Editors around the world know this oddity. Brands that feature in an online publication – for whatever reason – sometimes jump through hoops to get a presence on those pages, yet they can usually do so easily and for free.
Brands will work through PR agencies (when speaking to editorial departments) and media agencies (when speaking to sales guys) to get a quotation or column or blog or thought-leadership piece placed.
But there is usually a cheaper, simpler alternative – using the Reader Comments (RCs) section at the bottom of stories.
Why is this seldom done?
1. Quality – It just doesn’t look that good. Compare it to a bylined column or video, usually featuring specific links and a pretty mugshot of an exec and you can see the difference.
2. Reader comments – The clue is in the name? They are only for readers, right?
3. Checks and balances – The mere process of getting in a publication takes some time and will be overseen by a number of people. It makes for a controlled, appropriate message.
4. Habit – The above routes – through PR and marketing – are the way this has been done for years. So what if RCs have been around for over a decade. No one got rewarded for up tipping the apple cart.
Or did they?
While those reasons might appear sound, there are reasons to think use of site sections such as RCs as increasingly useful, especially in a world where brands are increasingly acting through social media.
In fact commenting platforms such as Disqus are inherently more social than old, proprietary RC systems. If a brand responds to something on social media, why not underneath an article or post? It does happen, just not as much as many of us might imagine.
There is also the whole matter of authenticity. A brand that can jump on a story or another RC, politely, concisely and fast has an advantage over anyone who takes an age to muster a reply. If they ever do.
And the elephant in the room? The whole native advertising movement – applied to more traditional publishers than the likes of Facebook or Twitter – is about playing in the same waters as journalists and editors. Might this make the RC route more common? Some would say it’ll have the opposite effect.
While we are optimistic about the opportunities for native advertising on all sides – for brands, publications and their readers – it often won’t come cheap. RCs aren’t the right route for brands in most cases. But they are overlooked way too often by those who either don’t understand the environment or are afraid.
*photo credit: Vaneeesa via photopin cc
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