Blogs are an important new tool in public relations. There is no doubt about the importance that blogs have in consumer marketing, public outreach and interaction.
But, with blogs come two separate responsibilities: a comment policy and transparency. How do you handle transparency issues – how do you highlight who you work with, what you are doing, what the purpose of the blog is? And how do you handle comments – do you delete comments, do you keep all comments except obvious SPAM, do you delete comments that are obviously fake (as I did today)?In my other blog, I have a comment policy that is pretty straight forward. It notes that:
This is not a public forum, this is My Blog.
This is very much my personal place. Please act as if you were a guest in my home, and I will treat you as one.
Opposing views are welcomed.
I will, however, delete your comment if you descend into personal attacks, excessive profanity, mouth-foaming hatred, or other such immature behavior that I deem unacceptable in my home.
Please craft your contribution accordingly.
For a personal/corporate blog, that might be enough.
But for a corporate blog, that might not work. What do you do? Do you go to comment moderation? I personally do not believe in comment moderation, and recently had a long discussion about such policies with another PR blogger. He raised an interesting point: if blogs are about two-way conversations, and a blogger moderates comments and it takes a few hours for the comments to appear, can’t that be seen as a calculated attempt to kill the conversation? I have to agree – if you do not post comments after a few hours, what is the purpose of having comments on the blog. Yes, blogs are all under attack from SPAM, but it’s quite easy to hit “delete comment” and “block IP” in the blogging platforms.
So, what is the comment policy on this blog? Well, if it is germane and contributes to the conversation, it stays up. If it’s on topic, it’ll stay up. If it’s from an obviously fake email address, it comes down.
Now, transparency is a trickier, slippier issue. I don’t think there is a gray area in transparency. You post and disclaim what your connections are. If I were being sponsored by LaCoste for video blogging, I believe that at the beginning of each vlog, I shoud disclose such a fact. If I am in an article, and I blog about it, I believe transparency says to disclose the fact, either through a tag or a parenthical cite.
This weekend, the topic of the podcast, Across the Sound, was on transparency. The two hosts seem to fall in the middle of the argument, while as you can read in the comments, I fall in that black and white area. It was such a topic, though, that they are going to revisit it next week.
As a corporate blogger, though, you need to go into that black and white, and decide how far you want to go in transparency. As you will be representing your company, it might be best to disclose as much as possible, when appropriate.
Best practice for transparency? Reveal all. Tell the truth up front and you own the high ground.