Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Vocal Minority II

As Nomad points out, the "vocal minority" argument can and has been used as an excuse not to take action on issues of legitimate (and noisy) concern by a given game community. However, this is also a perception that is sometimes fostered by people within Community Relations itself.

Too often, a CM becomes overly concerned with his/her relationships internally -- with producers, other managers, execs, etc. -- and loses track of the primary area of responsibility for the position. Of course, that "primary responsibility" is a matter of some debate, but I think that most people agree that the liaison function of the CM position, between company and customers, is at least one of the core functions of any Community Relations effort.

So, I have seen CM's themselves buying into the fallacious (in my opinion) "Vocal Minority" argument as a way to either ingratiate themselves with co-workers or to avoid confrontation about perceptions within the company versus customer perceptions. Additionally, the liaison function of a CM can be grueling, and there is always the temptation to slip out from under it and to invent other tangential areas of responsibility. However, in doing so, a CM undermines one of the primary reasons for their existence.

Engagement with paying customers is crucial for almost any industry, be it real estate or computer games. But it can be hard. And sometimes even expensive. But there is a competitive advantage there. The "Vocal Minority" meme is too often used as an excuse to avoid the work and expense. And sadly, this meme is sometime championed by Community professionals themselves.


At 8:39 AM, Blogger evolve pr said...

You're right; maintaining relationships with fans is the single most important element of a CM's job... but it's tremendously difficult to give the community the info and attention it deserves without having a great relationship with production and dev. Especially in a situation where a company has just brought on their first CM, that individual is going to have a hell of a time trying to get the dev team to accept him/her as part of the team.

At 6:39 AM, Blogger Garthilk said...

I agree. Getting in with the community without information, is like feeding the pigeons without breadcrumbs. Still though it's possible with even meta-information. Information not specifically about the game, but just the interoffice reality. I can't give any expertise as to how to get with the rest of the dev team, but with the community, it's breadcrumbs.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Thoma said...

The intresting variation on that is when CM's try to counter the "Vocal Minority" with an astroturfing alt. Caydiem/Ella on the WoW boards was a prime example of that.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Tisirin said...

Evolve PR, I absolutely agree with you. Having good relationships inside a company is vital not only for a particular CM but also for Community Relations departments in general, where they exist.

But sacrificing the liaison side of a CM's job in the name of good internal relations is a mistake, and symptomatic of larger internal problems, in my opinion.


At 1:11 PM, Blogger Nomad said...

Astroturfing is a web-wide problem, and I, for one, don't have the slightest desire to contribute to it. I think it insults the intelligence of your audience. I got into a splendid disagreement with a bunch of folks on whether we should categorically ban players posting under multiple accounts in order to support their own arguments - the inherent dishonesty in that situation makes me twitch.

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Thoma said...

Oh yes, astroturfing is a common problem all over the web. I moderate a forum for the industry I work in and I see lots of it. But it's just really slimy when a CM does it. And it's worse when the CM says "And the voices of the naysayers are more important" when they are cherry picking arugements they set up.


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