Are Your Comment Policies Hurting Your Conversations?

I’m a strong believer that communications professionals (especially in PR and social media areas) have a responsibility to be somewhat liberal in their comment policies on blogs, networks, etc. Why? Because I don’t think you can really advocate for building conversations if you aren’t open to them yourself–even if they may get a bit heated.

NakedPR only now has an official comment policy, and I try to keep it open. Criticize as much as you want as long as you’re constructive, and if you want to post just to be a jackass, hey, that’s okay too–just take credit for your words. I’ve only banned one person from commenting on any of my blogs that I can think of (not this one), and that was for associating not only myself but many of that blog’s readers with the KKK because they didn’t agree with our views regarding pay issues of all things. It crossed a line. My lines are hard to cross. How about yours?

Do you think it’s okay to ban comments just because someone repeatedly questions you, disagrees with you, or points out what they believe to be flaws in your reasoning? At what point does open communication cross a line into the inappropriate? Are those lines different (or should they be) on a corporate blog? Is it okay for companies to reject negative comments and essentially “control” all aspects of the conversation?

What about links? Judy Gombita of PR Conversations recently asked on why comments didn’t allow a link to a person’s site or blog. I think that’s a good question, and Ragan isn’t the only guilty party – just a few weeks ago I was commenting on a larger media site with the same issues, and honestly I think it’s a problem.

To allow truly open conversations, I think it’s our responsibility to allow readers to decide who they trust and don’t trust. I should be able to click on a link if someone wants to leave one, where I can learn more about that person and determine whether their credentials make them someone I can believe in that subject matter or not. It’s one thing if everyone recognizes your name. That isn’t the case for most people, and not allowing them to demonstrate that they’re actually familiar with the industry or topic is almost akin to having them comment anonymously.

I’m less concerned with things like no-follow and do-follow links, as long as a link is available for actual visitors to click on (although that’s an interesting topic on its own).

How open are you with your comment policies and linking, and do you think communicators need to be held to higher standards on that front?

Jenn Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. An active digital publisher, she runs numerous websites and blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has over 20 years' experience working as a solopreneur running a 3-prong business of offering freelance writing and consulting services, running digital publications, and operating as an indie publisher of predominantly e-books.

This experience includes 25 years working as a professional writer and editor, more than 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (specializing in areas like digital PR, online marketing, social media, and SEO), 19 years' experience as a professional blogger / online publisher (including web development), and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

At Kiss My Biz, Jenn shares stories, tips, and tools from her own adventures in solopreneurship, while aiming to help fellow solopreneurs and creative professionals succeed even where it feels against the odds.

17 thoughts on “Are Your Comment Policies Hurting Your Conversations?”

  1. I appreciate the link, as it took me back to “Banned from the Buzz Bin” for a second look. That post isn’t among my highest in traffic, but it did draw 35 comments. Not a single one was removed, and not a single person banned from the site! But more importantly, I enjoyed the debate, and wasn’t at all concerned when it got snarky. That’s gonna happen when people disagree.

    My policy on comments is similar to yours. All views are welcome except total nutcases. I moderate to keep out spam. And I’ve only removed two comments (out of 2,200), both of which accused companies of wrongdoing while presenting no evidence to support the claims. When I asked the commenters to document their charges, I got nowhere — so neither did the comments. I told both to start their own blogs. One did!

    I’ve had to play “bouncer” a few times to keep people in line, but I’ve never asked anyone to leave. People drop in all the time to disagree with me. Something about my disposition, I’m guessing! 🙂

    Welcome back. We’ve missed you!

  2. Point taken. Allow some give and take, and even invite readers to disagree (and explain why). Healthy conversation promotes some level of transparency, deemed to be essential these days.

    A related question: should bloggers review comments for approval prior to posting? (NakedPR’s policy: “Your first comment on this blog will be moderated before displaying live.”) I think not. Better to risk allowing someone to post an offensive comment, which can be removed quickly if found to be libelous, injurious, vulgar, etc. depending on the Comment Policy. To approve or “moderate” any comment before posting can send a message that the blogger or corporation lacks transparency, if not authenticity. People seek immediacy, and there’s little reason not to grant them their desire to see their comment posted without waiting.

  3. Appreciate your view Steve, but that policy won’t be changing here. This blog attracts an unusually high number of bot-based spam submissions compared to others I run, and moderating the first comment ensures comments only get through from actual people. Once your first is approved, your future comments should go through immediately (unless you sign off as someone else – it’s also been a good way of catching people posting under multiple handles when others don’t support what they’re saying, which this blog also attracts a lot of given the nature of the posting style). I don’t think waiting one time is enough of an issue for most people to justify changing it and dealing with the resulting headaches again.

    It’s also important to note that I’m not one of those folks insisting that constant two-way conversations are the best or “right” way to go about things in all, or even most, cases which is why I have no qualms about keeping comments closed on most posts here. They were closed when the blog went on a 6 month or so hiatus, and were left closed because I don’t consider it right to subject new folks to a comment policy old posters didn’t have to abide by. I may eventually open some of them back up (which I have to do manually b/c the database mass changes always seem to miss a few), or I may not. I don’t pretend to be the variety of blogger I’m asking about here (I don’t work directly in PR consulting anymore). My question is more whether people who do advocate that kind of open communication should practice it themselves, and to what degree.

    Glad to be back Bill. Playing bouncer occasionally is half of the fun. The day I completely stop pissing anyone off and enticing them to disagree here will probably be the day the NakedPR towel gets hung up for good.

  4. One of the reasons this blog gets hit more than others is the fact that it started out targeting webmasters, small business owners, and online entrepreneurs. It still brings in a lot of its traffic from sources oriented to them. Webmasters are also often the folks using automated commenting tools for the sake of link-building, and those running splogs (had to remove a splog trackback from the comments on this very post already today – where they publish snippets of your feed with a link so they get a trackback link back to their spam blogs). So NakedPR gets slammed, while others (like my blog for freelance writers) get little to no automated spam comments. Interestingly though, this blog gets the fewest manual spam comments (people posting just to share their own links without adding substance), and I really don’t know why that is.

  5. Thanks for the hat tip, Jenn. FYI, no one (to my knowledge) ever answered my query on Ragan. Certainly not as a direct email, nor did I ever see a follow-up comment. Now the article/comments have gone behind the paywall!

    Wanted to draw your attention to another ironic site (with my comment). Social Media Today insists on one registering in its community, before you can post with a name/blog link. (One can, however, post a comment Anonymously.)

    (Note to Bill: I may love you and your blog, but I don’t like the fact that you moderate comments. PR Conversations doesn’t. And we DON’T get many spam comments, despite daily traffic in the four figures. Maybe talk to Jenn about how to institute a “first comment moderation policy,” eh?)

  6. It’s a built-in option if you use WordPress (in the discussion settings page).

    What I find more frustrating are the few bloggers I follow who only allow registered users to comment. In those cases I just usually don’t bother. Too much like work. Some are even requiring 3rd party logins now, where you’re directed elsewhere to sign up and then have to go back to login and comment.

  7. This discussion — and Judy’s last comment — has me rethinking moderation of comments. I started that way in ’06 to keep the spam out, and many of the bloggers I followed at the time did the same thing.

    Askimet filter on WordPress makes spam a minor problem at best. And what’s the harm in a few links to cheap Viagra? Might make the world a happier place!

  8. I always tell my clients and friends to think of their communication online like they would think of communicating in the real world. All the same rules apply. If you are the kind of person who says edgy or offensive things in public, say them online. If you are the kind of person who would walk away from a conversation with someone who is offensive, feel free to disengage with them online.

    As for removing things that are offensive…if a person spray painted offensive or incorrect information on your car…would you remove it?



    • “As for removing things that are offensive…if a person spray painted offensive or incorrect information on your car…would you remove it?”

      I sure would. Then again, my car isn’t meant to be a public conversation. 😉

    • True, but “webmaster” is also somewhat of a catch-all term. It could refer to a blogger, someone to runs another type of site solo, someone in charge of managing a company’s website, or even the owner of an online business for example. You’d be surprised at how many otherwise reputable companies run spam blogs (even mid-sized to somewhat large corporate types) because their SEO firm or marketing agency instructed them to do so for SEO purposes (filling a blog with keyword-stuffed drivel and little else solely to try to manipulate SEs).

  9. I think comment policies are important to be stated on a blog just for the fact that the commenters know that there are a few limitations in regards to leaving comments. If a policy keeps someone from leaving a comment that crosses the line, then it is is a beneficial thing to have on a blog. Comments are important and it’s good to think about. Thanks!


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