In 1999 Jon Stewart, a comedian best known for a failed talk show on MTV, took over The Daily Show from its handsome and charming host Craig Kilborn. Of the people who were paying attention, a good number thought he would flop. To say Jon Stewart exceeded expectations would be an understatement to say the least. Not only has Stewart's version of The Daily Show become the Comedy Central's most popular program; it has become a true cultural phenomenon.
Now that Stewart has announced his retirement, there's been plenty of talk about the careers he's launched, the issues he's discussed, and the way he's changed the media landscape. There has been less conversation, however, about the secret to his 16-year run of phenomenal success.
Turns out it's quite simple:
Taking a stand on stuff that matters.
It was clear early on that Jon Stewart had no intention of staying away from serious issues on his show. Despite his humorous approach, Stewart dug up hypocrisy wherever he could, and boy did he dig deep. For a comedian with a subpar track record, exposing the duplicity and corruption of powerful people on a daily basis was a risky move, but that didn't stop him.
As the late '90s turned into the 2000's, Stewart's approach placed him in the perfect position to take on the calamities and controversies that seemed to define the decade. From Bush-Gore to the Iraq War to Hurricane Katrina, the funnyman emerged as a news source that many Millennials said they trusted more than traditional network anchors.
What set Jon Stewart apart was that when it came to the most pressing issues of the day he rarely supported the status quo. Whether or not you agree with his politics, there's no denying that by embracing controversy, not for its own sake but in order to shed light on unique points of view that were important to him, the host of The Daily Show became legendary.
Truth-tellers get paid.
Your business may not lend itself to discussing heated political or sociological issues, but that doesn't mean you can't share your own controversial opinions about your own industry's challenges and commonly accepted solutions. If there's something that you and your potential clients care about that you feel hasn't gotten the attention it deserves, position yourself as the one holding the spotlight. And if experts disagree with you, so much the better.
Get your message out into the world however you can. Speak about it, publish articles about it, blog it, podcast it. Get the world (or at least your industry) to see you as a voice of change. People pay big money for innovators in their field, and playing it safe is never innovative. Follow in Jon Stewart's controversial footsteps and legions of fans...and customers...will clamor for you.