The Carlson Letter: How to make people angry at you

Hello again,

This week's idea is on anger.

The Problem

Most people don’t know how to get attention for their ideas.

They’re subtle.

They’re quiet and subdued.

Then there are those who do know how to get attention.

In fact, they know too well.

You’ve probably already guessed how they do it.

It’s a strategy that works…

twitter profile avatar
Twitter Logo
October 3rd 2022

They make people mad.

It’s a fact that anger travels fastest on the internet.

It's the emotion that makes people share.

twitter profile avatar
Benjamin Carlson
Twitter Logo
Twitter Logo
2. The most powerful emotion for virality is anger. Joy is strong, but nothing compares to the speed of sharing when people are mad. This is why provocateurs thrive.
Video or Gif
twitter profile avatar
Benjamin Carlson
Twitter Logo
1. The media needs viral content for revenue. This is because they are selling an audience's attention. Today they are competing against more sources than ever. Viral content is the one thing that breaks through.
December 28th 2022

You see something you hate… and you can’t look away.

The Solution

There's a dangerous lesson here for people trying to break through.

It’s bad for society if everyone is constantly trying to infuriate one another.

But to be a creator, you also can’t be afraid of anger.

To what extent should you be willing to make people angry?

This week, without quite intending to, I did just that.

twitter profile avatar
Benjamin Carlson
Twitter Logo
Twitter Logo
January 24th 2023

My aim was to spark conversation, not provoke.

I find most of Ayn Rand's ideas challenging and disagreeable.

Some of her views anger me.

While the heat of the responses I got was uncomfortable, it did, in fact, start real conversations.

And because I believe in the free and open exchange of ideas, I am glad I put it out there.

If you want to break through, you need to accept that at times, you will make people mad.

If you define the values you stand for, and are acting in alignment with them, don't be afraid of emotion. Even the occasional anger.

What I'm Working On

Given my background, some people have recently been asking me for advice on how to build a profile with media.

How to get noticed.

How to build their authority.

How to land a TED talk. A Forbes article.

In response, I launched a small coaching program.

The first cohort consists of executives from big tech, consulting, and non-profit.

They're getting strategy on how to position themselves to break through.

The feedback is encouraging, and I already have interest for the next cohort in February.

If you're curious and want to get more information about that, reply to this email or click here.

Question of the Week

Have you ever been in a situation where many people were angry at you? How did you respond?

As always, please let me know what you think. What resonated with you? What's challenging you these days?

Let's talk.

Until next time,


Benjamin Carlson

I'm a communications exec and a former editor at The Atlantic and foreign correspondent. Subscribe for lessons from my 15 years in media and PR

Read more from Benjamin Carlson

The Carlson Letter Castor and Pollution, Max Ernst, 1923 Do you like your online self? Do you know your online self? Whether you like it or not, one of the first things a new acquaintance will do is Google you. What do they see? If you’re like many of us, they may see a series of results offering to sell your address, phone number, and possible family affiliations. Then they may see a Facebook page (yours, or maybe a namesake’s), your old work headshot, your LinkedIn profile. If you have a...

The Carlson Letter: On Trust In 1996, toward the end of his struggle with a terminal case of blood cancer, astronomer and public educator Carl Sagan sat down with interviewer Charlie Rose to discuss his book, The Demon Haunted World. In one arresting moment, Sagan — a famous and outspoken skeptic of superstition—made a surprising and moving admission. More than a decade after his beloved parents had died, Sagan said, he still occasionally heard their voices calling in his ear. “Carl!” As he...

person standing on stage

The Carlson Letter: On Oratory In 1962, a man stood on a football field in Texas. The autumn heat slicked his face with sweat. 35,000 people sat in stands around him. Watching. Listening. Decades before PowerPoint, TED talks, focus groups, quick-response surveys, and real-time message testing, he gave a long, 18-minute speech in a thick New England accent. He spoke about science. He evoked man’s technological progress, drawing an arc of history spanning 50,000 years. And then he pointed to...