Much like we saw at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many brands are currently demonstrating a natural reflex to avoid any and all content related to the war in Ukraine. 

Their concern makes complete sense—no company wants to be associated with what their audiences might deem negative or disturbing content. But the thing with ongoing news stories like the pandemic, its related supply chain issues, and the war is that they are, well, ongoing. There is no telling when these events will stop being permanent fixtures in the news media. And much like a brand can’t and shouldn’t stop advertising during current events like these, publications also shouldn’t disable their comments sections in an attempt to avoid discussion on these topics.

There are numerous examples showing that brands that continue (and publishers that continue allowing) advertising, launching products and communicating with their audiences during times of crisis or economic disruption can actually grow revenue and market share. The key for publishers is to be focused and nuanced in the type of content they share, the ads they allow, and the conversations permitted in the comments section instead of blocking dialogue related to these sensitive topics altogether. Users are always seeking important information and ways to help during times of crisis. Here are a few tips to create and execute the right strategy so you keep both your community and advertisers thriving and safe. 

Moderate comment keywords

As we shared in a recent blog post, brands can activate moderation rules that automate actions for certain comments and users based on different triggers. As part of this feature, you can define restricted words that can result in a comment getting flagged for review, deleted, or marked as spam. Choosing to avoid certain words while allowing others related to a specific news event can go a long way towards ensuring comments are brand-suitable. 

Pre-moderate new users 

Registered users carry many benefits. You can collect more first-party data on them to future-proof your post-third-party cookie strategy, offer them perks such as badges and also trust that they are more loyal and likely safer than a lurker or guest user. You can encourage these registered users to come back again and again with single sign-on integration that makes both registration and login super easy. You also get to retain complete control over your user data for added security. 

Using pre-moderation settings, you can also keep an eye on new commenters by automatically requiring comment approval for a certain time frame you select. Just like not completely avoiding comments containing words related to various sensitive news events, this capability means you don’t need to take an all-or-nothing approach to user moderation. You can also restrict any user with a low reputation score or who has been flagged at least five times for previous inappropriate comments. 

Promote recommended content 

What publishers have discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic is that people crave high-quality, informative news. As world issues continue, citizens want to remain informed and also understand how they can help certain populations in need, whether it be nurses on the frontlines of COVID or organizations collecting donations for Afghani or Ukrainian refugees. 

Previously known as Discovery, our Recommendations tool helps publishers boost their site traffic and time spent per unique view. Our proprietary engine looks for discussions within your site and displays the ones with recent activity. You can select a certain time frame of articles to be displayed to keep the conversation centered on the most recent, relevant topics.

Bottom line—you can engage your audiences in a brand-suitable way during times of serious world events... as long as you're thoughtful in your approach and execution. Try out these tips and let us know if they’ve helped you boost traffic, engagement and conversation.