People are often intrigued that I went from being a Public Defender (“PD”) to a community manager. No one ever understood what I did as a PD and I’d say, “You know, when you get charged with a crime – ‘You have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed free of charge?’” That “free” attorney was me.
As a CM, still no one understands what I do. Now, when I tell people I’m a CM, they say, “Oh, you post on Facebook and Twitter all day, right?”
Here are 5 other ways that being a community manager is just like being a Public Defender:
1. You have thick skin.
Like PDs, CMs are used to being called names. I’ve been called every expletive imaginable and threatened with a myriad of crimes. CMs are routinely subjected to rants with excessive amounts of profanity by unruly members who can’t get their way. Try telling a criminal defendant that he’s looking at 20 years in prison and has no case. That loud response is very similar to that of the community member you’ve just decided to ban. Yet, these verbal attacks roll off of your calm and resilient CM shoulders. You don’t take it personally because you have thick skin and are rarely offended by anything that comes your way.
2. You have a knack for dealing with unhappy people.
People who are facing prison tend to be unhappy. So are community members who receive stern moderation. Unhappy people tend to be difficult to deal with. When they won’t listen to reason, stellar diplomacy skills are required. For example, when the best option for your client is to accept a plea deal, you have to slowly warm him up to the idea. You must listen to them vent about how unfair the system is. But, by building trust and making the pill a little easier to swallow, they’ll eventually see the light. Of course, some people just need their day in court and you realize you have a “walking the dog” situation (this is when you go to trial and the only thing you can do is watch your client slowly go down in flames). Nothing you say will change their mind. You must be patient and empathetic, yet stalwart and steady. Likewise, some of your community members just need to complain and have their side heard (and then they get banned).
3. You are an invader without an army.
You are a lone wolf, but you don’t care. As a PD, everyone hates you, no one respects you, and everyone believes that your client is guilty. The facts are never on your side, but you’re used to it. As a CM, you accept not being the #1 priority and fight for just a morsel of the budget. You take what have and magically create engagement by tap dancing with a mixture of smoke and mirrors. Your resourcefulness and creativity help you find the perfect “hook” to do #4.
4. You recruit like no other.
A jury of your peers is just like the members in your community. And it only takes one juror to hang a jury. With the perfect “hook,” you recruit one to your side and start stacking up votes for a “not guilty” ala “12 Angry Men” style. In your community, you get growth and engagement by offering “hooks,” such as exclusive perks. It only takes a few super users to get the ball rolling. Like, 12.
5. You are a true believer.
Whether defending the Constitution or finding a brand advocate, you have a diehard passion for what you do. You believe in the cause. You love the brand. You exist to help others. This passion makes being available on demand palatable, especially when you are dealing with a troll on the weekend. Your passion helps you persevere when engagement is down. After all, if you don’t truly believe in due process, you won’t be able to stomach defending a person you think is guilty. And if you don’t love what your community is all about, you won’t be able to be the amazing CM you are meant to be.
Photo cred: Sarah M. Paretti, used with permission