Why It’s Harmful to Label Community and Community Pros as Underdogs
If you were designing a curriculum to teach undergrads about community management, what would you cover? Georgina Donahue’s approach in designing such a curriculum for a course at the University of Massachusetts was grounded not only in her experience as a community professional but also in her understanding that as a professor, she was instructing a community of students getting ready to enter the workforce. “Think about the experience of … an undergraduate right now. … How do you really use that course to make your students ready for the workforce and appealing to a hiring manager?”
Similar to designing a curriculum, think of the different strengths that your colleagues bring to your community team and efforts. What are the career trajectories that speak to their strengths, interests, and your community’s needs? Patrick and Georgina discuss two potential roles, community data analyst and community platform architect, that we may start to see more as community teams scale. While community professionals are often tasked with wearing many hats (and can excel while doing so), as our profession matures, the opportunities ahead will offer continued growth, potential for specialization, and more focused roles to serve our communities and community teams.
Georgina and Patrick discuss:
- The curriculum of Georgina’s community management course at UMass Lowell
- Community paths outside of management for community pros
- Why you get lifetime access to the Pragmatic Alumni Community after taking a course at Pragmatic Institute
- Why you’re doing yourself a disservice if you label community as an underdog
Our Podcast is Made Possible By…
If you enjoy our show, please know that it’s only possible with the generous support of our sponsor: Vanilla, a one-stop shop for online community.
During the show, at the 5:35 mark, Patrick asks a question predicated on the Pragmatic Institute moving from charging an annual fee to charging a one-time fee. After release, Georgina clarified that the fee was no longer being charged at the time of recording. Membership in the community is simply bundled with courses.
Designing a community management curriculum for undergrads (01:18): “Think about the experience of what it’s like to be an undergraduate right now. Think about being a senior in college. … How do you help them compete against the oxymoron of this is your first job, it’s entry-level, but we also expect you to have X number of years of experience? How do you use that course to make your students ready for the workforce and appealing to a hiring manager?” –Georgina Donahue
The importance of community during the pandemic (06:50): “We made the decision [to drop our membership fee, and bundle community with the cost of our courses because] not only were people more in need of a space to be with their cohort, their fellow alumni, more than ever, but this was not the time to charge people for it. [The pandemic] was the time to really have their back, create a lifetime relationship, and make sure that we were creating the largest access possible and establishing a culture of trust, support, and dynamic lifetime learning.” –Georgina Donahue
Where do community underdog narratives come from? (14:31): “I do think narratives [about community being the underdog] sometimes come from people who want to profit from us as community pros. Some resources that sell services to us have a vested interest in being holders of the answers.” –@patrickokeefe
Don’t sell yourself short by telling everyone that you’re an “underdog” (18:09): “If you’ve got the opportunity to be the expert voice on community in an organization [where] they don’t really know that much about it, and you’re the one that gets to pave that new path, why would you poison your own well by telling a single soul that community’s an underdog? Or that community is often misunderstood or undervalued? Tell your own self-fulfilling prophecy and really, really lean hard on the strategic value at a leadership level.” –Georgina Donahue
The person leading the community team doesn’t need to be the one responsible for community tech (26:24): “Frankly, I don’t want the person that is leading my community team to be the same person that is like, ‘I just completely overhauled and structured our community platform.’ Those are two different spaces, and if we don’t find a way to support the hands-on individual contributor expertise, we’re really going to lose out because we’re going to disincentivize anyone from developing that deep knowledge.” –Georgina Donahue
What could a community business analyst do? (28:33): “I see a community business analyst as somebody that would be able to look at a bird’s-eye view [of the community] and be able to prioritize and say, what is serving us today? What could we remove off the [team’s] plate? What is the biggest add?” –Georgina Donahue
About Georgina Donahue
|Georgina Donahue is a strategic community leader with a knack for using community to amplify organizational objectives, an aptitude for internal evangelism, and a passion for deep community member engagement. She currently runs the Pragmatic Alumni Community a community of practice for product managers at Pragmatic Institute and spends a lot of time thinking about how businesses can deliver human authenticity to their customers online.|
- Sponsor: Vanilla, a one-stop-shop for online community
- Georgina Donahue on LinkedIn
- Pragmatic Institute
- The Pragmatic Alumni Community
- Samuel Hulick on Community Signal
- Samuel’s Super Mario graphic
- Chris Brogan on Community Signal
[00:00:04] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Sponsored by Vanilla, a one-stop-shop for online community. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:25] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello, and thank you for listening to Community Signal. On this episode, we’re talking with Georgina Donahue of Pragmatic Institute about why community pros aren’t underdogs, the career path for community pros who don’t want to manage people, and developing college courses for community management. Thank you to our Patreon supporters, including Jules Standen, Rachel Medanic, and Serena Snoad for their continued support. If you’d like to join them, please check out communitysignal.com/innercircle.
Georgina Donahue is the director of community for the Pragmatic Institute where she runs the Pragmatic Alumni Community, a community of practice for product managers. Georgina, welcome to the show.
[00:00:59] Georgina Donahue: Thank you very much, happy to join you.
[00:01:01] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s good to have you on. You put together a college course covering online community management that you taught at your alma mater of the University of Massachusetts Lowell. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to develop a community management course for a school?
[00:01:14] Georgina Donahue: Oh, great question. I would advise them to really think about the experience of your average undergraduate. I say that because that’s what I taught, not to say that you couldn’t have a community management course in a graduate-level program. I would really think about the experience of what it’s like to be an undergraduate right now. Think about being a senior in college. Speaking in generalizations, that age range is at the beginning of their career really trying to enter into it.
This is an incredibly daunting time for someone to come out of academia and move into the workforce. I would think about really practical, really tactical, how do you help them compete against the oxymoron of this is your first job, it’s entry-level, but we also expect you to have X number of years of experience. How do you really use that course to make your students ready for the workforce and really appealing to a hiring manager?
[00:02:21] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s really interesting. Yes, there are a lot of job posts out there that are, obviously, entry-level, sounding, or at least, entry-level in pay [giggles] but do want experience. It’s a weird, double-edged sword of having jobs that a lot of people do think of as entry-level still, but also jobs that tend to require some responsibility. One way that you can get around that, I guess, is having students start communities, right? Having them start their own community as a practice within that scope of study?
[00:02:54] Georgina Donahue: Yes, I think so. The way that I structured my course was with one cumulative project that progressed across the course of the semester. I would have them develop a strategy brief. Then the final presentation was a pitch to investors, either, pick a company, make a company up, think about it. I really focus on communities and how communities can support for-profit organizations. Let’s think about this from a business sense, what is the value to the organization?
What is the shared purpose between that business and the potential members? Can you put together an onboarding plan for me? Can you put together an engagement program for me? Can you make a high-level assessment of what platform you might use to do it? These were the projects that I gave students along the way in the semester. Then the final presentation, I would try to invite other community thought leaders from the space that were local to come sit in and be the judge of hearing this presentation and having my students say, “Hey, make believe C-suite. We need some budget, here’s my proposal to you.”
[00:04:08] Patrick O’Keefe: Sounds like a lot of fun, honestly.
[00:04:10] Georgina Donahue: It was.
[00:04:11] Patrick O’Keefe: I’m sure it’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun. What was the interest like from students?
[00:04:16] Georgina Donahue: It was really high. We did just have a ton of fun. I taught four different cohorts. I’ve actually moved in the last year, I moved from Massachusetts to Maine, so I’m not able to do it anymore right in time with all the classes going online anyways, but transitioned there. Before that, the students had a really high level of interest. I hear from my students all the time, reaching out to me and saying, “Hey, I am thinking about applying to this community management job. Can you take a look at it? Would you look at my resume? I think I’d really like to move into this as a career.”
I’ve had a lot of people say that to me. One of my previous students started working for a peer of mine in the space. He started working at Analog Devices. Actually, one of my previous students is on my team at Pragmatic right now. He actually just joined about two months ago. He was from my first cohort of students, was working in the traditional and non-profit community-building space for a number of years, and then wanted to come to online community. He just joined my team a couple of months ago.
[00:05:30] Patrick O’Keefe: Nice. Well, at least you know where part of his education came from. [chuckles]
[00:05:34] Georgina Donahue: Totally.
[00:05:35] Patrick O’Keefe: Speaking of Pragmatic, if someone takes a course with Pragmatic Institute, they receive lifetime access to the Pragmatic Alumni Community. If they don’t want to take a course, they can pay $495 and get a lifetime membership. Initially, it was a one-year community membership for people who had taken a course or $495 for one year. Why did you make that shift?
[Correction: After release, Georgina clarified that the one-time fee was no longer being charged at the time of recording. Membership in the community is simply bundled with courses.]
[00:05:55] Georgina Donahue: I’ll jump in before I start answering the question, there have been a number of shifts there and we launched the community April 2020. Really right in the peak of both confusion and fear around the pandemic, but also, just this really intense need for camaraderie and support and human connection. The best-laid plans of mice and men. We launched this, the whole world goes a little topsy turvy on us.
We looked at the market, Pragmatic is all about really, really listening to your market and knowing exactly what those market problems are. It’s one of the reasons why I chose to work at this organization, because I feel that they are really just so community-oriented at their core. It’s exactly what a community manager does. It’s exactly what community leaders are so focused on. We made the decision that not only were people more in need of a space to be with their cohort, their fellow alumni, more than ever, but this was not the time to charge people for it.
This was the time to really have their back and create a lifetime relationship and make sure that we were creating the largest access possible and really establishing a culture of trust and support and dynamic lifetime learning. We decided to make that shift and make that change. The Pragmatic Alumni Community, we call it the PAC, affectionately, the PAC really became fully intertwined with our core product offering. It is alumni only. There is no way to get in, paid or not, if you’re not an alumni. The learning journey starts with at least one course with us. Then from there, you train with us once you’re an alumni for life and we really feel that strongly. We made these strategic changes to really back that up.
[00:07:54] Patrick O’Keefe: When you say it’s promoted to the core offering, what does that mean to you?
[00:07:58] Georgina Donahue: I think that there’s a larger fundamental shift that we made from a strategic perspective of how do you approach adult learning and what does that look like? We’re not a training company. We’re really deeply committed to being an education partner. When you sign up for a course with us, we could just send you to a class and be like, “You took your class, see you later.” As adult education becomes so much more subtle and advanced and nuanced and modern, we’re really thinking about it from a different perspective. How do you make that learning comprehensive?
When you take a training with us, yes, we send you to exceptional training, live training with an in-person instructor who’s on the other side of either the table or the conference room or Zoom these days. Then also, we have weekly office hours with all of our instructors. It’s not like once you finish the class, you never get to see them again. You have a lifetime membership to the alumni community where you can get real-world examples of how to apply what you learned in training. We have a huge, oh my gosh, our library is enormous of all of the tools and templates, all of the course materials. We’re really thinking about it as how do we support a really dynamic multifaceted person as a learner that’s on a lifetime journey, and the community is really a core part of that.
[00:09:33] Patrick O’Keefe: I assume people who are in the alumni community probably spend more on continuing education through events, courses, and other programs?
[00:09:41] Georgina Donahue: Yes, definitely. When you have a more long-term relationship with your customer, higher degree of trust in the culture and connection, I also see a lot of team leaders. A lot of my community members are directors and VPs and community membership generally leads to them training their entire team.
[00:10:02] Patrick O’Keefe: Makes a lot of sense. Let’s take a moment to talk about our generous sponsor, Vanilla.
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Before the show, you told me how you wish that “community professionals would stop telling themselves and others that we are underdogs.” This is you. “I have heard the same narrative for six to seven years that no one understands our work. It’s bunk. They do, community is having its moment in the sun and has been for 24 plus months now. It only does harm to the industry and other professionals to perpetuate this idea that somehow community is getting a raw deal or as misunderstood. The stories we tell about ourselves are the ones that come true. I would like for that narrative to stop.” Let’s talk about it. Where do you think those narratives come from?
[00:11:13] Georgina Donahue: I think they used to be true. I think that at their core, community professionals, they’re not the lead singers. They’re not the lead guitarists. They’re the stage managers. They’re the ones that are making their members shine, which to me is also in order to have a successful community leader who really understands that and can really be a facilitator instead of a shiny rock star. It necessitates an ability to have mastery of your ego, which also means that community folks can tend to be pretty modest.
I think that sometimes they have a hard time recognizing and singing their own accomplishments and their own praises. All of this is a domino effect too. I think that community was an underdog for a while. I think everyone was like, “Oh, what’s this new age mumbo jumbo. I don’t think this has real business value. I don’t think this has a real organizational impact. How are you measuring your ROI after all?”
Those are all questions that I think were really appropriate maybe eight, six years ago. These days there are very robust and very legitimate and data-backed answers to all of those questions. I think that the narrative and the self-talk and the self-confidence of a lot of community people has lagged behind the advances that the community industry has made as a discipline and as a strategic player inside an organization.
[00:12:53] Patrick O’Keefe: Here’s the hook. I think there’s truth to all of that. I think that the metrics question; me when I see people struggling with metrics, I sometimes think they just work for someone who doesn’t really value their work, just doesn’t like it, or doesn’t see the value in it, or wants to spend that money on something else. Because of that, applies some unreasonable expectation to something or just demands more than they do from other departments, sort of the limitations of humans.
I think that there are answers to these questions. There is data that we can look at. There are things that we can tie together. I’ve gone to companies where they were community-minded, and I don’t know why I’m doing air quotes for a podcast, but they were community-minded and they had no analytics. I got there, I installed the analytics. I created the systems. How much are members doing in these spaces, how much are members who do those things giving us in revenue and how much more is that than everyone else and so on and so forth.
I had all this data and it was all nice and it all made sense, but they just wanted to spend money elsewhere. It’s easy to confuse that sometimes for not having any answers or to think that it’s something wrong with you where, sometimes it’s just better to move on to greener pastures where there’s other opportunities. There are other opportunities out there now more than ever, and having sort of the perspective of a long view, since I’ve been moderating since ’98 and building communities since like 2000 myself, it is a good time. Things have gotten better over time. I don’t think anything’s ever going to be 100% where we want it to be, but that’s the continual pursuit of better opportunities for everyone.
I do think these narratives sometimes come from people who want to profit from us as community pros. I do think some resources that sell services to us have a vested interest in being holders of the answers. There’s that notion sometimes where it’s marketing in a sense, if you think you’ve got it all pretty much figured out, then why would you pay someone for the answers? I think some folks do play off that in this space. I don’t know.
It’s manipulation to some extent, but it’s definitely like a profit-driven motive. That’s why it’s good to have an array of people that you listen to and to diversify the resources that you listen to, the people in your circle, the work that they do. If you get different perspectives, you’ll probably be exposed to other things that’ll make you question how tough it is, or how hard it is or how much of an underdog you are in your unique situation.
[00:15:27] Georgina Donahue: Yes. I think that that definitely can be true in terms of the vendors. I also think that you can end up in a bad job that just doesn’t understand the best practices of its discipline or its industry, no matter what department or organization you work in. You can end up in a job in marketing that is just not great. You can be on a product team that’s a little bit cruddy and just doesn’t follow the best practices, and yeah, then it’s time to just throw in the towel and get a new job. Especially if you require investment and they refuse to give you the resources you need. I think that’s present.
What I have seen really change in the landscape is a real increase in the valuation of community-centric approaches and community-based values at a larger organization. I have gotten to the point now where when I first started working with community, 99% of the conversations I had about community started with, “So a community is a place where you could potentially so on and so on.”
Now that’s really only happens about half the time. Half the time people I’m talking to already know what a community is. They’re familiar with it. They’re a member of one. Their business has used one for something, they’ve been part of an internal community, what have you. I think what we’re seeing now and what I have really witnessed become pretty prominent is organizational leaders, executive teams, and senior leaders become aware of the intrinsic value of community.
They still don’t know the nitty-gritty details of how to actually bring that to life and make it happen. It’s not this giant uphill clawing battle to just convince people, “Hey, I’m going to tell you about something you’ve never heard of in your life. Then I’m going to convince you to give me a giant bag of cash to go start one of these bad boys and knock it out of the park, I swear.” Now it’s more like, “Hey, have you considered a community initiative?”
Yes, I have talked about that the group of CEOs that I talked to half of them are already running community programs telling me how we can make that successful. That’s the real narrative shift I have seen. It creates the opportunity for us as community leaders to come into organizations that have this willingness to explore and support community programs and say, “Look, here is how this strategically aligns with your top-line business goals. Here’s how that we can really plug this program into your other organizations, your other departments.”
I’ll wrap up my soapbox from my original quote by saying, if you’ve got the opportunity to be the expert voice on community in an organization, they don’t really know that much about it, and you’re the one that gets to pave that new path, why would you poison your own well by telling a single soul that community’s an underdog? Or the community is often misunderstood or undervalued? Tell your own self-fulfilling prophecy and really, really lean hard on the strategic value at a leadership level.
[00:18:41] Patrick O’Keefe: Do you think that’s the ultimate harm of this narrative? Is that it sets the individual professional back in pursuing their goals and building their career?
[00:18:52] Georgina Donahue: I think it certainly can. I think the biggest harm is just the missed opportunity. If you’ve got potential members out there that are like, “Man, I love this brand and they just never listen to my feedback.” Like, “Man, I love every single one of the products they sell, but they just don’t care about what I have to say or what I think.” That’s a huge missed opportunity for your business.
Or if you’ve got a giant organization with a bajillion employees and you’re like, there’s got to be someone else in this company that has the answer to this question I’m working on right now. You don’t have a community for that, that’s a missed opportunity. At a high level, there is just someone that loves efficiency and loves seeing clunky systems improved. For me, that’s the biggest loss. Yes, of course, it has really strong implications for the individual as well that’s operating within that larger industry or discipline.
[00:19:52] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes. I want to draw out one thing you’ve said that I find good to keep in mind is, you mentioned marketing and product and how people who work in those spaces can have the same challenges that someone who might feel like community is an underdog would have. I think that we are just another job at some point. When I do hear people talk about things and sometimes I agree that there are unique challenges to community certainly, but in general, we have problems like any other profession has.
That could include more established professions with more people in them like marketing, but they have those problems too. It helps you when you come into these companies, when you’re talking about this thing, when you’re interviewing for a job or pitching them on something, to assume it’s not something they’ve never seen before. Instead of explaining community and explaining exactly what community means, or why it’s an underdog or why it’s this, focus on the result that community will bring them.
When I talk to B2B companies, subscription-based companies, I don’t talk to them about what they would use as a piece of software or how I define the word community, I focus on, you bring people together, you track what those people do. What we find generally is that in a subscription-based business, people in the community will generally have a higher lifetime value of the customer.
Then we’ll track that data and note the revenue difference and that’s extra profitability. We’ll increase customer loyalty and retention through this new product. You can get into more detail than that, but it’s the result. Samuel Hulick who runs a great website useronboard.com, and has been on this show before, has this graphic that gets passed around a lot, but he came up with it, where he has Mario like Super Mario, Mario and that’s the person who is your potential customer. Then he has the fire flower from Mario Brothers, that’s your product. That’s maybe what you think you’re selling but what you’re really selling is the combination of those two things. When Mario touches the flower, he becomes Fire Mario. He can shoot fireballs.
[00:21:46] Georgina Donahue: [chuckles]
[00:21:47] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s the great thing you’re selling. The person who, like with Pragmatic, you’re not selling like, “This is a course.” You’re selling them on the person they will be, the professional they will be after they take the course and what opportunities they will have after that point. When you talk about community, assume they have some knowledge and talk about what it will bring them.
If they don’t have that knowledge, they’ll probably be inquisitive. They’ll ask questions, and then you are the expert again. You can then answer those questions and go back to those basic one-on-one things if you need to, but you often don’t have a lot of time. This is just something that came up today. We had Chris Brogan on the show a while back, and he mentioned how he thought Spiderman Homecoming was the best Spiderman ever, because it skipped the origin story.
The same origin story that’s been in every Spiderman movie that we’ve known forever and it just got right to the movie. I think that’s an interesting thing to consider here when we think we’re introducing community to an employer or to a company.
[00:22:37] Georgina Donahue: I think that’s a fantastic thought and I think it would be a really effective strategy. I’d love to hear from anybody who has gone at it with that kind of approach and mindset and hear how it’s gone. Think about building community anywhere. Think about making a friend, any type of community.
The best way to make a new pal is to offer them something. Maybe it’s a compliment. Maybe it’s access something. Maybe it’s just a smile, but the same holds true for an organization. If you’re coming in as a new community leader and a new community expert in an organization and you show up and you’re like, “Hey, sales team. You need a stable of customer references to call. I can help you with that.” “Hey, product team, are you looking for participants to fill your beta program with? No problem.”
“Hey marketing, I heard that you’re really into brand loyalty. That’s kind of my jam. I can definitely make that happen for you.” Or, “Customer support, we’ve got you covered on case deflection. Let’s talk about how we can make that happen for you.” If you come in, you’re in a really strong position. If you can show people how you can deliver all of those priorities and support their goals, you’re going to be a fan-favorite right away.
[00:23:54] Patrick O’Keefe: Another topic you brought up before the show that I found really interesting was about community career advancement without having to become a VP or higher. These are your words, “What about those who don’t want to manage people? What about those who don’t want to give presentations to the board of directors? How can we as an industry create space for deep expertise in a hands-on capacity?”
I find this really interesting because I’ve managed people and it probably sounds like you have too who were great at the work, who understood the work very well, who deserved recognition, wanted some level of advancement and certainly could earn it or did deserve it, but they didn’t necessarily want to manage people or that wasn’t their strong suit.
It can be a tough path for those folks because it will often tap out at some level of community manager, maybe senior community manager. Then when you get higher than that, there are directors who are single-team contributors, certainly but at that level you tend to start to be expected to manage teams. That advancement opportunity is really fascinating to me. What do you think that looks like?
[00:24:55] Georgina Donahue: I think that that looks like some of the titles and roles that we don’t see very commonly and that are not necessarily standard or recognizable to HR organizations, which poses its own challenges of kind of organizational hierarchy and pay and promotion levels and things like that. There are definitely more challenges there, but to me, those expert roles look like community business analysts. They look like community platform architects, and I think those roles do exist out there today, but they’re just not as common.
The real trick of that is that you do need quite a large community ecosystem or team to support a role like that. Because if you’ve got a team of two people, you’re going to have to be definitely more generalists than if you are on a team of 25 and you can really, really start to specialize and hone in on that. I think that one thing, I think it’s especially true in the States, in the US, is that there is definitely a valuation and a connotation of value or success placed on those more senior roles that include management or also strategy. I see that as well.
It prickles me a little bit, I find it a little bit curious and a little bit frustrating because I think that leadership and management is just such a unique skill set that has absolutely nothing to do with it. Frankly, I don’t want the person that is leading my community team to be the same person that is like, “Hey, I just completely overhauled and structured our community platform.” Those are two different spaces and if we don’t find a way to really support the hands-on individual contributor expertise, then we’re really going to lose out because we’re going to de-incentivize anyone from developing that deep knowledge.
When I think about supporting my team and I do have folks on my team that fit this kind of category, I really want to create space for exceptional knowledge and skill and continued professional development that happens within that individual contributor growth track.
[00:27:11] Patrick O’Keefe: Let’s live the dream for a second. Our community business analyst, community platform architect, what’s the high-level view? What do those two people do?
[00:27:19] Georgina Donahue: That’s a good question. I’m going to spitball with you here. When you’re thinking about an analyst from a business level, I think that not only having mastery of the community data of what is happening, what data is coming out of the community, but this is also a person who doesn’t define the community strategy, but has a really, really strong handle on what it is and where it’s trying to go and can use that data to really level up the narrative and tell the story about, “Hey, we’ve noticed strong correlations between A and B, and we know that B is part of supporting our core strategy. My recommendation for programming in the community next month is X, Y, Z, whatever.” To me, that’s really what a business analyst, that’s the value that they would bring.
I think anyone who’s been in a community role knows that there is this tension between, “All right, we got to run this bad boy on a day-to-day basis,” and, “Hey, let’s also think about all those hopes and dreams things and projects that we would love to do. All of those value-add opportunities.” I also see a business analyst as somebody that would be able to look at a bird’s-eye view and be able to prioritize those things and say, what is serving us today? What could we remove off the plate? What is the biggest add?
Everybody knows that when you’re renovating a house, it’s more valuable for your real estate to renovate a kitchen or a bathroom than it is to redo a bedroom. That’s how I think about the business analyst as well as being like, “Hey, you know what? Patios are cool, but if you want real value, let’s redo this ugly bathroom.”
[00:29:06] Patrick O’Keefe: I’ve manage teams of up to eight paid and I still haven’t had room for a data person or an analyst of any kind. What we see in a lot of these roles because I was a director in that role and probably should have been promoted, but that’s a different story. I was a director in that role is that the data was me and the platform architect, which we’ll get to that a second, probably was me too, but that is a trend with the roles that are director is that they change a little bit. Some of the tasks change, but what happens more than not is just addition to what is already a full calendar and these roles that are dedicated in some other way in some other teams just get sucked up and that’s how you become magical director. [laughs] Platform architect.
[00:29:52] Georgina Donahue: Yes, and I agree with you on the business analyst part. I do think that having a dedicated data person that is not always just like a science brain either, someone that can really cross that gap and speak the strategic language, but also be totally fluent in the data is really essential. Platform architect, that’s someone that not only has enormous technical skill with your platform, whatever platform you’ve chosen. Whether that is a big box piece of technology like a Salesforce, a Vanilla, Higher Logic, et cetera, or if it is something a little bit more homegrown, a number of Facebook groups or Slack channels or things like that.
Someone who has full mastery and control of those spaces. Somebody who is defining and documenting all of the SOPs that go along with running that kind of space. There might be some collaboration that’s involved there, that person is defining the work that others are then following and maintaining. I also think that the platform architect is your person who is saying, “This content library is a mess. Here’s my strategic thought about how we can interpret member needs and make this easier for them to access.”
“Hey, let’s put together a member taxonomy system. Our gamification strategy is really scattered right now, let’s tighten that baby up,” things like that. That’s how I think about the community platform architect. I think at a high level, if you’re going to make these roles available and accessible on your team, the most important thing is not to silo them. It seems counterintuitive because you have this person or this archetype of a person that’s like, “I just want to be a brainiac, I want to go really deep on this topic. I just want to be the ultimate subject matter expert on this particular topic.”
That’s great and that is possible but there’s a difference between, I want to be a highly respected expert, individual contributor and I want to be locked in a cave of data all the time. The really important part to make these rules successful, is they need to have tentacles, they need to have outreach. Your business analyst needs to understand storytelling, they need to understand the core community strategy. Your community platform architect, not only do they need to have a grasp on your actual vendor and your tool that you’re using, they need to understand the principles of member psychology, and how a taxonomy or a gamification system functions, et cetera.
[00:32:36] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, I love to hear about, talk about, interesting ways to expand community teams beyond just the normal hire another community manager and expect them to do all these things. I’d love to see more of it. I appreciate that you’re building a team out that way.
[00:32:53] Georgina Donahue: Yes, trying. We’re all trying. Right?
[00:32:56] Patrick O’Keefe: We are. Georgina, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for spending time with us today.
[00:33:00] Georgina Donahue: Yes, absolutely. Thank you very much for having me.
[00:33:03] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve been talking with Georgina Donahue, director of community at Pragmatic Institute. To connect with Georgina, check out her LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/georginacannie. That’s G-E-O-R-G-I-N-A C-A-N-N-I-E.
For the transcript from this episode plus highlights and links that we mentioned please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad and Carol Benovic-Bradley is our editorial lead. See you next time.
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