then you don’t have to profile someone for Trans Day of visibility, you know, yes, yeah. No, you don’t have to check every box on the checklist of being woke. Up. Calendar, please.

Peta O’Brien 34:02
And I think that’s it. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Like because if, if the only time that you talk about LGBTQ plus rights is in Pride Month, then basically you are giving that issue and those individuals the same amount of headspace and brainpower and slots on your grid or in your email, as you are international Donut Day, like, and that’s just, it’s

original Donut Day is worth celebrating. And you can sort of read it all you like.

But like basically, it’s just it’s another one of those things on social media calendars that people are like, Oh, you’ve got nothing to post about. That’s supposed to buy international dinner day. But if Yeah, if you’re if you’re doing exactly the same thing, when you talk about LGBTQ plus rights, then you’re not that’s not dealing with that issue with the with the time and the Creedence desert and the respect that was the word that I was looking for. Yeah, I

Meg Casebolt 35:02
could, I could see it in your face. That’s why we record it. That’s why we record the video. And I think also like, if, if your podcast feed is mostly international Donut Day, then maybe there’s a larger conversation about like, what are the donuts that mattered? Yeah, maybe no joke about it, because the only choice is vanilla cream. But really, but you know, if all of your content is shallow, if all of your content is surface level, then what is the purpose of the content as part of your greater messaging? What are the choices that you’re making? Not just in terms of how I can use this to advance a political cause? How can I use this to express myself but like, everything that you’re posting as part of your messaging, is part of your brand is part of who you are as part of how you draw people in? So maybe it’s it’s not even, you know, trying to make sure that you’re balancing your transit of disability in your international Donut Day, maybe it’s going like, what’s the larger conversation that I can use this platform to have? And do I want that conversation to even be on this platform? Or should it be in some sort of, you know, podcast, or blog posts or forum? Or like, maybe social media isn’t the place where you want to be engaging in this way? And that’s a choice to maybe it’s a newsletter, where people can unsubscribe if they’re not interested? And maybe it’s a sub stack, so that way they can support you, you know, like, what, what is, and I don’t know if this is something that you talk about in your community, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on like, how do you choose the platform upon which you want to engage with people in these conversations?

Peta O’Brien 36:46
Yeah, and I think that a lot of it is where you feel the most comfortable, I think that one of the most important things about delving into this space is that you get to choose what works for you. Because if you don’t do that, you end up talking in a way that is not aligned or authentic to you. And your audience can tell. And it’s harder, like, so picking picking your most comfortable platform. So for me, it’s, it’s my email list. So I talk a lot about some of the, like, the bigger issues or the bigger tragedies, but some of like, some of the more sensitive stuff. I talk about a lot on my email list, because I know that people can choose to unsubscribe, I’m not going to flash up on their feed, like out of nowhere, suddenly talking about something really sensitive. And I also know that that’s what, that’s one of the things that my listeners sign up for. Right. So I have the freedom to I know that I know that they are interested in these things. And so I have the freedom to take time and take space in their inbox to talk about them. And I can also have more, I think it’s easier to have more nuanced conversations from an email list than it is from social media. Because like, there are some things that people are not going to want to talk about in comments. And they’re not necessarily going to want to send a DM, like, email feels more intimate, it feels more personal to talk about those places. But But that’s I mean, some people feel more comfortable on stories. There’s the added bonus that you know, they disappear after 24 hours. So you can just you can forget about it. If it goes horribly wrong. But yeah, so So wherever you’re comfortable. And the I think the comfort thing spills over into the things that you talk about, and this idea that if you’ve decided that you are going to weave values, and you are into your messaging and you are going to talk about some elements of politics, there is then like with your handlettering friend, there is the push to go while you’re talking about that, but what about that? It’s like so I’m not not a massive fan of everything that Ricky Gervais does, but there was there was a skit that he did, oh years and years ago now, where he talks about how when he he can but he was campaigning for something on Twitter, something to do with animal protection, which is his big thing. And I think it was it was a dog in a cat shelter. And then he got loads of people like in his in his retweets and his demo is going okay, but what about the dolphins? There are these things going on there? Like, I cannot address everything in one tweet, like yes, dolphins are very lovely, but like it so it’s like if Jamila Jamila has had a similar thing as well as on sunlight on several different occasions like when she speaks up about a particular issue. And then everyone else goes, Oh, but you’ve not spoken about this and this, this, this, this and this. It’s like you suddenly become the

Meg Casebolt 40:00
Like, I want to use you as a megaphone for what matters to me. Yes, person. Yeah, embracing what matters to you?

Peta O’Brien 40:07
Yes. And that is not their choice to make. But if you have made a decision to weave your particular values in a particular moment into your messaging, then you get to decide what you talk about. It’s yours, like it’s your space. And you get to decide what you do with people’s comments as well. But you get to decide when you block them, you get to decide when you sit in your DMS explaining, like, why you should believe me, or why you should agree with me, or you get to go, Well, this is like, this is my space. And I’d have to tell you,

Meg Casebolt 40:44
you don’t like it, get off my lawn. Yeah. Preferably, you don’t stand there with a gun at your front porch and say, Get off my lawn, doing a little bit more than that. But you can choose when to engage, you can choose who to engage with, you don’t need to have a blanket policy of non engagement, but you can also block the trolls.

Peta O’Brien 41:03
Yeah. And I think that a lot of people are scared of jumping into this kind of things or putting these things in their messaging, because they think then that then that means they have to address every single thing that pops up. And if they miss something, then they’re going to get pilloried or they’re going to feel awful. But it is impossible to keep up with everything these days, unless it is your full time job. And nobody really expects

Meg Casebolt 41:26
people who have friends that have full time social media directors, and this is their full time job. And they still step in piles of shit sometimes because this is hard work. Yeah. Okay. So in your community? Yes. Obviously, you’re not telling people like you should be talking about this. You’re having these engaging conversations. But one of the things that I also liked that you do is you’re facilitating conversations around specific topics, where you’re saying like, here’s the book that we’re going to read about this topic where I can be a facilitator, I can be a book club leader, but I am not the one with all the answers. You are not the one with all the answers. Let’s go to the, you know, the subject matter experts are let’s go into the cultural narrative and have this conversation. And before we started recording, you suggested a book to me that I just pulled up called Invisible women that was recommended to me at a conference I went to they ran a book club at the conference about this topic. So like, how are you guiding and facilitating these conversations by using other people’s work? And what does that look like?

Peta O’Brien 42:29
So the community is kind of built around, we’ve got a circle. For our circle. Yeah. Which is great. It’s brilliant. I’m so glad that that Android app is better now than it used to be when it launched.

Meg Casebolt 42:42
So I can’t speak to that, but I’m glad it works.

Peta O’Brien 42:46
So there are different spaces in the community that are about different topics. And people can jump in there and have conversations about those really, the guiding kind of principle of the community is what I want the community to model how I would like everybody else to be having conversation. So with that kind of listening

Meg Casebolt 43:10
framework and accidental role model, right, like probably a very intense,

Peta O’Brien 43:17
it’s not always, and so by listening properly, to what the other person is saying, rather than spending the time when their lips are moving, working out what you’re gonna say next. And considering things from their perspective, and kind of approaching everything with humility, and always being willing to learn something, I want the community to model that. So the conversations that we have in there, and the spaces that we have, for people to talk to each other, are based on that premise, like, thrash out difficult issues, or difficult topics with each other. The space is here for you to do that. Come to the space with I know you’ve, you’ve been sat around the dinner table at Christmas, and you’ve had a particularly tricky conversation with great aunt Sophie, who doesn’t seem to understand that we no longer live in the 1950s. Like have a have a conversation with your fellow community members about how you can maybe address that without having to, you know, make you go sit in the garden, that kind of thing. I’m so

Meg Casebolt 44:17
lovely this time of

Peta O’Brien 44:17
year it is it’s fine. Not so much a Christmas. So like, so there are spaces that people can have those open and kind of nuanced and human conversations. And then there are different parts of different touch points in the community. So we have like a Tuesday, tip bit post, which is like, I’ll put out something that I’ve read or listened to, or like a podcast or book, TV program, whatever. And I’ll post the link and then I will, I’ll put some kind of suggested questions for people to talk about and continue the conversation with their perspective. And then at the end of the week, there’s a roundup email which does some of the things but also pulls together resources that other people are bringing. So there’s a space where people can go. So it’s not just Yeah, it’s not just me. These are things that I’ve been reading and like, I’ve got two kids, I don’t have time to read that much. So yes, that’s what I do. so other people can bring things that they’ve that they found, and we can have conversations around those. And then we have our fortnightly q&a calls where somebody will bring an issue to the table, and then we’ll kind of we’ll pull it apart and discuss it amongst ourselves and support them. And I, I approach it all very much as a facilitator, like with my youth work hard on like, gathering people together in a room, but it’s just online. And the book club is, yeah, it’s going to be any bit that’s like part of that, like a slightly more, this is a specific thing that we’re going to we’re going to work through and and we’re going to discuss what we think about it.

Meg Casebolt 45:57
Are you doing? Like one book a month, one book a quarter? How are you running,

Peta O’Brien 46:01
I think one book a month, but I don’t, I’m not going to expect people to read like the entire book in a month, but like people will come with different levels of of understanding you have your bonus yet I

Meg Casebolt 46:13
have to know.

Peta O’Brien 46:14
I’ve got that. So I’ve got

Meg Casebolt 46:17
I noticed on the sales page for this. I like zoomed in because I wanted to have this amazing picture that has you with just like seven books that are like Helen Lewis’s Difficult Women a history of feminist in fights, and I’m like, Yeah, I need to read these books. Right, like, yeah, so when you have the book list, please send it over. And we will absolutely include it in the show notes for other nerds like me.

Peta O’Brien 46:39
Yes, no, I will do that.

Meg Casebolt 46:42
Yeah, my favorite books in the show notes too, just because, yes, definitely. Yeah. And

Peta O’Brien 46:47
though, and I do bring different kinds of experts in on different topics and get their perspective. And they are from across the political spectrum. So it’s less about, in fact, it’s not at all about these are the things that I think that you should believe, but more about, this is the type of person that you might meet in real life, like, or this is the type of person who might come to you and say, I want to work with you. Like, how can you how can you have that conversation? Yeah.

Meg Casebolt 47:17
And are those mostly British experts talking about local? Or are these global conversations?

Peta O’Brien 47:22
So the global conversations, my, the community at the moment, there are some people from Canada, some from the US some from the UK? Yeah. So all across, and I like to keep a handle on as much as I can, what’s going on? kind of all over the place? Because, because my clients are global as well. And a lot of this for me is, yeah, it’s about that context, like, this is what’s going on in people’s lives. And and I’m trying to connect with them. And so I need to be Yeah, I need to be aware of that.

Meg Casebolt 47:54
Alright, so people want to connect with you. Yeah, where’s the best place to do that?

Peta O’Brien 48:00
So they can come to my website, which is words by peta.com. And there’s a little pop up, they can sign up for my email address, email, email list, even they can sign up for my email list. They can find my address, and then exactly, there’s a whole thing. And there are links there to my to my Instagram and my LinkedIn pages. I’m there, kind of Yeah, most days on LinkedIn, and Instagram, popping in every now and again, if they want to ask me any questions about this. If they want to come and be an expert in the community, then yeah, they can give me Yeah, send me an email or a message.

Meg Casebolt 48:39
All right. Sounds good. Thank you so so much for being here today for just climbing on the soapbox with me for a solid 45. And thank you for your insights, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Peta O’Brien 48:49
Thanks. Bye.

Meg Casebolt 48:51
Thank you so much for listening to the social slowdown podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe or come on over to social slowdown.com and sign up for our email list so you never miss an episode. We’d also love if you could write a review to help other small business owners find the show you can head over to social slowdown.com/review Or grab that link in our show notes for easy access. We’ll be back soon with more tips to help you market your business without being beholden to social media. Talk to you then

Please forgive any typos or errors as this transcript was automatically generated by Otter.ai

how to talk about politics in your business without pissing people off