Another mind-bomb from the desk of Chris Brogan concerns Comment policies for corporations. Its a solid piece of experience and sharing – comments aren’t scary, users aren’t all looking to “dis” you, but you have to plan and have principles and rules to follow.
You might say, “let the chips fall where they may.” But the thing is this: the audience who’s chosen to engage with the blog isn’t there with carte blanche to do what they wish. This is a chosen engagement. This is a relationship point. It’s NOT the right place for every interaction with an organization. It’s a place.
Before moderation and defining which (sometimes poor) soul is going to have to read all the comments, a discussion around what is and is not acceptable needs to happen within the corp and between the corp and its agencies. Legal needs to be brought in EARLY AND OFTEN to give them context for the who/what/when/why and most importantly HOW of comments. Getting the legal team and the PR team and the Marketing kids all on the same page is critical. The Corporation has to identify where the “third rails” are: what opening up conversations actually means to the people who work there (morale is a currency), the industry press (comments can be valuable as well as fodder), and the users who will never comment, but who will read EACH AND EVERY ONE.
Once the context around comments is set, once legal completely understands and appreciates and is engaged (continuously, not consulted and then ignored), and the communications twins (Marketing and PR) are on-board, then you can set the rules and principles. Rules are hard and fast – no cussing, no racist stuff, no lies. Principles are guidelines that for keeping things moving and flowing: act like an adult, this is OUR space not YOUR space, don’t post in all-caps, Funny is better than funny and mean, let the thread die.
Part of this Rules/Principles exercise is to set what the community standards are for the space. This is what we will not allow. Everything else, these are the guidelines and standards of behavior.
The result of this needs to be the “rules of the sandbox” – for moderators AND the users. And it needs to be made clear to the users that comment, clear to the users that are old members of the community and CLEAR TO THE MODERATORS. And not in a EULA or TOS that will be checkboxed and ignored, but in some way that the users SEE what you BELIEVE. This sets the levels for all users of the commenting system. Keeps it clean and aboveboard, and most of all, lets users know where they stand, what will be permitted and why things are/were removed.
So turn comments on, moderate them, but first, clearly define your rules and principles, live by them, and apply them consistently.
The users (all of them) will appreciate it.