By Ted McEnroe, The Community Roundtable
“What do you want for breakfast?” you ask your 4-year-old.
Answer A: “I don’t know.
Answer B: “Pie.” (Not a great answer at 7 a.m. – also “Candy.” Or “Mac and cheese.”)
Answer C: (Silence.)
Do that once and you realize that in order to get results, you need to limit choices.
“Do you want oatmeal or cereal for breakfast?”
Answer A: “Oatmeal.”
Answer B: “Cereal.”
Answer C: (Silence. I mean, hey, you’re still talking with a 4–year-old.)
There are lots of times in life when leaving the door too open with a question means you’re less likely to get a workable or appropriate answer – and all too often, no answer at all. One of those times is when you are engaging stakeholders in developing governance strategies for your community efforts.
Lauren Vargas, Head of Social Media and Community at Aetna knows this all too well, having made a career of developing governance systems for community efforts at a number of businesses. She has a number of recommendations for anyone taking on the challenge of engaging key stakeholders in developing community governance, not the least is to treat people like you would a 4-year-old – by smartly framing their options to give them the best opportunity to succeed.
“I’ve never had legal, compliance or HR tell me no because I have given them things they can easily adapt to,” she told us in interviews for The Community Manager Handbook: 20 Lessons from Community Superheroes. “They lend their expertise to that area and control it, but we manage their options.”
Framing good options, however, requires thorough preparation to understand stakeholders’ needs and their unique perspective on community before you draw up the possibilities. Lauren does informational sessions before beginning the community conversation, but still comes with an open mind and a determination to create a safe space for an honest exchange. Just as someone from legal or compliance may not understand your community approach, you may not fully appreciate their needs and concerns, either.
Another key – if you think these are one-and-done conversations, you’re making a big mistake. Regular contact keeps stakeholders engaged and builds trusting relationships that are critical in times of crisis. Make governance a regular part of the discussion, and work to create policies that are based on roles, not personalities.
But remember you are conversing with people, not robots, Lauren notes. “Don’t think it doesn’t help to bring cookies or ice cream into your legal or compliance team—they’re human, too.”
Want more insights into common community challenges from Lauren Vargas and 20 other experienced community professionals? Download the Community Manager Handbook: 20 Lessons from Community Superheroes now from The Community Roundtable.