Building a community playbook part 2: Who is it for?

In January 2017, we wrapped up the training week for the inaugural class of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made … Continue reading “Building a community playbook part 2: Who is it for?”

In January 2017, we wrapped up the training week for the inaugural class of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from the January training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Last week Stephanie O’Donnell introduced the concept of community playbooks. Today, in part two of her three part series, she looks at different audiences and use cases for community playbooks.

Posted by Stephanie O’DonnellCommunity Manager at, Fauna & Flora International

Once you’ve learned what a community playbook is, the next step in building your own playbook is identifying your audience. In this post, I’ll cover the two main use cases for community playbooks and highlight different potential audiences.


Community playbook use cases

 Although people and communities use their playbooks in a variety of ways, there are generally two use cases that a community playbook will fall under:

1. Community playbooks for community managers

These are playbooks that are written by community managers for community managers and serve as resource guides for the daily community management work you are doing. They contain items like templates, standard operating procedures, or even email copy or the location of passwords to online tools.

These playbooks tend to be highly detailed, diving deep on the details of specific workflows. As a result, they often have more pages than playbooks used for other purposes.

This level of detail also means they make for incredible leave-behind documents. This sort of resource is crucial for establishing a community that is sustainable beyond the individual who developed the system or who might be running it currently. They are also excellent training material for new team members.

As these playbooks address the day-to-day activities required for managing a successful community, they are usually living documents. Just as I might write “swap for coconut oil” next to “olive oil” in my personal cookbook. community managers are constantly revising their playbooks to reflect new community practises. As a result, these playbooks are often created in a shared medium where the whole community team can be involved in the evolution process, adding and subtracting as needed.

Finally, these playbooks often favour function over fashion. The purpose is to inform, rather than to convince or to sell.

Some of things you might see in the type of Playbook include:

  • Strategy: Shared purpose and value, roadmap, key behaviours
  • Leadership: Member advocates list, community team roster, paid consultants, job descriptions
  • Culture: tone, member profiles, use of humour
  • Member Management: Onboarding, using the CRM, triaging check list
  • Content and Programs: Blog series, editorial calendar
  • Policies: moderation process and emails, community guidelines, renewal process
  • Tools: platform instructions for admins, passwords and ownership of tools
  • Metrics: What success looks like, #memberwins database, how to pull data

2. Community playbooks for organisational communications

These playbooks are still created by the community team, but they are for a broad organisation or stakeholder audience. The goal of these playbooks is to share the purpose of the community and to outline how others can participate in and/or derive value from it.

In contrast to community manger playbooks, these playbooks are intended to educate others in what happens in the community, rather than to teach them how to go about executing it. So they tend to be shorter and exclude detailed workflows.

Although they are shorter, playbooks for organisational communications tend to be more highly formatted. They are tight and polished with carefully crafted language, because they are being presented and distributed to an audience outside the core community team. They also tend to be much more visual. If you are creating a playbook that has this use case, then you will need to think about incorporating visually appealing elements like charts, infographics, images – things that are going to communicate the key information in a variety of ways.

As this is a formal document that is likely going to be distributed to a variety of audiences, this means it usually a static document. You’re likely to have formal versions that are issued, rather than having a living document that is continually evolving.


 When deciding what to include in your Playbook, it’s important to think not only about what your use-case is, but also who your intended audience might be.

1. Organisation-wide

This audience includes your peers and co-workers, and general employees at the organisation. This overall organisation audience will use the playbook as an introduction to what the community is and what it does. They can leverage it to understand what the community has to offer them and refer to it to learn how to participate in and get value from the community.

The goal of the playbook in this context is to introduce the community as an organisationally sponsored and supported source of either communication, learning, collaboration, knowledge management, whatever the shared purpose of that community space is. In this situation, a formal playbook for this audience really will add legitimacy to the community work, it could solicit greater participation in the community, and offer guidance for how participants can start engaging.

2. Key stakeholders

These individuals might have strategic influence over your community in terms of the budget or resources allocated to your work. This audience is going to use a Playbook to understand what they have to gain from the community. Specifically, they will be looking at how the community connects to their high-level business goals.

Typically, this audience is interested in future community initiatives. They will also be looking at behaviour change goals such as: what work flow behaviour is this community replacing or what problem are we solving?

3. Advocates

These are the volunteers, champions, and super users of your community: members of your community who have been given a leadership role. You may need to create a playbook specifically for these members, to help them navigate this new tier of community participation. They will use the playbook as an instruction manual to learn what their contributions should look like, what expectations and responsibilities their leadership role entails, and how to interact with community in different scenarios.

4. Community managers

These are the members of your community team. This matches closely what was discussed in the first playbook use case. It is an information resource to hold all the procedures and practises for the role.

In the next installment in this series, Stephanie will explore the different kinds of content in community playbooks and help you decide what you need to include.