At the end of the Beatles’ documentary, Get Back, they perform their final public performance on a rooftop with many people calling in to lodge a noise complaint with the police and all kinds of people stopping in the streets to see what is going on. This was a good marketing tactic back then, it received press, it reminded their fans walking by of the Beatles’s music, it generate buzz from locals that were angry and asking to speak to them.
One thing controversy does, it reminds people you are there, but it also gives you a chance to connect with those who may disagree with you. The upset locals probably weren’t Beatles fans, if they were they would be enjoying the free performance. So, if the Beatles say, “I’m sorry. Can we offer you a drink, or a meal? We just needed to record this album, now we’re done. Would you like to hang out with us, or is there any other way to make it up to you?” It’s likely they’ll turn that hater into someone more amenable to their work.
In the digital age, this has gone overboard. Everyone is using controversy to get attention, and it just doesn’t scale. As a result, those seeking attention are agitated, those being blasted with controversial messages are agitated and those who recognize the tactics are exasperated. The difference between the Beatles controversy and what you see online today is it actually created physical movement from onlookers, it wasn’t just an insult at a group of people, and those who enjoyed it didn’t do so just because it made others upset. If you have to use controversy to get attention, perhaps sticking to this criteria is a good starting point.