Why Politicians Would Make Lousy Community Managers

I’m sure I speak for many of my fellow Americans when I say I’m getting a little tired of politics. With Election Day less than two weeks away, it seems that I can’t get the mail, pick up the phone, watch TV or browse the Web without getting hammered with political messages. While I have great respect for those that run for office, this campaign season reminds me that the communications tactics used by politicians would be disastrous if used to manage an online community.

Politicians Rarely Give a Straight Answer

Here’s a drinking game you can try this weekend: Watch one of the Sunday morning talk shows. Every time a politician answers a question with a simple, direct “yes” or “no,” take a drink. Trust me, you won’t have to crack open a single beer. Heck, even Mitt Romney could play! As a community manager, you need to do the opposite. Answer questions directly and concisely. Doing otherwise will get you nothing but ill will toward you as a community manager and toward your company or brand.

Politicians Are Always Tearing Down The Other Guy (Or Gal)

I wish a had a deep, gravelly voice. That way, I could get a job doing voiceovers for those negative campaign ads we see so much of. Even when discussing the issues on the campaign trail, politicians seem to spend more time talking about how their opponent is horrible, rather than talking about their own views and proposals. When managing an online community, you may find that you have your own “opponents” — people who take great delight in pointing out your flaws or the flaws of your brand or company. Don’t go negative. Let them have their say, then respond honestly and professionally.

With Politicians, Hyperbole Comes Naturally

Every campaign season, the candidates tell us the same thing: this election is the most important election in the history of elections. The other candidate isn’t just wrong, he or she is dangerous. As a community manager, you need to stay away from such stark, black-and-white pronouncements. That doesn’t mean you can’t be firm when, for example, you enforce rules. But when members challenge you on how the community is run, make sure they know that they are being listened to and that their views have been considered — even if you’ve decided to take a different approach.

These snarky comments may make me sound like I’m cynical about politics. Far from it. I follow politics closely. I watched all four debates (though I have to admit I did doze off a few times). I vote regularly. I admire those who put themselves out there to be judged by the voters. But let’s face it, politicians would make lousy community managers. Think of it as a learning opportunity. Watch them closely…then do the opposite.

Am I being too hard on politicians? Please share your thoughts and post a comment.

Photo credit: Dean Terry

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