The key word = serve

Posted on January 04, 2011 by Janet Coats

In my search for the perfect working definition of a community manager, I had settled on something like this:

A community manager is someone who actively monitors the conversations of a particular community, participates in those conversations to add context, facts and meaning, and engages with others who can add value to the dialogue.

Then my friend Loren Omoto, managing editor for interactive at Tampa Tribune/WFLA-TV, posted his thoughts about my post.  I’ve probably learned more about how to move journalism toward a posture of true engagement from Loren than from anyone else. And as usual, Loren cut to the heart of the issue and helped me think about how to define community management in a particularly useful way.

“Key word = serve,’’ Loren wrote. “Other good choices: Share, inhabit, connect with.’’

All of the sudden, my rather stilted working definition seemed, well, rather stilted.

If furthering a dialogue is the fundamental responsibility of a good community manager, then the fundamental characteristic of a good community manager should be an orientation toward service.

The idea of service can have the taint of dull obligation to it. It is a concept we often pay tribute to, but which can be extremely difficult to embody. The world is never short of people who want to lead, to influence, to bend and sway others to their point of view.  But the person or organization driven by a real desire to serve is rare indeed.

The person who wants to serve is focused on listening instead of speaking. She seeks to understand instead of to overwhelm. She looks for common ground and constructive solutions instead of seeking advantage. She recognizes that real progress moves a community forward instead of advancing an individual.

Add to that definition someone who is excited by the prospect of sharing in the search for knowledge, who wants to truly inhabit a community rather than observe it, a person who treasures building and strengthening the connections that can unite and advance people – and you are on your way to a much richer definition of what makes a good community manager.

And as I noted in my first post on this subject, that definition puts me in mind of another craft that should embody those very same qualities.

Bet you can’t guess which one.

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