David Attenborough’s Ten Rules for Television Presenters Apply to Community Managers Too?

David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough, television legend (neologism: telegend?), passes down the 10 Commandments of TV Presenting to The Times. Although they are presented as tips for presenters, I found myself thinking as I read them that these 10 ‘rules’ might usefully guide the way that television thinks about itself in this time of change and challenge. It also seemed to me that the commandments might inform the role of whatever television presenting evolves into – perhaps a kind of ‘community manager’ function (more on that below).

The 10 Commandments are slanted towards presenters of nature programs, and Attenborough gives rich context to each in the original story:

  1. Ask yourself ‘Why am I here at all?’
  2. Don’t undermine your credibility
  3. If needed, cheat to show the truth
  4. Work out a narrative line before you start shooting
  5. Go the extra mile in research
  6. Some viewers actually prefer to learn things
  7. Travel light and take the same clothes
  8. Be ready for some impact on your personal life
  9. Treat the animals with respect
  10. Don’t think proximity is safer than it is

At the second OTB forum in November, one of the participants talked about the ‘community manager’ as a growing area of work. The CM coordinates a company’s relationship with its online customers/clients/bloggers, and develops the company’s self-understanding of social media developments and potential. Jeremiah Owyang describes the work of the community manager as being a combination of advocacy, evangelism, diplomacy, editing, and harvesting (useful links, too). Nathan Gilliatt describes this work as ‘social media relations’ which he sees as

an interdisciplinary specialty that spans marketing, technology, and Internet culture

…Here’s a summary of the responsibilities of the role:

  1. Coordinate the development and implementation of social media engagement strategy and policies, including blogging policy, formal blogger relations programs and social media monitoring programs.
    1. Maintain domain knowledge in social media. Be a resource for others who need to understand new services and their potential impact on the business.
    2. Maintain awareness of company’s activities in social media and contacts for the various activities.
    3. Be an advocate for the understanding of social media and how they affect the company’s marketing and communications activities.
    4. Engage the company’s IT organization to coordinate IT resources and policies with social media strategy.
  2. Train functional groups (such as marketing, communications, and HR) on the technology and culture of social media as it relates to their roles.
  3. Coordinate company’s tactical response to social media issues.
    1. Consult with internal groups on appropriate responses to social media issues. Advise on the likely response of online communities to the company’s plan.
    2. Coordinate company response to social media crises; track engagement by appropriate groups (internal and external).
  4. Serve as the primary contact for external service providers and vendors who support the monitoring of, and engagement with social media.

The role is also familiar in the games community, where the community manager acts as a kind of intermediary between the customers/players/users/fans (what Axel Bruns terms the produsers) and the game developers, introducing both sides to the best new ideas of the other and augmenting the experience of playing/produsing the game.

And as observed in the forum it may be that the role becomes more familiar in television if, as seems likely to me at least, the trusted mediator finding, filtering and forwarding the stuff I’d be interested in – ‘presenting’, perhaps, my own dedicated channel – will become more and more a part of life. I would also expect that the role will be performed by a person rather than a computer, perhaps guided by Attenborough’s commandments.

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2 Responses

  1. This whole notion of community managers might provide one pathway forwards for Public Broadcasting. The idea of Public Broadcasting works best where it plays an equal role with Commercial bx-ing in a limited marketplace. That’s why digital poses some real conundrums for it: its semi-monopoly is lost.

    The idea of community management would provide PBX with a means of carrying independence, access, equity into the whole gamut of digital platforms. The BBC is probably the only Public Broadcaster that will be able to originate large volumes of content for platforms globally, but there’s no reason why a PBXer here should not act as a conduit to valuable information and entertainment worldwide.

  2. “Presenters” and the idea of “social media intermediaries” raise the central issue of “trust” and what this might mean for our future televisual environments.

    From the media studies perspective, presenters like Attenborough, who subscribe to transparent professional and ethical codes of practice like the ones outlined here, can be viewed as “mechanisms of trust” (1), adopted by broadcasters to facilitate a relationship between their service and the remote viewer. In the conventional viewing context, the “presenter” thus becomes a “fictive presence” providing a sense of legitimacy, connection, and intimacy with their audience. And as a result audiences build a sense of trust with the production/broadcasting brand.

    But can the traditional media organization trust the audience? The conventional viewer relationship is of course being disrupted now that viewers/participators no longer have to accept a passive and “fictive” relationship with producers or media organizations. And programs are not “presented” in the same ways if they are interactive and multi-layered across various platforms.

    I suppose the development of the “moderator” or “intermediary manager” roles is a form of “presenter” function and another “mechanism of trust’, which now has to accommodate, not only the professional codes of the organisation that pays for it, but also the relationships with the online audiences in their social/production space.

    So I guess the question for me is how might “trust mechanisms” in the televisual space either evolve or dissolve over the next 10 years?

    I would love my own personal presenter too. But I have this other feeling we might get a visual version of the “audio filters” on company telephones. Depending on what we want to watch or do, we might get this pleasant robotic little avatar who after welcoming us, and telling us how much they value our involvement, directs us to “select 1” if we want to do this, or “select 20” and so on. And if we’re having problems, there’s the feedback blog online.

    (1) I’m referring here to the work of social theorist Anthony Giddens, and media theorist Sean Moores who examine the ways social relationships and trust are manufactured in modern systems and organizations “separated in time and space”.

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