Masters of Community with David Spinks
Making Sense of the Community Boom with Brian Oblinger
September 6, 2021
In this episode of Masters of Community, we speak with Brian Oblinger, Chief Community Officer at Brian Oblinger Strategic Consulting. Brian has worked with top brands such as Acer, Alteryx, Autodesk, Comcast, eBay, The Home Depot, HP, PlayStation, and more. He also co-Hosts the podcast “In Before The Lock” with Erica Kuhl where they discuss community, customer experience, and leadership at scale. In this episode, we discuss how to plan community programs out for the long run and what community professionals need to do to help establish the community industry today. There’s also a lot of good, high-level debate, which I hope gives you interesting insights. Who is this episode for? Senior professionals in the Community Industry and Chief Community Officers or equivalent designations. Three key takeaways: 1. Communities in early-stage companies: Communities that are built before companies find that product-market fit can help validate and refine ideas to build a product/service. Let this community development plan evolve (often it may evolve multiple times) alongside your community and product/service. What works now may not work six months down the line so you shouldn’t let imposter syndrome creep into your mindset. Use advice as inspiration but don’t use it as a diagnosis because “experts” will tell you what works for them but it may not necessarily work for you. 2. Trends in the industry of Community: The incorporation of Community into the core business plan is signaling a boom in the industry. This has also started generating interest from older companies that are looking to grow via the Community route. The tools, expertise, and thought leadership in the area of Community have exploded. This comes with a mix of very intelligent people but also some advice that will never be useful to anyone. 3. Has the Community Industry already reached its peak?: In the long run, Community may become a part of the broader customer experience and customer success initiatives, but it will take a long time for Community to gain its own identity as an independent pillar of business. This progress will look different in different parts of the world. Community professionals will need to accept that business will have a large hand in this progress and will need to learn to communicate in the “language of business” to build and maintain that synergy. Notable Quotes: 1. “There needs to be an understanding that, largely, the community is going to be driven by businesses going forward. Whether we like it or not, corporations and a lot of people [who] have the money, they're the ones that are doing this and sort of helping our industry grow right now.” 2. “We're in a position where if we want to truly seize this moment, we need to do that and we need to do it well” “It's one thing to say the community has this hub-and-spoke, that's a center of excellence and it plugs into the marquee and plugs into customers, but then you put it into practice and you [realize that].. these are not easy problems to solve… all these big questions that come up when you get into the weeds of what does community look like as a department, as a career path in a company.” 3. “Regardless of where it lives and what your title is … you have to become this cross-functional, collaborative animal to succeed in a lot of these companies, especially the bigger ones you have to get comfortable and be good at walking into rooms with people you've probably never worked with before. Meet them halfway and be able to tell a story [about the purpose of the Community].” 4. “When you get really good at that collaboration model, great things can happen” Answers to rapid-fire questions: 1. If you could only eat one kind of food for the rest of your life, what would that food be? Queso (Mexican cheese dip). 2. What's the most impactful or insightful book that you've ever read in the world of the community? Biographies of Bob Chapek (CEO of Disney), Bob Taylor (of Taylor Guitars). 3. Wildest community story? When Brian was moderating a PlayStation community, Sony had postponed a scheduled update and the Community got upset over it. 4. What's something that Brian and Erica (co-host of the “In Before The Lock” podcast) disagree about? Brian couldn’t recall any because their experience is different, but they play off of each other and are good friends. 5. Favorite community engagement tactic or conversation starter? He asks more open-ended, multifaceted questions that spark insightful conversations. 6. Have you ever worn socks with sandals? Yes, when he was young. 7. Who in the world of the community would you most like to take for lunch to be dead or alive? Erica (co-host of “In Before The Lock” podcast) because she lives nearby or Holly Firestone of Venafi. 8. What's a community product or technology that you wish existed? Not a community technology but a time machine because it gives immense power of impact. 9. Weirdest community you've ever been a part of? A community about Squirrel enthusiasts that his ex-colleague Julie Hamill was a part of. 10. All of your life's lessons into one Twitter-sized piece of life advice? Treat people the way you want to be treated.
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