Positive priming in warning messages


(Sarah Hawk) #1

Rich talks a lot about negative priming and I’ve realised that it’s something that I do quite frequently without realising it.

I removed a post yesterday and in contacting the person to let them know, I titled my message “Post removal – sorry!” and started the message with “I hate to have to say this, but I’ve removed your latest post.” I then proceeded to explain our self-promo policy.

Not great.

I should have said something along the lines of “I’ve really been enjoying your contributions. Your latest post was interesting – it would be hugely valuable for the community if you’d include your thoughts directly in your responses to questions, rather than linking straight to your blog.”

How do you word your warning messages?


(Priscilla McClay) #2

Working on cancer support and end of life communities, I always try to acknowledge that members are going through a difficult time, and that I understand this could be behind their behaviour. If there is an implication that they might have acted out of character, it hopefully feels a bit less personal.

There’s a balance to strike in trying to avoid “negative priming”, while still being clear about what is and isn’t acceptable. I still try to be really specific about why the post has been removed - linking back to the page with the community guidelines and explaining in an objective-sounding way why the post was against these.

Hopefully this also helps to show that moderation is fair and not just based on my whims!


(Steve Bridger) #3

Consistency is the key :smile:


(Richard Millington) #4

Really love this approach. Very positive and doesn’t force the subject to agree they did something wrong.


(Sarah Hawk) #5

I like that.


(Graham Perrin) #6

Yes, yes, yes, yes yes.

Once, long ago, I was moderated for doing what the moderator had previously asked everyone to do.

When I did what was required: I was scolded, the post was removed and the moderator proceeded to publicly encourage what he had previously discouraged.

The scolding was not cruel – there was an underlying shared wish for things to be better, and I understood that his self-contradiction was a heat-of-the moment thing, but essentially:

  • the positivity with which the moderation was delivered was outweighed by the negativity of inconsistency

– I no longer knew how to please that person.

It happened just once, but (given past experiences, with other people) it was enough to drive me quietly away.


(Sarah Hawk) #7

It also gets tricky in communities where there are large moderation teams. People interpret rules and guidelines in different way and have different levels of tolerance.

I think that’s where the careful use of language comes in extremely important.


(Mark Williams) #8

This is when it’s important to have a review process. We did that in a previous employer. The manager would look at trends and do random, but very regular (multiple per week) audits of actions taken by the team. Making sure everyone was on a similar enough page helped lessen that sense of capriciousness that moderation teams can introduce.


(Sarah Hawk) #9

I totally agree.

It can get interesting though. For instance I’m aware that I tend to be pretty loose with rules (both in my following of them and my enforcing of them) because I like to give people the opportunity to express themselves and to earn respect. As a result I need ‘enforcers’ (not in this community but in the past when I’ve managed teams).

Across a team that adds balance but it can mean that members are sometimes surprised by what feels like inconsistency.

How do you think that should be handled?


(Mark Williams) #10

Acknowledgement and apology with a reasonable way to respond to messages. This assumes we are not talking ‘spam’ and are talking ‘the hard parts/the grey areas’. The mods also used a chat room to discuss (and you were encouraged to do so) and potentially vote on those types of posts.

We also did some ‘coaching without punishment’ aka “We’re going to leave this one in place, but watch it in the future because of x.y.z.” Most of the time that worked.


(Linda Missal) #11

This is all super helpful! We’re considering centralizing and growing our moderation team, and it might be my responsibility to come up with the “rulebook” or at least guidelines for what stays and gets removed.

@mdfw I really like this idea of having a place to chat about these issues and hold a vote. I may borrow that :wink:

@HAWK when I have to remove someone’s post, I always try to positively prime them. Especially if it’s their first post or they have recently joined. I like to include a “thank you for contributing” note, and depending on how egregious the community violation is, I often leave the post up and simply ask them to edit it.

I also find it’s important to reduce the friction for them to take an action to rectify the situation. In my case, that usually means including suggested language and a direct link to their post.

Here’s a recent example from Townsquared:

Hi NAME, hope you’re doing well.

Thanks so much for your recent Townsquared post - it’s been getting a lot of interest and action from other members! Hope that’s been helpful to you as well :slight_smile:

One request I had about the post: Since promotional posts and advertisements are not allowed on Townsquared, I was wondering if you would mind editing your post a bit so that no one will misread it as an ad?

Perhaps something more like: “If any other brokers out there have clients looks for short-term leases, I’d be happy to work with you, also for any other business people who might have clients or customers looking for short-term, get in touch!”

Of course, you should use your own voice/wording, but I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind taking a minute to adjust it more to what the Townsquared community was built for: collaboration and working together.

Thanks much! Here’s a link to your post in case that’s helpful: https://townsquared.com/feed/59555ed8a428ad49088aa9ba You can edit by clicking the small down arrow in the top right corner and clicking “Edit.”

Best,
Linda