Public Facing Moderation Plan

>> Listen to the audio version to find out additional commentary about the topics discussed in this post!

Download the MP3 file (12.3Mb, 25:28) – Get the show on iTunes!   FIR On Strategy with Andrea VascellariThis is part of a series of posts that explores the “Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework” , an operative guide that I created to plan, execute and manage online strategy programs more effectively and efficiently. Each of post of this series comes with an audio podcast in which you will find the audio version of the post with additional audio commentary about the discussed topics. The name of the podcast is “FIR On Strategy with Andrea Vascellari”. In this post/cast we explore public facing moderation plans at a strategic level as a way to oversee, monitor, and grow a community. We will explore community management at tactical level in an upcoming cast. Today we will understand  what a public facing moderation plan is, why it’s important, how an organization should be internally structured (who does what) and then I’ll share with you also an example of a great public facing moderation plan. 

What is it and why it’s important?

A public facing moderation plan, in the traditional sense, it’s a plan that helps us reviewing and manage the communication between the external community and the organization. Such interactions can take place on the organization’s online properties but also on published content related the organization. Why is it important for you to get involved? Whether you are and external consultant or an in-house strategist, this is the organization you are working with. It’s your organization and you need to get involved because you play an essential role in getting to decide the path that it will take. It’s thanks to good public facing moderation plans that you can develop and maintain a good on-topic and clean relationship with your community and stakeholders. Before deciding to open up and communicate with the public though, an organization must be properly structured internally. There are several models used by organizations to manage and moderate interactions with the public. It would be pointless and actually impossible to explore them all in this post/cast, also because then I’m sure you would find difficulties in applying such models to the specific needs of your organization. Case studies are great for benchmarking but they are not very useful on the strategy side because each organization is different. So, since I’m not a big fan of the “copy & paste” approach, with this post/cast I want to share with you a methodology that I use and that I’m sure you will find useful to setup your public moderation plans or to manage your existing ones. It’s all about these 4 fundamental questions that your organization should answer:

  • Who will respond on your organization’s behalf?
  • Do you differentiate this authorization for different teams and regions?
  • How will you monitor conversations about your organization on these channels?
  • How will you respond to stakeholders who communicate with your brand through these online channels?

Who will respond on your organization’s behalf?

The way organizations are internally structured changes a lot depending on the project and on the size of the organization. Here’s an example of how organizations generally set internal roles:

Internal Structure - Public Facing Moderation Plan

  • Community Managers: These managers are essentially the public face of an organization. Community managers interact with and become part of the community. They are personable, friendly and possess the ability to talk to anyone.
  • Community Supervisor: At times there are too many interactions (i.e. posts, conversations, etc.) coming in for community managers to be able to deal or read through all of them. It’s not always possible for them to be in all places at once. The community supervisors engage with the community, too, but their main role is to keep an eye on things. They lookout for what requires attention/priority, they flag it and then they pass it to community managers.
  • Community Director: They are usually good communicators with the ability to measure and effectively analyze interactions and communication dynamics. Community directors have outstanding organizational skills and they are usually capable of not be overwhelmed by constant streams of inquiries and issues. They manage community managers, supervisors and they report to the communication/social media manager.
  • Communication/Social Media Manager: This manager is the “operative link” between the strategic communication plan and the community. Usually they directly report to the PR department, but depending on the project, and on the nature of the community, they can be connected also with other departments like Marketing, HR, IT, Sales, R&D, Legal and Customer Care.

Again, based on the project and on the size of the organization this model can change, but it gives you the basic idea of “who does what”.

Do you differentiate this authorization for different teams and regions?

Yes. Large organizations typically offer several services that are usually distributed or sold internationally. The larger the organization the bigger is the need to scale your public facing moderation plans. My suggestion is to internally structure public facing moderation teams based on:

  • Product/Service (i.e. dedicated team for product/service “X”).
  • Market region (i.e. dedicated team for the region/area/country “Y”).
  • Product-Market Combination (i.e. dedicated team for the product/service “X” in the “Y” region).

How will you monitor conversations about your organization on these channels?

I already released a post/cast entirely dedicated to why, what and how to monitor. If you didn’t read/listen to it yet, do it now!

How will you respond to stakeholders who communicate with your brand through these online channels?

There are 5 bullets that I use and that I would recommend you to keep in mind when you are communicating with the public:

  • Nature of the interaction: What are you dealing with? Is it a compliment, a complaint or a different issue?
  • Context: Is it about the organization or about a specific product/service sold/provided by the organization? Define the context of the interaction/communication.
  • Form: Should it be addressed publicly or privately? It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a compliment, a complaint or with a different issue. Always ask yourself this question.
  • Rationale: Is it legitimate or not? If it’s not, stop. Don’t engage.
  • Assessment: Do I have enough expertise to address this? If not, re-direct to a dedicated unit/department.

TIP: How does this person feel? Check how the person is feeling at all stages. Does she/he feel better, happier or the more you deal with this person the more things are getting worse? At times you think that you are addressing the issue correctly, but you are not. It happens when moderators are under pressure and they tend to pay less attention to this. Concentrating more on how the person is feeling, can help the moderator, strategist, communicator or a project manager to understand if it’s probably the time to pass the ball to a more specialized unit/department that could better address the issue. Example: One of the best public facing moderation plan examples that I could give you comes from Edelman. David Armano (@armano) did an amazing job outlining it in this diagram:

Public Facing Moderation Plan - Edelman

Your Thoughts

What’s above is framed by my experience. What would you add to it? And how would you see it working? What have I missed? Would you approach this differently? Let me know in the comments. Andrea @vascellari Did you like this post? Please, consider subscribing >>

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