The Leader of the Pack

Erica Kuhl
Feb 18 · 4 min read

Even though the Community industry has come a long way, there’s still a lot that is unknown. We are getting better at defining what makes a good Community Manager with characteristics and qualifications like: great listener, highly empathetic, skilled moderator, people focused, and strong collaborator. What we still haven’t quite nailed is what makes a good Senior Community Professional.

There’s a big difference especially if Community is one of your top business goals and you want real value outcomes. All too often I’m seeing people getting hired into senior roles with no experience or not the right experience. So I took to the Community crowd on this one to come up with answers to the question “what to look for when hiring a Senior Community Professional”. Here’s what the pros said:

According to Brian Oblinger, Senior Community Professional at DataRobot:

For Leaders/Strategists, experience is a primary factor. As a hiring manager I want to see that they’ve been around a while and have personally held and succeeded at many different types of roles broadly across all facets of community. There’s a lot more weight behind strategic/tactical recommendations when they can draw on experience and legitimately say “Here’s what I did, what I learned, and how that applies to our situation today.“

Business skills are key to a Community Strategist. A lot of people are great at community, but can’t translate that to success from a business perspective. Knowing how to talk to executives, gain acceptance, and tie in to business results is so important to success.

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A Community Senior Leader needs the following according to Jessica Hobbs, Senior Community Professional, Vyond:

Diverse community experience, both online and offline. Experience founding or establishing a community, both failed and successful ones. Experience with failure is important in leadership. Developed collaborative structures. Is someone who shares insights with others, doesn’t bogart information. Is a systems thinker.

Might have a background in sociology, therapy, or social work. Has the ability to think holistically about community members, i.e. they have a life beyond this community and how do I as a leader make the community something they want to take time out of their day to interact in. Has the ability to nurture people and can get their hands dirty.

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Francis Murphy, Senior Community Professional, Anaplan had this to say:

People tend to over index the experience with Community and of course this is important. But to succeed you need to have the right amount of business acumen and an ability to manage up in your organization. Selling the value of Community and aligning the appropriate strategy will only matter if that in turn is aligned to the strategic goals of the business.

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David Spinks founder CMX & VP Community, Bevy says a Community Leader must have a proven track record of:

  • Delivering business results
  • Scaling community programs and engagement
  • Growing and managing community teams
  • Ability to work cross-functionally with other business units

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Blake Ethridge, Senior Community Professional, DZone says Community Strategists need show proven success:

  • Making community part of a high-level strategy
  • With a community(s) in driving business outcomes
  • Taking customer and community experience to heart
  • Understanding that all community models are not the same. What type of community/model/framework they are used to working in or have operated in is key and does it apply to that specific business

You can see some common themes jump out from the experts such as business acumen, strategy focus, diverse background, and experience proving business value to leadership. I’m excited to even be having this conversation because it means we’re making change in the industry. To all you hiring managers out there, take note of these critical elements before bringing on a Senior Community Professional. Don’t settle for anything but the best because the best is out there, you just need to know what to look for!

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