Blog — The Snow Report

After months of careful planning and preparation, a company launches its new product. The news media picks up the story. A prominent publication features an article online, and the reviews are glowing. Congratulations on the great PR coverage!

But wait, what’s this? Dozens of comments attached to this very article? Well, how flattering. Let’s just click these and see what the kind readers have to say…

Uh-oh. You’ve just entered the Danger Zone of online media – the comments section. These anonymous, thinly-moderated forums attached to most articles can be mocking, misinformed, off-topic and downright nasty. Do you respond? Complain to the editor? Ignore them? Tell your PR firm to begin an Astroturf campaign to drown out the nay-sayers? (I am kidding about this last one.)

Here are a few suggestions for dealing with the comments section.  Keep in mind that each situation is unique and appropriate responses may vary.

Keep an eye on the comments, but don’t overreact. People will make disparaging remarks. Welcome to the Internet. The vocal minority has the megaphone, and they are not afraid to use it. Don’t mistake a few negative responses for general public opinion.  Except for extreme situations, plan on letting much of this stuff slide.

If some comments offer legitimate, specific points of criticism, respond using your full name and title, and remain emotionally neutral. This can be a powerful rejoinder, serving to diffuse hostility and bring some light to the situation. People, even anonymous ones, appreciate companies that are willing to engage at a personal level. In this situation it also helps to have social media channels at the ready. If you’ve felt the need to respond via comments, chances are you should also make a statement via Twitter, Facebook and the company blog.

Notify the journalist or website moderator. Sometimes online discussions can turn downright hateful. Some media police for this sort of thing, but it’s not unreasonable to pick up the phone to alert them of something that’s attached to your story that needs removal. Hate speech, racism and profanity would fall into this category. But be careful to only use this option when necessary; calling to complain about all the negative comments in your story, frustrating as they may be, will probably get you nowhere while also irritating the journalist that wrote the story. Choose your battles carefully.

Comment sections are the Wild West of online media. By proactively monitoring and responding to each case as appropriate, companies can keep tabs on what is being said, offer direct responses when appropriate, and help keep the worst offenders at bay.


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