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.
Also published on Medium.