This means that the manner in which we present value must appeal not only to logic but also to emotions. It is the emotions that form attitudes. This means that we need to operate on several levels in order to establish perceived level. Raw numbers should be kept to background material only. Instead, we need to focus on:
- Providing context for all data. At the minimum, we need to provide context. It’s impossible to determine if having 1,500 active community members is good or bad. It’s far better to say if 70% of your top customers are active in the community, or how the community compares against the communities of competitors. Also use metaphors to provide context. Did you have 380,000 visitors to the community last month, or the population size of Pittsburgh visit your community last month? Did members contribute 500k words last month, or add enough information to fill the entire office bookshelf?
- Trends. More important than context are trends. If the trends are heading in the right direction, never use raw numbers. Highlight continued growth in the values they care about. Also use current trends to make future predictions. Let the stakeholder taste the future success of the project. “If we keep growing at this rate, we’ll be twice as big as our nearest competitor in six months.”
- Emotive stories. Even better than trends are stories (or an encompassing narrative). These are clear stories that demonstrate the value the stakeholder wants has been achieved. This might include their boss making a positive comment about the community after hitting a success, or evidence of members deriving clear value from the community. Stories trump data every time. Stories that are based upon data are even more compelling. It is important to individually collect or ‘clip’ these stories in a tool such as Google Docs or using a tool such as Evernote to help create a convincing case for the community.
- Milestones. A final useful tool is to communicate milestones. These help shape positive association with the community. A milestone might be the 100th member helped, the 10,000th question, a prominent influencer joining the community, reaching call deflection parity with the customer service line (or half), etc.
All four of these play a powerful role in shaping the perception of value in the community. Do not rely upon regular monthly updates with metrics in a simple spreadsheet document. Add additional information that provides context, trends, shows success stories or highlights milestones the community has achieved.
You can work harder to build up a positive picture of the community. This might mean collecting quotes from staff members showing how the community has helped them, from customer service teams highlighting how calls have decreased, etc.
Act like a journalist uncovering the value of your community. Your job isn’t to deliver a data dump, but to show context, highlight new trends, reveal stories, and celebrate relevant milestones.