Professional Communities: Making Members’ Lives Better

Episode Thumbnail
This is a podcast episode titled, Professional Communities: Making Members’ Lives Better. The summary for this episode is: <p>In this week's episode, Alex and Heather talk with Emily Cowan about building her online community. Emily is the Online Communities and Social Channels Manager at the American Society of Anesthesiologists. She shares her journey to getting this position and what it was like starting an online community for a company that didn't have one prior. Not to mention she started this community in the middle of the pandemic. Listen now!</p>
How Being an English Literature major Has Helped Being a Community Manager
00:50 MIN
Launching a Companies First Community
01:55 MIN
The Balance of Types of People in the Online Community
02:06 MIN
The Process For Content Review
01:48 MIN
Advice to Those Who Want to Get Into Community Management
01:28 MIN
Emily's Favorite Part of Being A Community Manager
01:33 MIN
Emily's Favorite Engagement Tactic
02:51 MIN

Alex Mastrianni: Welcome to The Member Engagement Show, with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals looking to boost retention, gain new members and deepen member involvement.

Heather McNair: Throughout our show, we'll bring on some experts, talk shop about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.

Alex Mastrianni: I'm Alex Mastrianni, and we're happy you're here. Welcome back to another episode of The Member Engagement Show. Heather, are you ready for our first community manager interview?

Heather McNair: I am. I'm very excited. I'm going to spill this as we're talking to Emily Cowan today, it'll be very interesting on the heels of our conversation and the last episode to hear how her path is different than mine, to where she got into community management and how there are some parallels as well. And so very excited to jump right in.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, let's welcome Emily to the show. Hey Emily, how you doing?

Emily Cowan: Hey, I'm great. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, we're excited you're here. And to kick things off a little bit, can you just tell our listeners a little bit about you, who you are, what you do, your life story in 60 seconds?

Emily Cowan: I'll do my best. Got a lot of years to cover. It's so funny, Heather, that you said that about the past of community management, because I think maybe the best way to describe myself might be to give you a little bit of background on how I got into it, if that's okay?

Alex Mastrianni: Of course.

Emily Cowan: I graduated college with a very fancy degree in medieval English literature. I had zero idea what to do with myself professionally. So I figured, I'm an English major, I can put words together, I might as well go into writing. And I did that for a bunch of years. I worked as a content creator for a lot of websites at the beginning of the dot- com boom when everybody got a website and didn't know what to put on it. And then I had kids and I was out of the workforce for a few years. And when I was ready to come back, I had one major problem. And that was that when I was out of content creation was when social media happened. And you can imagine being a content creator without any sort of social media chops was a major problem for me in terms of my job search. So I decided that while I was on to look for a job, I was also going to be teaching myself social media so I could kind of make mistakes when no one was looking. That was my plan. And one thing I noticed was on our local Facebook groups, just our community, I live in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and every community has its own Facebook group, they were pretty nasty places to hang out. People just were really jerky to each other. And it's especially crazy when you think that we all live in the same place and might conceivably run into each other at the grocery store. It's one thing to be throwing shade on Twitter, but that's kind of nuts. And I just thought to myself, this might be a hole in the market. What about starting a local Facebook group where people were actually nice to each other? crosstalk. I've always been interested in branding as well and I felt like those two things would go together. How do you tell the story of this is the place where you're nice to each other? So it just felt like a fun challenge to see if I could make that happen. And I launched Nice People of Newburyport. There's that branding piece, right?

Alex Mastrianni: I love that.

Emily Cowan: In May, I think May of 2017, and it has 15, 000 members now.

Alex Mastrianni: That's incredible.

Emily Cowan: I wasn't getting paid for it or anything. I was doing it in my spare time. My husband thought I was crazy. But it took a lot of care and feeding, but I enjoyed it. And meanwhile I'm doing my job search and Intuit was looking for a writer for its QuickBooks community team. I applied for the writing job and I got it. But given my work on Facebook, they actually asked if I'd be interested in taking the community manager role as well or instead. And I'd never heard of such a thing. I did not know that people did that for a living. I didn't know I could get paid to do that. Obviously I said yes, but I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I had to do a ton of research and making mistakes when nobody's looking seems to be my M. O. But for me, the power of online communities and a shared understanding of the rules of engagement and a willingness to self police to keep that going and moderation is important. But if you really want to engage in positive, productive, civil discourse, which of course we all want to do, it's your job as community manager to set those expectations and create the kind of space that the bulk of your members feel invested in defending. And that's something that I did with Nice People and it's definitely served me in good stead.

Heather McNair: Yeah. That's awesome. I was looking at your LinkedIn profile before we jumped on today and I saw that you were an English literature major in school too, which it's funny because I was too.

Emily Cowan: Oh, really?

Heather McNair: Yeah. And I'm wondering, okay, is it there's something to that, that these paths-

Emily Cowan: Oh, absolutely.

Heather McNair: So just touch, and I think you did with the branding piece, but where do you think that that major, that that skill set has played into community management?

Emily Cowan: Oh, huge. Some of it is just being in digital communications for the last, I don't know how many decades, I'm not going to tell you. But a lot of it is just when you're writing a message to a member or writing a post, it's really important to conscious of all of the ways that things can be misinterpreted because not everybody lives in a digital environment all the time. I've seen posts go really sideways when somebody tries to make a joke, for example. So as the community manager, you need to have a very strong ability to not just write, but edit yourself before you post so that you can anticipate those potential problems, cover all of your bases. And most importantly, make your members feel just glad of having that interaction. And I think that that's a really strong writing skill that has to be cultivated, for sure.

Heather McNair: Yeah, that is very well said. Not surprising. But I think that's an excellent point. Communication skills in general are just paramount to this job that you use them extensively every single day.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. What was your first community management role like? How did you ease yourself into that? And then when you made the switch over to your current role, which I don't think we have said you are currently working at the American Society of Anesthesiologists, right?

Emily Cowan: Yeah. That's right.

Alex Mastrianni: How did you make your way to the association world?

Emily Cowan: Yeah. So Intuit's QuickBooks community was a very, I don't want to say uncomfortable marriage, but we were still working out some of the issues. It was part customer service in terms of the customers of the QuickBooks products and also, at the time, speaking of branding, Intuit's tagline or slogan was own it, or, oh gosh, I'm not even going to remember now what it is. But it was really about supporting the small business owner in all of the different ways because most small businesses close after two years or within the first few years. Intuit at that time had a real strong vested interest in the success of their small business owners who would go on to keep licensing their products. So the idea was that I was not going to be the product person, we definitely had a deep bench for that. My job was to sort of moderate a discussion around business issues. How do you deal with a supplier who is not meeting the deadlines or you have a disagreement over pricing, those kinds of things that are not really part of accounting software, but are certainly part of the day- to- day of the small business owner. That was really interesting. It's the kind of thing that you don't have to be a small business owner necessarily to have some empathy for. It's something I would never do myself. It's a ton of stress. Again, part of the piece is communication and then part of it is where is this person coming from? How are they feeling right now? And how can you address that emotion in a way that makes them feel glad that they came to this particular digital destination as opposed to some other one? So that really helped as well. It was kind of like a half customer base community and half anybody could join as long as you're a small business owner, want to talk about those issues. There was no easing into it. I'll tell you right now, there was no easing into it. But it was definitely a learning experience. And I definitely availed myself of the resources that are available. I was deep into FeverBee. I was trying to just soak up every piece of information I could about this role that I took on because there's a little bit of imposter syndrome when you shift careers. And I had certainly done that. I know writing backwards, forwards and sideways, but community management was a new space for me and I wanted to do well. So it was a lot of research. And I think that that's something that a lot of community managers struggle with, especially if it gets dumped on your desk and that's not necessarily your day job within your current role. But also, most companies don't have a community team. They've got one person responsible for the whole show. So who do you bounce ideas off? And that was definitely difficult. So just a ton of reading, a ton of research, participating in FeverBee's expert community CMX, community round table Facebook group, and just watching other people work through their stuff as a community manager was super helpful to me.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, it makes you feel a little bit less like you're on your own island out there.

Emily Cowan: Exactly.

Alex Mastrianni: Keeping things rolling.

Emily Cowan: Yeah.

Heather McNair: I'm curious how you found out that those resources were there. Was it through coworkers?

Emily Cowan: Not really. I don't know. I think I just went on Amazon and found buzzing communities. It was really that low tech. But whatever, if you know how to research something and get on Google, then you can pretty much find those resources. Some of them have a process where you have to say," What's your community management job?" And the fact that I had a community management title was super helpful to get into some of those groups.

Heather McNair: Yep. Absolutely. Yeah. So then what led to your transition to your current role?

Emily Cowan: Yeah. So actually, there was a middle job between the Intuit job. I worked for another, it was a private company, not an association, but it did have a community of practice for customer experience executives. And so that was my next job. And it was one of those classic situations where they hired the platform before they hired the community professional. And that's not good. It was hard to be like, I know what I should be doing, I just don't have the tools to be doing it with this platform. This isn't where you need to be. And I started really advocating for a migration to Higher Logic because it just seemed like the best fit for what they wanted to accomplish. We explored other platforms as well. We did Salesforce Cloud and some of the things. But I had a big fat PowerPoint. I was ready to rumble and eventually I was able to get by. And from leadership, we did the migration to Higher Logic. I had to teach myself the CMS and everything and basically start all over again. And that was my introduction to Higher Logic. Those kicking the tire impulses that I have, like" What does this button do? What happens if I use this parameter on this widget?" really served me in good stead. Because you are a one woman band and you can't always file a support ticket for everything. You've got to be willing to experiment and feel comfortable that you're going to try new things, but you can't break it. And so that's the process that I went through with that job. And then it's funny. A lot of people, COVID has done totally crazy things in so many people's lives with regard to what they do for work. But I actually think I got the job that I have because COVID taught everybody that you can work from home. So I saw the job listing, in I think February of 2020 for ASA, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, and they were looking for somebody specifically with Higher Logic experience. They were looking for somebody to build a community from the ground up, which I was super excited about. Sent in my resume, cover letter. They get back to me and they're like," When can you come to Chicago?" I'm like,"I'm not going to Chicago. I have got kids." And it did say Massachusetts on my resume, but you can forgive HR for missing that. And I said,"Is that going to be a problem?" And they said," Yeah, we need people to be in the office." Okay. So this is February of 2020, and we all know what's coming next.

Alex Mastrianni: Yep.

Heather McNair: Yep.

Emily Cowan: I was bummed, but two months later, same HR gal reached out to me and she said,"Are you still interested?" And I was like," Heck yeah, I would love to do that." And I think once the organization felt more comfortable about me being probably one of their first 100% remote hires, it was all like cake from there. I don't want to say cake. The next three months was busy. I started in June and our community launched in September. I had three months, soup to nuts, to get everybody's name down. Who does what in the organization?

Heather McNair: Without having ever met them in person.

Emily Cowan: Exactly, exactly. But I think community managers, they also know how to leverage Slack and Teams and all of the other ways that you can communicate digitally and be real and genuine with people and give them a little bit of your personality instead of feeling like you've got to be real bottled up when you're sending an email to somebody in your organization. And I think that really helped soften things up. And I just really had to dip into so many different departments with engineering and marketing and product development, product management. All of those people were spokes in my wheel. And we launched in September of 2020, so we're not even a year old. And I'm just super happy with the progress. We've got lots of great discussion going. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out because I know that a lot of times people don't have the bandwidth to do the planning and the front work and that'll bite you later. And I was really able to do that and I was given a lot of support from my organization, working with a bunch of different people who are like," I kind of don't know what this community thing is that we're starting, but I will help you." The gal who did our CSS was super helpful and she taught me a lot of stuff just so I wouldn't have to keep going back to her. So yeah, it was a learning experience and it went really well and I think everybody's pretty happy with the progress.

Alex Mastrianni: That's amazing. Was this your member's first introduction to community at ISA?

Emily Cowan: Members first.

Alex Mastrianni: Was there a previous community or is this the first time that they've had a tool like this?

Emily Cowan: So there was a bit of a, I don't even want to say it was a prototyper. It sort of sat on Personify, or AMS. And it was one of those situations where a company that does something really well was like," Well, why don't we just bust into this add- on" and not doing it very well. I think that happens a lot with community," Let's just sit this on top of our existing platform."

Alex Mastrianni: Right.

Emily Cowan: It was really clunky to use. Very few people in our membership probably even knew that it existed. Very few people in my organization knew that it existed. So I'm not going to count that. I'm just going to go straight to this as like a virgin project. So we had to do a lot of messaging with our marketing team to just let people know what was coming down the pike. And to be quite honest, my member base is a little older, excuse a little older, and a lot of them didn't necessarily know what that meant. Like, what does it mean that we have a community, an online community? I don't even know what that involves. There's only so much advance work you can do. You can't hit people over the head with here's what's coming, when they don't even know the definition of that thing.

Alex Mastrianni: Right.

Emily Cowan: And it's just going to piss people off. I really hung my hat on that daily digest. And that's where actually my background in content creation and publishing was super helpful. The first thing I do in the morning is send myself a test digest to just see what's going to be in there for the coming day. Ours goes out around noon Eastern. And I just really applied that to let's just pretend this is a magazine that comes out every day. It's okay if a bunch of people don't know really what's going on yet, as long as there is compelling content in there and activity. I will arm twist if necessary to make sure that what you get in your inbox when you get that daily digest is something potentially interesting. Or even if none of the threads really speak to you that day, you could see that maybe tomorrow might be different. And just to make sure you're covering the scope of potential topics. And I just was really diligent about that every single day, and feed content, throwing in announcements. And we have a new podcast coming. You know that preview, when you get your email, it's like, one announcement, four new threads, 36 replies, I really wanted to make sure that was populated in a compelling way just to get the opens initially. And I think that at a certain point, the proof was in the pudding.

Heather McNair: Obviously, you launched the community in the middle of the pandemic. So you didn't see a transition from one state to the other. But to that point, you had a contingent of your audience that really wasn't familiar with this online community. Was there also a contingent that was very happy to have this lifeline?

Emily Cowan: Yes.

Heather McNair: Okay.

Emily Cowan: Yeah. Again, this is my first association, so I don't really have a benchmark for this, but I think that there are physicians sprinkled all over the country. They are anesthesiologists in New York City and there are anesthesiologists in Duluth and all over the place. Some of them are practicing in metropolitan areas, some are in rural areas and rural access care is really difficult. Those are not the people that are going to be able to necessarily come to your annual meeting. They can't get away, it's expensive. The whole thing is going to conspire to keep them from being able to leave a practice where they might be the only anesthesiologist for, I don't know how many miles. So what ends up happening is you get the same folks that go to your annual meeting year on year. And you have this membership member leadership structure, which is super helpful, but it is the same faces. And I think that it really went in both directions. I think that those folks who felt maybe that they were unable to participate to the fullest in the organization because of their location or circumstance and practice had suddenly a way participate in a way that they didn't before. And on the flip side, the folks who were the usual suspects that would typically typically go to events and be very active in the leadership suddenly had a listening opportunity to listen to those folks that they didn't get a chance to meet in person. And that's been really helpful. COVID aside, I think that that's really been a value to the organization and a value to the membership. And then as far as COVID, I can't think of a better platform for, or I guess platform's not the right word, but we have a lot of emerging situations with COVID. The COVID testing before elective surgical procedures, that's changing every five minutes depending on where you live. Where are you going to have that conversation other than in real time in a digital space. So we've definitely had a lot of those kinds of conversations and I think that has been a lot of value for the membership.

Heather McNair: Yeah. That makes my heart happy. One of the associations I used to work for, it was similar, it was one person within a medical practice. It was the business person who ran the medical practice. And they used to say that the annual conference was the one time a year that they got to be around people who understood what they did, who did the same thing they did. And they loved it, but the community became the great equalizer. Same exact experience that your members are having. That's so exciting to see that happen and it is transformational to the organization when they can embrace that. Have there been things that, and you don't have to get into detail about it, that have come out of those conversations on the community that your organization has taken and changed or incorporated into processes or content development, things like that, and do you guys have any process for doing that for content review, that type of thing?

Emily Cowan: Yeah. One of the things that I'm always thinking of when, obviously I'm getting all the real- time updates, right. So I see everything that's coming across the desk. And if I see something that I feel would be a good listening opportunity, understanding that internally, our staff are busy, they're not necessarily checking the daily digest. Is this a good listening opportunity? I'll just kick that real time out to whoever might potentially benefit from it. And we've had some interesting conversations. In fact, we had a committee member reach out to community a couple of days ago," Hey, the committee on membership is looking into potential affinity programs." Those partnerships where you might get as part of your membership a discount on a sports package or insurance, or one of those. And he's like," There's this subgroup or a working group as part of the committee on membership, but we thought we might actually ask the membership what affinity programs are like, what kind of discounts they're interested in." And that's definitely an opportunity for the member leadership to cast a really wide net instead of asking each other, well here's what our members probably want. Just going straight to the people who are saying," Yeah, we want discounts on a PPO health coverage program." And that's been really interesting to see. So it isn't even like the passive listening where I will kick something out to whoever might be interested in hearing it. Because it's member to member, we're seeing a lot of the member leadership see the opportunity in participating, asking questions, asking the membership. Well, what do you think about this work product that we have going on, or what do you think we should be focusing on in terms of engaging with retired membership? So they're also leveraging the community for that active social listening.

Alex Mastrianni: That's awesome. It's great when you, as a community manager, can see everyone starting to connect all the dots too, of the benefits of the association reaching out, the member to member connection, of course and just all the things you can learn about each other.

Emily Cowan: Yeah. I think the penny's starting to drop. 10 months, 11 months in.

Alex Mastrianni: So what's next for year two in your community? Any big plans? How are you keeping the momentum going from the launch of the first year?

Emily Cowan: Well, the first stop is going to be a survey. One year in, we're going to be asking that same type of question, like, what are you feeling are the holes? One of the big priorities that we have is getting our resident members over the hump into first- year active membership. So typically a resident will be a member of ASA because their program is paying for it. And then when they graduate into fellowship and beyond, suddenly it's on them to pay a membership fee. And a lot of times with student debt and whatever, they just don't see the value right away. So one thing that we're looking at is it might not be a new program, but how do we get the messaging out that you've learned so much as a medical student, as a resident, related to the clinical practice of medicine. But suddenly isn't attending, you've got interpersonal relationships to deal with. You might be supervising a care team. And these are the soft skills that often get a little bit overlooked in the intensity of medical training. So one of the things that we're looking at is the potential for leveraging open forum for these residents to ask the folks in the wider membership, many of whom have been in practice for 30 years, how do you handle this thorny situation, and those soft skills and strategies. Because they have so much organizational, institutional knowledge to share that it might be a really neat way to bring the former residents, the new attending, first year actives into contact with the folks who are nearing the end of their journey. And they have more time on their hands. They're looking for mentorship opportunities, but it doesn't have to be a structured mentorship program, which may or may not be what our members want. We'll find out after the survey.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah.

Emily Cowan: So a lot of it is a messaging thing, like how can we pivot to get that message out as opposed to launching new programs?

Heather McNair: Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes, if things can start casual like that, and if they really take off, then you can decide if you want to wrap them in more formality or if part of its success is keeping them casual and informal like that.

Emily Cowan: Yeah. I'm all about incremental change.

Heather McNair: Yep. Yep, absolutely. Yeah. Sometimes throwing a huge formal program at people, it's a lot of work for staff to get it off the ground, and it can be a little overwhelming for your members to take on. So Emily, you are obviously very passionate about community management, which is wonderful to see.

Emily Cowan: I am.

Heather McNair: And like most of us, you transitioned into this theater from another career. So if someone was looking to get into community management, what advice would you give them? This is kind of a two- part question, but related. What advice would you give them and what's your favorite thing about being a community manager?

Emily Cowan: Sure. I think that as with anything, the best way to figure out what a community manager does is to be a member in a lot of different contexts. Go ahead and join the Velveeta cheese community. For Shannon Emory, there actually is one and she is actually a member. It's not just seeing what they do right, but also what they do wrong. It's like the Velveeta cheese fest with my messaging. You can't assume that people are as invested in your community as you are. Right? You're basically one more email that's going to land in the trash after a cursory glance. I'm just always assuming that that is the case. So I try to be really intentional with what I'm sending and when, and pegging that to a demonstrated behavior or appealing to a previously active members expertise, knowing that they have participated in the past and asking for help. Everybody loves it when you ask for help. That's the test that I'm using. If I were the member, and not a member of my community, but a member of a community I don't necessarily feel all that invested in, how would I feel about receiving this messaging? So there's a lot of learning opportunities that you can do before you become a community manager just by being a member and receiving that messaging and clocking what your out of the box reaction to that messaging is because it's going to save you a lot of needless junk.

Alex Mastrianni: I love it. So intentional, so strategic. That's a great, great way to look at it.

Emily Cowan: And it's a low barrier to participation. I hear the Velveeta cheese community is looking for folks.

Alex Mastrianni: I cannot believe that's a real thing, but I guess there's a group out there for everything.

Emily Cowan: Exactly. There is. So there's a lot of opportunity to compare notes.

Alex Mastrianni: For sure.

Heather McNair: Yep. Yep. I'm texting Shannon as soon as we're done with this.

Emily Cowan: And I guess my favorite, I mean I have a couple favorites, back to the sort of COVID pivoting, at bottom, medical associations are really about improving patient outcomes. That's what they're there for. And ASA is no different. And I love it when somebody posts about an emerging case and there's this and that going on, what do you think? And people get back to them, they get a valuable, a few different responses. And then they come back into community and with an update and say," Here's what happened." As a community manager, does that get any better? You just created a place where you helped, by proxy, but you created a space that made that conversation possible. It had a direct impact on someone and their family. Online communities can feel a little disengaged from IRL. It's not, it's not. This is where we talk about things, but we also talk about things with people over coffee, and that has an impact on how you live your life. So it's neat to see that the connection between the conversations that happen in a digital environment spill over into real clinical situations. That's what we do, right? That's the whole point is to make people's lives better. I don't know, maybe that sounds a little self- aggrandizing, but that's really how I looked at it.

Alex Mastrianni: It gave me goosebumps, Emily. That was a great response. And yeah, it's so cool when you're like," It's working. We did that. We made this conversation happened or we provided a place for that conversation to happen." It's really cool.

Emily Cowan: That's really cool. And my second favorite thing is when members throw flags that are like," Hey, we don't talk to each other like that around here." That's my second favorite thing of all time. Because the fact that you've created, and this is the branding part of it too, if people feel invested in keeping things clean around here, that means you did your job right. And that always makes me proud.

Heather McNair: Thank you for saying that. People don't believe me sometimes and I'm like, no, the members will self- police.

Emily Cowan: Totally, they totally will. But only if they feel like it's worth protecting.

Heather McNair: Yeah.

Emily Cowan: So that, as the community manager, you're allowed to take that as a compliment, I think.

Heather McNair: Yeah. Yep. That's a great point.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. They hold each other accountable. So I have to ask you, we'll end this conversation on our go- to question for all of our guests on this show, what is your favorite engagement tactic?

Emily Cowan: We covered, which is more of a strategy, of creating a place that people want to hang out in because very few communities, let's put it this way, very few communities can survive on post and ghost. The bottom line is that you have to create a space that people want to come back to over and over again, or your engagement is going to die quickly. That's the strategic piece of it. And then I guess my favorite tactic, and I touched on this before is asking members for help based on what their experience of the community is. And I can't take credit for this at all. I'm going to tell you right now, this is right out of Richard Millington's blog. But the out of the box, like we miss you message, has always bothered me because it's just reminding people that they just didn't care enough to check in recently, like don't amplify the fact that they haven't been around. So this was a pretty recent blog piece in FeverBee, and the suggestion was why not try changing that message to," Hey, you've been really active in this community and you're kind of an expert, is there anything that we're not covering in terms of content that we could be or things that we could be doing differently?" And there's not really a conversion rule for this email, but I can tell you that this one message has netted more responses from members than any other message that I have going out. And sometimes I get great feedback. Some people are like," Sorry, COVID's crazy," and some people are like," Hey, I'd like to see more of this." And that leads to a conversation that's like," Well, would you like to craft a post around that?" And not only is it telling me here are some of the kinds of conversations that I wish there were more of. So for example, I hear a lot," I wish there were more kinds of conversations for young physicians who are going through this whole transition to attending, buying their first house, managing their new doctor salary." And I'm like," Yeah. And one way to do that would be to generate some of that content as a young physician." It leads to a conversation like," Will you feel comfortable crafting something around that to maybe ask that question and get some answers? Because I'm sure that lots of people are asking the exact same question." And not only has that been a useful piece of feedback that has informed this new year two strategy about encouraging new attendings to leverage open forum for some of these communication strategies and personal finance and other things like that, but it's also been a great source of new content because a lot of times you can convert that into a new post. So that's been a really useful tactic for me, and I did not invent it at all.

Alex Mastrianni: But it's worked.

Emily Cowan: But it has worked. So thank you. Thank you, Rich. This works. Everybody should try that.

Heather McNair: Yeah. I know on one of the last projects I did at Higher Logic was looking at all of the automation rules and conversions. And one of the highest conversion rates we saw was one of the roles asking for people's help in answering unanswered posts. And so it was that explicit, asking for help, asking for people's expertise. So, yep. It's kind of along the same lines.

Emily Cowan: Absolutely.

Alex Mastrianni: Flatters people. It gets them to come back.

Emily Cowan: Exactly.

Alex Mastrianni: Well, this has been an amazing conversation. Thank you so much, Emily. I love your passion for community management. It has shown through with every question that you've answered. So we really appreciate you joining us here on the show. Where can folks find you or connect with you if they're interested in learning more about some of the stuff you're doing or connecting about other community management ideas?

Emily Cowan: You bet. Anybody who's on the hug and find me on the hug and LinkedIn also works. I love for folks to reach out and I'm always game to meet other community managers and talk shop, as you can imagine.

Heather McNair: Great. Well, thank you so much, Emily. This was truly a pleasure and I'm sure community managers and future community managers benefited greatly from this conversation.

Emily Cowan: Thanks. This was a ton of fun.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. That's going to do it for another episode of The Member Engagement Show and we'll see you next week.


In this week's episode, Alex and Heather talk with Emily Cowan about building her online community. Emily is the Online Communities and Social Channels Manager at the American Society of Anesthesiologists. She shares her journey to getting this position and what it was like starting an online community for a company that didn't have one prior. Not to mention she started this community in the middle of the pandemic. Listen now!