Asking for help. How to write posts about community initiatives

Table of contents

  1. Story: If it is worth communicating, it is worth a story
  2. Theme: The most important thing you want to share
  3. Question: Narrowing the discussion
  4. Other tips and tricks

A thriving community is a community in which most of the maintenance tasks are performed by the users themselves. To accomplish that a community manager should be able to communicate to the community the needed initiatives in a way that makes users want to help.

The purpose of most community initiatives is to convince users to be more socially active. It can be taking some additional actions on the main site, helping organize the common effort or anything else. Communication will get a response only if it can cause users to feel empathy and compassion and if the suggested activities are interesting and enjoyable for the users. Communicating initiatives comes down to explaining a problem, clarifying why it is important, proposing a solution, and asking for specific actions that should move the community toward resolving the problem.

There are three main parts that a communication post should have: a story, a theme and a question or call to action.

Story: If it is worth communicating, it is worth a story

Humans are narrative creatures. Stories influence people’s beliefs, how they see the world around them, and their behavior. This will happen if you manage to evoke empathy and compassion in your readers through which they begin to relate themselves with the emotional experiences you offer to your reader in the story.

  • Stories set the prism through which a reader sees a post. When working on a story for a post, we choose the narrative according to what we want a reader to feel and think after reading the story. Before sitting to write, clearly define what you want readers to think about.

  • In posts about initiatives, stories play an auxiliary role to set the context, while the primary focus should still be on the initiatives themselves.

  • When sharing a story that has an example, share a story of one person. It is hard to imagine an “all-population’s-problem”.

  • Keep a story short, one paragraph at most. The best option is to make it in the form of a metaphor.

  • Introduce the story at the beginning and refer to it throughout the whole post, if needed.

  • Story should be positive, inspiring, and unifying. It may have a picture to illustrate the narrative.

  • In a perfect world, all the stories you share somehow correspond to the primary mission of the project.

Theme: The most important thing you want to share

The theme of a post is what we wanted to communicate in the first place. It is the body of your proposal. Usually, it goes in the form of a statement of a problem that you want to address. The theme may take up to one page of text, but the shorter, the better.

  • The most crucial part of writing is to present the problem from the readers’ perspective and highlighting the benefits that they will get out of helping you solve it.

  • You need to make the readers empathetic and supportive. They should never be presented as the root cause of the problem. Moreover, there should not be any blame in the post to anyone. You should present the problem through possibilities that the readers can accomplish together as a group.

  • Whatever the end goals of the current initiative, the problem that you want users to work on should be presented as a step towards completing the mission of the community.

  • If you are suggesting some solutions, you need to show why the solution is a viable approach.

  • There should be just one theme per post.

Question: Narrowing the discussion

To keep the discussion healthy, you need to set the boundaries of what is on-topic for the current initiative and what is not. The best way to do this is to ask very specific and valid questions at the end. Vague or open-ended questions allow users to steer the conversation and feedback away from what we want them to focus on. The more specific your questions are, the more likely you will get the results you were looking for.

  • Phrase questions in a way that makes users provide positive answers.
  • Questions should ask for solutions to problems we are facing, rather than just ask for opinions.
  • Questions should make users be able to show off their skills while answering the questions.
  • Keep the questions relevant to the users so that they have expertise and knowledge to answer them.
  • Do not ask more than three closely-related questions per post.

Other tips and tricks

  • Avoid jokes that might hurt someone’s feelings. It creates an unsafe environment .

  • Do not make people feel sorry for you or experience any other negative emotions.

  • Remove everything that does not add new information to the post. When communicating initiatives our goal is to provide maximum information per minimum text.

  • Use “we” and “together” as much as possible. Remove or rephrase everything that opposes you and the company against the community.

  • Use simple language. The simpler the language you use, the more people will understand what you want to say.

  • Be concise. The rule of thumb for communicating initiatives is that a post should be shorter than one and a half pages in Google Docs written in font size 11.

  • Be focused. Communicate one idea at a time. If there are many different issues you want to discuss, it may be better to make a separate post for each one.

  • Connect and unite. The goal in itself for any communication is to connect users to one another. We need to enable them to talk to each other.

  • Have a clear call to action, when you ask for feedback or input from the community.

​​- Keep your initiative posts inclusive. Inclusive means that users have an opportunity to participate in the discussions you start, provide their feedback or share their thoughts. When users are included in the discussion about solving a problem, they consider the solution to be theirs and will be likely to help implement it, regardless of whether the solution chosen is yours, theirs, or some other user.