Building a community playbook part 3: What’s in it?

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 3: What’s in it?”

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. Yesterday Stephanie O’Donnell described several different audiences and use cases for community playbooks. Today, in the final post in her three part series, will dive into the content of community playbooks.

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

Now that we’ve established how useful a playbook might be and how different audiences might use it, we come to the big question: what goes in your Playbook? Read on to learn about the different kinds of content and content mediums that you can choose from. The credit for this framework goes to the Community Roundtable, who presented the following information in a CEFP webinar.

Your community playbook may include a variety of content such as:

  • Leadership and roles
  • Culture (how do people engage
  • Content and Programming
  • Tools
  • Member Management
  • Work Flows
  • Metrics
  • Guidelines
  • Templates and Copy
  • New Member Programs

When sorting through these options, it’s helpful to split your content into two big buckets:

1. Core content

Core content is the topical material that every community playbook really needs, regardless of use case or audience. This includes:

Community overview

A statement of the overall goal of the community. This will address the shared purpose and shared value of the community and answer the question, “What are we all doing here and what are we getting out of it?”.


This section will usually include key member behaviours the community promotes and describe targeted problems and the value statements. Some questions that this section might answer include, “What is the problematic behaviour or process that the community is working to adjust?” and  “How is the community going to change current workflows?”.


Different aspects of community policy may be use case specific, but the high-level policy should be included in all playbooks. This section will answer questions like “What is the membership structure of this community?”, “Is it a public or private space?”, and “How is IP determined or regulated?.

Tool landscape

This section is not a comprehensive list of all the tools in your technological ecosystem. Instead, think about where the community sits inside that ecosystem. Answer the questions, “How does the community relate to other social media platforms?”, “When and why should a member should use the community instead of sending an email?”, and “How does the community plug into other systems and tools people are already using?”.

Sponsorship and governance

This section can be relatively brief, as it relates to the department, association or organisation who owns the community.  You may wish to answer the questions, “Who made this?” or “Who do I reach out to for more information?”.

2. Use case specific content

Secondly, there is the content that depends on the goals of your playbook and the use case or audience with which you are communicating.

You may find that some content sections are suited to one use case but not at all to another. Take for example your standard workflows for managing the community. There is no need to include this in a playbook for stakeholders or for the entire organisation, but it would be a key requirement for a playbook for the community team.

In contrast, some content sections are suitable for multiple use cases or audiences, but may be interpreted or focused differently depending on your audience. For example, If you were communicating with a company-wide audience, the policy section of your playbook might include a copy of the public Community Guidelines. On the other hand, the policy section of a playbook intended for a stakeholder audience might touch on crisis management and the legal policies for how to handle the community. And finally, for an internal community management use case, this section might contain a step-by-step moderation guideline. Each playbook is unique and you should expect to customise all the content to fit your needs.

Content mediums

Once you’re thought through your use-case, audience and the content your playbook might include, you can decide what sort of content medium will serve you best. Options include:

Content MediumProsCons Best for
PDFs and Word DocsCements Playbook as Static Document


Highly Shareable

Creates Polished Tone

Difficult to update – requires re-circulation



Organisation-wide Audience
PowerPointVisually Appealing and digestible


Excellent for crafting narrative

Does not offer shared editing


May create version issues

Stakeholder Audience
Google Docs & WikisHighly collaborative


Simultaneous live editing options

Not as polished or formal as other mediumsCommunity Manager,


Advocates Audience

Community Articles & BlogsEasy to disseminate


Lives in shared space

Adjustable privacy settings

Platform dictates formatting options and abilitiesOrganisation-Wide,


Advocates Audience

TrelloHighly collaborative


Easy to design and update structure

Limited/no formatting options


Difficult to share broadly

Community Manager Audience