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4-min read
March 7, 2022

The Community-Led Show #2: Tough Love with Brian Oblinger

ICYMI, The Community-Led Show is back, and we're diving right into more Community-Led goodness in episode 2.

In the firing line of our questions this week is Brian Oblinger, former Community Strategist and now Senior Vice President of New Products at Commsor. Brian is also the host of community podcast favorite, In Before the Lock (and probably better at podcasting than we are, but we forgive him).

Here's our latest episode.

You'll also find the podcast on:

If podcasts aren't really your thing, no matter — we'll be posting a regular TL;DL (too long, didn't listen) summaries right here on our blog to keep you in the loop. If you'd prefer to read the chat, here's the full transcript.

We hope you enjoy the show! If you have any suggestions about topics you'd like to see us cover or guests to interview, we'd love to hear from you. Please reach out via

The Community-Led Show #2: TL;DL

Brian's new role at Commsor

It feels like Brian has been a Commsaurian since the company's inception, but we've made things official with his new full-time role, SVP of New Products. Here's a little more detail on what Brian will be handling.

Community-Led Customer Success & Support

Brian's been around the block when it comes to community roles (more on Brian's 20 years in community here), but much of that time was spent working closely with Customer Success teams. In this episode, Brian unpacks what Success actually refers to — spoiler: it's the success of the customer in using your product, not your success in sales or retention.

"A lot of companies are a little confused about what Success actually means," he says. "I tend to think we need to take a Community-Led approach to Customer Success, which starts with asking yourself, 'What do we need to do to make the customer successful?' And if we do that really well, then it turns out the money and whatever measure of success we have for ourselves as a business will follow."

"If I could sum it up, you've got to learn to look outward, rather than inward."

Brian also offers some advice for Community and Success teams on working cross-functionally.

"You have to want to work cross-functionally," he says. "It turns out you have to actually want to do that, and have people at the top who force you to do that. You have to have shared goals across the company, it can't be one person or one team's job to care about the customer and what they want. That has to be everyone's job at the company — it has to be a shared philosophy or mentality. The first rule of community is you've got to talk about community, internally."

Leadership buy-in for community

In our Community-Led Report we discovered that while many exec teams were aware of the company’s community, a huge chunk of them didn’t actually understand the impact community can have on an org. Why does Brian think that is?

Brian dubs this the 'tough love' portion of the show. "The prevailing narrative of community over the past few years has been, 'Man these executives just don't get it'."

But Brian believes the onus is on community professionals to explain community to people who don't understand it in the way that we do. "If people tell us they don't understand this thing or why we're doing it, that's our fault. It's our job to take the data that we have, do some analysis, and tell a compelling story back to those exec to say, 'Here's why we're doing this and here's the impact to the business'."

Telling your community story

While some folks might balk at the idea, Brian adds, but getting leadership support starts with telling a compelling story — which, a lot of the time, comes back to money. 

"At the end of the day if you come to a meeting with a presentation or a story that has dollar signs in front of the numbers and you say, here's the impact we're driving, then people tend to understand much more clearly what you're talking about and why we need to do this. Then typically you know you'll have a little bit of an easier time convincing them that you need more of those dollar signs so that you can generate even more dollar signs."

Growing into a community leadership role

Brian, who is the lead instructor for C School's Leadership track, also unpacked what sets the course apart, and how it can help experienced community pros take their careers to the next level.

"Leadership track is really all about people that have been in this business for three plus years, and they are ready to go from individual contributor to a leader. Or maybe they're in a leadership position but they didn't get the training they need. Stop me if you've heard that that never happens at any company in the world!"

The big goal is to take the theoretical and make it a reality for the students, and help them put it all into practice, he adds.  

"Just about every week, there's a role play of some type where we teach a concept and then we basically practice it in a safe environment. The goal is to give people the experience of what it's actually like to have those conversations with CEOs or CMOs or VP of Product, so they'll able to implement those learnings in the real word."

They've had some great feedback about that approach from the first cohort of students, Brian adds. "It was kind of funny because we would practice the scenarios on, say, a Tuesday, and then on the Friday one of the students would have exactly that conversation with their manager, or the CEO. Just making things more tangible or more real for community folks as they step into a more strategic leadership role is the best way forward. We're really looking forward to another cohort, and many more to come."

More Community-Led resources

As we touch on in the show, we've got a whole host of things available on our Community-Led site. There, you'll find the Community-Led Growth Model, The 2022 Community-Led Report, and the Community-Led Assessment.

Kirsti Lang
March 7, 2022

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