One of the big challenges for the emerging field of digital engagement is to define and describe what it is that we do, and establish roles within teams which can enable it to happen more easily, more consistently and on a larger scale.

It’s no good being prescriptive – the skills and boundaries overlap too much. On the other hand there are some meaningful, common sense distinctions between the different types of activities involved in social media work which could help us move beyond the ‘I’m not techie’ label. Partly, by defining these roles more clearly, we’ll be able to advertise roles and brief recruitment agencies more easily. But by understanding different skills and aptitudes, we might be able to establish happier teams and make a stronger case for scaling up digital engagement within organisations.

Describing roles within digital engagement from Steph Gray

I’ve listed out some of the activities which occured to me in the chart above, and come up with five groupings of skills/activities which seem to represent coherent roles:

  • Campaign strategist
  • Community manager
  • Social media developer
  • Digital mentor
  • Social reporter

Does that cover it? What’s missing? I’ve provocatively reused labels which have existing currency, and that may be a bad idea – I’d be interested to hear what you think.

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Hey Steph

This is fantastically useful.

Initial quick reflections:

>Is there a space for ‘copy writing’ skills. The developer, community manager, and social reporter are all likely to produce various bits of copy in the interface and content of an engagement strategy – but actually creating clear initial copy (rather than the conversational copy that the community manager / social reporter will produce on an ongoing basis) that explains the engagement opportunity in the right tone may be a really important additional skill.

>I would be interested to hear also in the profiles of staff what ‘Experience’ they may have.

Does a good ‘Strategist’ need experience of using digital engagement tools to be a good digital engagement strategist? Does the social reporter need/usually have experience of working with mainstream media production?


– You’re right, there are different writing skills needed for the different roles. I think the strategist role needs to be a clear, functional, concise, descriptive writer; the social reporter more of a classic journalist and storyteller; and the community manager/mentor need to convey humanity, warmth and enthusiasm

– Good idea, perhaps a ‘typical backgrounds’ box might help. I think wide personal experience of the tools is perhaps a prerequisite for all the roles, though I’d expect the strategist to have strong case studies up their sleeve. I’m not so sure about the social reporter – especially now that video and audio production is more of a mass participation endeavour, there are some excellent writers and webcasters (Dave Briggs springs to mind!) who I don’t think have a formal background.

Nice slides – I really liked the ‘most and least likely to say’ characterisations, and I reckon those roles would give you a pretty decent team.

If you were operating in an organisation that was producing a lot of content (i.e. in which there were a lot of individual web content creators), I think I’d have a web content team (say a copy writer / editor, a trainer and a graphical web designer) working alongside them – and develop a community to improve the quality of the content as well.

Before you can find a solution, you need to be clear about the problem…

The publication of the advert for the new Director of Digital Engagement has prompted an outburst of commentary, with two of the most interesting contributions both coming from Steph Gray, who is systematically crowdsourcing the real requirements of th…

Great Steph. I’ve been trying to develop something like this with

What I miss on the list is working out the business model for using social media.

To get a broader response, I think I will link this to our discussion channel on LinkedIn and ask this question.

Tell us which job you do/or would like to do and if you don’t fit in to one of the boxes, tell us why not.

What do you think? I’ll check back here later tonight and try to catch the weekend attention of LI.
If you aren’t a member of Social Media Mafia, maybe click the request button and I’ll click you in this pm.


Jo – sure, I’d be interested to hear that feedback.

Couldn’t figure out what you meant about joining SMM though?

I like the skills list – when I was running a web team where the web publishing was mainly devolved I used a pretty similar list to help recruit a content manager to help sort out the was a surprisingly difficult set of skills to find in one person..

My favourite bit of the entire post though is the final paragraph, might be the truest statement I have ever read

This comment was originally posted on Mission Creep | Neil Williams

Thanks for pulling this list together. It’s spot on accurate and I think lots of web managers will find it useful.

I like the point on giving feedback to content providers (from analytics and anecdotal comments) so that they feel their contributions are valued. This is straightforward to do but can have a real positive effect.

@Matt and @Neil: agree about web publishers with XHTML and CSS chops being a dangerous thing!

This comment was originally posted on Mission Creep | Neil Williams

The last two are almost the most crucial but to these I’d add having an open mind and realising you don’t know everything. It also helps if you have experience outside government. We do tend to be a walled garden, coming up with our own language and reinventing the wheel when it comes to the web.

Doing and managing websites is really rather complicated, especially having a good sense of priorities. It’s easy if you’re not experienced AND open minded to get seduced by the latest new-fangled thing and forget stuff like usability. That’s, in practice, what happens all the time.

It’s also a never ending process so it’s also easy to put stuff off. Especially in government.

With usability (and accessibility, which IMO is usability for a specific user group) it seriously helps not just to have some clue as to the basics – heuristics – but also the people skills to be able to learn directly from users. Being one step removed from actual users can be dangerous.

Great list Neil.

This comment was originally posted on Mission Creep | Neil Williams

Kindof ties into your good point about web use skills actually. Knowing the community of interest for content (and ‘marketing’ to them) is a key part of getting it read!

IME devolved publishers do have some idea of their specific online audience but somehow don’t make the connection to them. Most of this is basic common sense but online gov doesn’t have the history there in this area so somehow people leave that part of their brain at the door!

Something strange happens to government brains … I can recall numerous conversations along these disconnected lines. Example: online school registrations – why not recruit MumsNet? ‘But we published a leaflet, mums will have heard of it’ And so on, around in circles …

This comment was originally posted on Mission Creep | Neil Williams

This is good, clear and valuable, Neil.

All I’d want to add would be some degree of knowledge about governance, politics or the policy process – that is to be able to demonstrate a general professional knowledge about the sector.

The best web publishers I have met in government have had this knowledge and have used it to focus their specialist digital skills more effectively.

This comment was originally posted on Mission Creep | Neil Williams

Thanks everyone, glad you found it useful.

Ross – good call. That’s probably my biggest shortcoming personally, and it’s telling that it didn’t occur to me. Think I need to address this one with a week in a policy or bill team.

This comment was originally posted on Mission Creep | Neil Williams

This is a great post — I’ve already forwarded it to people needing to get web content staff — but I think it is missing something along the lines of:

* Hands-on experience using social tools. Ability to edit and upload simple videos and manage flickr, twitter and upcoming accounts, and similar.

What do you think?

This comment was originally posted on Mission Creep | Neil Williams

Good manual ping there, Paul. Pingbacks are enabled, so that’s a mystery. Good post, too, and thanks for the props therein. I’m watching the Socitm developments with interest and am still keen to be involved in some way (although, not able to give much time to it..)

Harry – good add, but a deliberate omission on my part as the focus was on devolved publishers doing the old fashioned web management stuff. But you’re right, the lines aren’t really so clear cut. You need this too.

This comment was originally posted on Mission Creep | Neil Williams

Hi Steph

I like the team-based approach and the roles – and the quotes

However I work with community organisations and am wondering what parallels you see which could encompass the sort of digital engagement we are exploring at local level?

For example I’ve just been working with a local neighbourhood project with five or six keen volunteers who run events, attend meetings on behalf of residents, do the fundraising, produce a newsletter and a website, etc

Their existing roles include Chairperson, Secretary, Trasurer and – more relevant perhaps – include newsletter editor, website manager, community development worker and vicar [!]

I can see how the web/social media can help them build their work and bring benefits to their community but this seems a long way from the context you envisaged in your proposal?

On the other hand the underlying principles may still apply – so can you see ways of mapping the roles and skills you have identified here onto that sort of setting?


Hi Mark (Steph)
Maybe we need a simple framework for thinking about communications and roles
* what is the domain (area) of activity … locality, online community, organisation etc
* what are the activities (fundraising, info exchange, development)
* what sets of skills are needed, and tools
* what roles/hats

This may involve existing roles developing new skills (e.g. community activists getting online), and those with new (online) skills understanding some traditional roles and skills.