What’s Your School’s Blog Comment Strategy?

blog-commentsCreating a blog for your school should be a priority of your inbound marketing efforts.

The benefits of creating a blog for your school are numerous and can help with search engine optimization and branding among other things. My friend, Rick Newberry, has written a great blog post entitled, 5 reasons to start a blog on your schools website that I hope you’ll check out.

Although the benefits of starting a blog are clear and proven, schools continue to ignore creating a blog for their website. One potential reason why schools might not create a blog is the inevitable question of how to deal with comments. My friend Jeremiah Barba who works at Hanalani Schools located in Mililani, Hawaii reminded me of this during a recent conversation.

Whether you already have a blog at your school or not it’s very important to have a plan in place to deal with what I call “howlers.” I’m a big Harry Potter fan and love when the children get angry mail during meals which is bright red and yells at them when they open the letter. At Hogwarts these letters are called howlers.

Is your school prepared to deal with howlers?

There are many different ways to deal with comments on your school’s blog and here are 3 things you’ll need to think about when deciding upon your blog comment strategy:

1. When creating your blog you can allow comments to post in one of two ways: 1. Automatically post as soon as a person submits them, or 2. Go into a queue where they will have to be approved before they can be posted to the blog – this is referred to as being moderated. While keeping comments open by default most closely follows the spirit of blogging you might be able to convince your school leadership to start a blog by keeping comments moderated.

What we do: At Sewickley Academy we actually keep comments open but that is a fairly recent change for us. When we started our blog we initially moderate comments and after about 3 years we determined that keeping comments open was OK for us.

Your decision: Your team will need to decide whether you will create your blog and moderate comments or leave them open.

2. If someone does leave a “howler” how will you react? There are any number of ways that you can react to a negative blog comment and there is no correct way. The important thing here is that your school creates a pre-determined way that they will react to a howler and that everyone is on the same page.

What we do: If someone were to leave a howler on our Private School Blog our first reaction is to hope that a member of our community would respond to the comment in a positive way. Our next step would be to reach out offline to a member of our parent ambassador group and have them respond to the comment in a positive way. Our third step would be to have the school respond in an official capacity and if appropriate, suggest a meeting in person to address the issue mentioned in the comment.

Your decision: Decide how your school wants to respond to a respectful howler and outline the steps in advance. Additionally, decide who will be responsible for each step of your reaction.

3. What if the comment includes profanity, hate speech, or verbally attacks a specific person or group?

What we do: If a comments falls into the above category we delete the comment immediately. Our rationale is that a comment of this sort goes against our Community of Respect and will not be part of anything Sewickley Academy.

Your decision: Decide how your school will act if someone leaves a comment that includes profanity, hate speech, or verbally attacks a specific person or group. Will you delete the comment immediately or respond to the comment?

What is your strategy?

As I mentioned before there is no right or wrong way to handle comments on your school’s blog. The most important thing to consider when launching your school blog is to have the conversation about negative comments BEFORE they happen and have a plan of attack to deal with the negative comment.

Because there is no correct way to deal with negative comments I would love to hear how your school handles them in the comments section below.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Chuck Will

    Over the years that I’ve had open commenting on Chuck’s Corner I’ve never had a comment so nasty it could not be dealt with via a thoughtful response. We want engagement, and a successful blog post conveys personal insight, so a comment that takes a position is welcome! Thanks for exploring this, Brendan.

    • http://www.schneiderb.com Brendan Schneider

      Thanks for taking the time to comment @chuck_will:disqus and GREAT POINT! I’ve also found that the vast majority of comments are appropriate and thoughtful as well.

  • Neil Pierson

    At Covenant Christian School in Sydney we had blog comments automatically posted for the first 2 years (www.ourcovenant.com.au). Then there were a couple of students posting as other students so I was asked to moderate. Now that the blog has come to the attention of international spammers moderation is essential. We probably have 1 real comment for every 9 spam ones. In spite of this I still believe comments are well worth the risk and work. We do let negative posts remain as it makes the conversation authentic. That means we also leave in typos. If comments are slanderous or hurtful we will delete them.

    • http://www.schneiderb.com Brendan Schneider

      Thanks for taking the time to comment @google-29f9414f27acf2a4a9753cad86a954d2:disqus and for sharing your insights. If you are using WordPress I would recommend the Akismet plugin which will help with spam.

  • LauraE

    We recently had someone respond negatively to a Facebook post on our school’s page. They called our event a possible scam. Thankfully, we had people respond for us, and we followed up with our reassurances as well. Instead of deleting the howler, we left it up because the responses ended up being great advertisement for the event!

    • http://www.schneiderb.com Brendan Schneider

      Thanks for sharing this great example @disqus_iWyEknOXHC:disqus!

  • http://twitter.com/jeremiahdbarba Jeremiah Barba

    Thanks for this, Brendan!

    • http://www.schneiderb.com Brendan Schneider

      You’re welcome Jeremiah! Thanks for planting the seed.

  • http://twitter.com/mmshepherds Sara Carter

    Unfortunately, my independent school has not yet figured out social media (or is in denial) and consequently, the community uses its own means of “howling,” often via Facebook.
    Recently a “howler” lit into a teacher after a play for the teacher’s “failure to teach diction and enunciation.” Sure enough, one by one, gentle reminders came in from the howler’s reader/friends (i.e. have you spoken with the teacher, are you aware how little time students are able to spend in the drama elective, outdated microphones, etc.) every single one in teacher/school defense. She deleted the post and reposted that we need to rally to purchase a new speaker system for the auditorium.
    I only wish my school would harness and use this power!

    • http://www.schneiderb.com Brendan Schneider

      Hi @twitter-15022214:disqus – thanks for sharing this great example of the power of social media and community. I hope your school will begin using social media — maybe they just need to follow your lead. :-)

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