Yucky Comments Can Sometimes Be a Beautiful Thing

Posted on October 1, 2013 
Filed Under Crisis Management, Media Relations, Social Media

PR execs are not supposed to parrot the boss. At least on paper.

Despite the tremendous changes throughout the PR field, one thing remains a constant: The ability of PR managers to take an alternative (if not contrarian) view of the party line and say to the top brass, “That may not be the best idea.”

For C-level execs who understand the role of PR, getting a difference of opinion from PR reps about, say, a potential marketing strategy or crisis management plan can’t be underestimated. It prevents execs from operating in a parallel universe in which everything those execs say or do is considered gold, and the rest of his or her staff nod in agreement. Too many top executives live in splendid intellectual isolation.

The best types of comments posted on companies’ websites, social channels and other media vehicles are those that take the brand to task and offer legitimate criticism.

That’s why Google’s recently announced move to change how YouTube uploaders manage comments on their videos may not do PR pros any favors.

The new system, which last week began rolling out to a limited number of uploaders, “favors relevancy over recency and introduces enhanced moderation tools,” according to Cnet.

The moderation tools for uploaders and channel owners include the ability to review comments before they’re posted, blacklisting certain words and whitelisting specific commenters so their posts will always be approved, Cnet said.

For brands looking for some unvarnished truths about their products and services the new moderation tools could be akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Doesn’t social media foster enough conformity? Do we really need to inspire more? When I was in college a journalism professor told me that compliments are like kryptonite; they make you weak and prevent you from improving your writing or interviewing skills.

Same deal for PR folks. To get a better a sense of whether their campaigns (or YouTube videos) are resonating with the target audience they need to embrace all opinions, not least any vituperative comments that at the same time make valid points.

The vote here is to check out Google’s new moderation tools regarding YouTube, but be selective with them lest you end up whitewashing every last comment.

Sure, some comments posted online have all the charm of a dock strike. Sometimes I feel like taking a shower after reading the nastiest of them.

But cutting off communication, however unsettling, won’t do any good. It’ll just get you comments saying how wonderful your brand is. And how boring is that?

PR people are in the business of embracing communication, no matter how crude, not shutting it out.

Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1

 

 

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