Aligning Your Community Plan with Stakeholder Expectations
Cycles in business are normal. When COVID-19 first reared its ugly head, companies were forced to re-evaluate their in-person strategies. This quickly translated, for many companies, to seek community programs as a panacea. Companies who had never considered online spaces for their audiences now looked at ways to shift the way they did business suddenly.
However, we are now in a new phase, as COVID-19 is something we’re learning to live with, high inflation is rearing its ugly head, and the word recession is being thrown around. Dark clouds are on the horizon, especially for community folks, and what was until recently an urgent need, community programs are now being questioned. In some unfortunate cases, I’ve not only seen communities shut down but the community folks running them are forced to update their LinkedIn Status to “Open to Work.”
I know I can’t say the following is true in all cases, but in many cases, the culprit was something no one can control: Time. It takes time to build community and to see the value. You don’t build relationships overnight. However, I have noticed in many recent conversations that people are still over-indexed and focused solely on community members. Yes, building for your community members is essential, but it should not be your sole goal.
This is where the MVP Principle comes into play.
The Most Valuable People (MVP) Principle
It’s crucial for a community to focus on the folks in the community – what are their needs, wants and concerns. However, I still see a lot of plans neglecting a critical aspect: “What’s in it for your company stakeholders?” I have called this the Most Valuable People (MVP) principle.
I don’t know, but I assume some people think it’s distasteful to think about community in this way. The truth is your community plan needs to think about the following: How are you making your community an essential hub to solve business problems or have an impact on the company goals?
Maybe a better way to put it is this: “What practical impact will your community programs have to make your boss and your bosses look better?” If you are not thinking about “What’s in it for them”– in this case, your bosses – and telling them regularly, don’t be surprised when they decide the community is unnecessary.
Aligning your community with internal stakeholders is the key to avoiding the dreaded conversation; is the community worth it?
These are my best three tips to help you align your community with your business:
Break Silos & Build Your Internal Network
Just as you build connections in a community, and now especially because many of us are remote, you need to put in more effort to develop your internal network at the stakeholder level. You need to break down the internal silos in your organization and build a stronger network.
Ask for 15-30 minutes to understand what matters to each individual stakeholder – what are the things their boss cares about. Don’t sell them on community – or what you think it can do for them. You want to understand how a community can work for them.
Map Out Impact
Once you know the items that matter – now is the time to think about how you can have an impact. For example, if it’s new leads, are there community content programs you can consider attracting potential customers? What about a contest to showcase what people have built? An e-book with the best ideas from the community?
Don’t be shy to brainstorm ideas with your stakeholders. The programs you implement should have value for the community, of course, but they should also provide value for the stakeholder.
You can run test programs, and you should also ensure measurement of results is done before and after to see an impact. You should also be clear on timelines and milestones as best as you can. As I mentioned above, we cannot control time, but we can shape expectations.
Give Stakeholder Updates
This is likely the most important thing to do. You have met with stakeholders and built programs to assist with what they care about, but have they worked? Before you start sweating and think I am suggesting you need to produce a huge report and tons of graphs, please breathe. I think the most effective updates are short, clear, and visual. It should include the following in a very concise format:
- What happened? Was it good or bad compared to the past?
- What are the projections for the future (if any)?
- Will we modify, continue, or cancel our approach?
If possible, add one or two anecdotal stories from the community to highlight with the data. It should not be more than a couple of paragraphs – easily read in a couple of minutes.
I have seen the above approach used successfully countless times. If you execute this early and consistently, the people that matter most will know the value of your community work and will be less likely to question if this is something they can do without.
I hope breaking it down helps you. Please don’t delay in having these critical conversations. If and when there is a recession, you want to be ready by having a solid program and story.
If you have any other tips you’ve found helpful, don’t be shy to share them in the comments!
Learn more about measuring community KPIs in our webinar with Carrie Melissa Jones here!