Seven questions to ask before responding to a trending story

Responding to a trending story can be satisfying, especially when the issue at hand is important to you. But it can also backfire. Those who disagree with you may push back on what you have to say or question your authority, credibility, and integrity. Others may simply stop paying attention to you because they no longer believe your values align with theirs. That can be a good thing, so long as your response to the trending story is thoughtful and deliberate. Before you respond to a trending story, ask yourself these seven questions:

  1. Is my commentary on this issue related to my experience or area of expertise? If the issue is not directly related to your experience or expertise, you may want to respond as a private individual instead of a professional. If it is related to your area of expertise, consider bringing the weight of your professional experience to bear on your response.
  2. Why should other people care about what I have to say about it? Everyone has opinions. Why should the reader care what you have to say about the issue at hand? What makes you qualified to have an opinion on this matter?
  3. Am I adding something of value to the conversation? What does your commentary add to the conversation? What gaps does it fill?
  4. Why do I want to share my opinion on this issue? What purpose will sharing your opinion on this issue serve?
  5. Is this the best way to achieve my purpose? How can you achieve that purpose? Is this the best way to do so? Or is another tactic better suited to your purpose?
  6. Is my purpose clear to the reader? What other purpose might a reader attribute to your commentary? How can you ensure that the reader understands your underlying purpose?
  7. Does my commentary include anything I do not know to be true? Typically, a trending story is still developing. Some facts and circumstances are not yet known. If you respond to a trending story, clearly indicate where you are getting your information and make it clear to the reader when you’re speculating. You want to be able to stand behind your opinion even if new facts and circumstances come to light.

​Before you share your opinion, especially if you’re fired up about it, make sure that how you share it doesn’t damage your reputation. Reach out to a trusted friend or colleague and share your backstory, goals, and commentary. Ask them to help you identify your blind spots, and listen closely. Your reputation is your single most valuable asset — it takes time to establish but can be destroyed in a matter of seconds.