02.12.2014 | Maddie Beck
In today’s digital world, PR pros are offered an array of avenues to help voice their client’s message and shape public opinion. Comment sections are among these channels, but pose an interesting dilemma. Comment sections have become the playground for “trolls,” or negative commenters. These “trolls” pose a risk of defaming the efforts of PR pros. So the question remains: Should PR pros engage in comment sections?
In a recent article in PRWeek the two sides debated this argument. Both sides seemed to agree that comment sections are necessary in some circumstances, but varied in their opinion of the degree of involvement PR pros should expend on these comment sections.
Jeffrey Zack “disagrees” with engaging people in the comment sections. Zack sees a variety of options to carry out your client’s message. Comment sections are among these, but are riddled with people just looking to rant on a subject. While he believes these sections should be avoided, Zack says that if information is incorrect, comment sections are where you can set the record straight. PR pros should consider other approaches before rebutting in the comment section though, such as requesting a correction if the information is incorrect.
The argument in favor of commenting, written by Paul Rand, pointed out that PR pros should be allowed to clarify or correct wrong information in the comment section. Letting this incorrect information sit on the internet would be a mistake. Rand points out that comments should only be left if it makes strategic sense.
Comment sections are bound to persist, so communicators in PR should use this outlet to leverage their message when appropriate. When commenting on something in relation to a client, it may be a wise call to disclose that you assist with PR for the company. By being up front about the situation, you alleviate the risk of a commenter’s backfire if you were to not disclose this information and then were discovered.
Forming responses to comments should be done so cautiously. It is vitally important to not get worked up over irrational, negative and sometimes even violent comments. You cannot stoop to the “troll’s” level, for what you think to be a witty comment back could risk your image and or the image of your client. Giving these “trolls” more fuel will backfire.
Some companies have tried to remedy this comments backlash by removing comment sections. This may be a mistake, though, because comment sections show the public that you care about their opinion. Negative comments are bound to happen, but handling these situations with poise and a clear head will ensure a smooth message and delivery.