June 7th, 2007

Buzz Director: help me write a job description

Buzz Lightyear. Photo: Thomas HawkI thought it was about time to re-visit the role of the “buzz director” – flesh out the role I first floated last October.

This is especially urgent given that much of the action is now taking place away from your own (increasingly irrelevant) website, ‘out there’, in social networks and online communities.

A good example of this is the dispersed hoohah generated by the London 2012 Olympic logo. An immediate ‘loss of control’ if ever there was one. Ben Whitnall asks whether the powers that be will be happy to engage with the debate where it is already happening (e.g the 100+ groups set up on Facebook in the last few days)… or will this be a job turned over to the suits and bean counters in the Ministry for Herding Cats?

Through this post, I’ll ping Jeremy Gould, who hints that heads of “e-communication” in government departments regularly re-assess their “roles and skillsets” now the goalposts have moved. But I reckon this awareness is unlikely to have yet ‘trickled up’ to the accountants.

Another favourite blogger of mine, Jeremiah Owyang, has also chipped in with some suggestions.

Last month I noticed that Shane Atchison included elements of the buzz director role in this post describing what a “Social Network Analyst” might do. I emailed Shane via the ClickZ website. Hope he received it.

Perhaps the “buzz director” label (which was always just a working title) sounds too marketing-centric; I don’t mean it to be; buzz directors need to be able to apply this thinking to online communities and activist networks. I’m talking ‘people’ rather than products.

Anyway, I’m going to quickly throw down some further thoughts. I fear they’ll come out in no particular order, but you’re invited to help me knock this into shape by commenting below. I’ll also set up a wiki (Update: here’s the link).

Oh, by the way… when you do come to recruit for this role, consider putting the word out like this!

Job description

You will:

  • Learn how to be in more than one place at once!! i.e. not just a space ranger but a ‘ranger of spaces’.
  • Co-create targeted engagement strategies with appropriate colleagues, especially social reporters and community technology stewards (if you have them), brand ‘ambassadors’, and ’cause evangelists’.
  • Bring the senior management team with you; earn their respect and backing.
  • Photo: Steve BridgerDevelop and coach on tactics, seeding networks, ‘brand’ positioning, etc.
  • Expect the unexpected, and be resourceful in responding in the moment. Improvise.
  • Funnel organisational strategy into focused activity.
  • Be pivotal in mapping the organisational structure onto web innovation.
  • Be generous. Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant.
  • Recruit virtual volunteers and sprinkle confetti liberally, so that you yourself can leave a ‘light footprint’.

Photos: Marta Motti & Anna Pleteneva
Photos: Marta Motti and Anna Pleteneva

  • Identify and define new measures of engagement, social capital and social impact.
  • Encourage culture of collaboration and joined-up thinking and confront ‘silo’ thinking wherever you encounter it.
  • ParachutistsCall on ‘peace-keepers’ (strictly non-combatants) to follow guidelines (which you yourself have drawn up co-created with key stakeholders.
  • Pull the highlights from the ‘dashboard’ [see below...] and prepare monthly reports of activity and impact. Distribute widely within the organisation and beyond.


  • Be able to see the wood from the trees and ideally have an eye for visualising data.
  • Be the consummate diplomat and demonstrate the ability to slip into the role of chameleon or conductor when appropriate… and very very occasionally don an invisible cloak (but leave dagger behind).
  • Show good judgement.
  • Some legal nous would be desirable, as would be the ability to conduct risk assessments around ‘user-generated content’.
  • Know how to take calculated risks.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Be inspired and inspire others.
  • Coach.
  • Possess a sixth sense.
  • Be as light on your feet as a prizefighter. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
  • Instinctively recognise when serendipity occurs; capture it, bottle it… and pass on the recipe.


Back in the 1980s we had the press cuttings service (as well as the telephone tree). New functions and responsibilities require new tools and devices.

Ed Mitchell, Nigel Dunn and I have been discussing the concept of a “dashboard”. Now, none of us is absolutely certain yet how or what to measure – well, not everything – although I think we’ve got a pretty good foundation.

Bear with me. I visualise this dashboard as a ‘virtual’ mixing desk… with levers and buttons, dials, green and amber lights, a few scary red ones, a built-in early warning system. Basically, this ‘thing’ would be so cool that nobody will want to be without one. Not if you’re a buzz director, anyway.

Mixing desk

The dashboard would reflect the different activities and behaviours around ‘your’ cause. It would aggregate all the conversations (see Pageflakes, Netvibes, and coComment), but be much more than that.

Check out London-based Onalytica who have updated their website. It now features live graphs offering – as they put it – “an unprecedented X-ray of the stakeholder universe”.



Right, need to set up that wiki…


Caveat: this is a work in progress.

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Technorati buzz director, community dashboard, net2, nptechuk, social media measurement

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9 Responses to “Buzz Director: help me write a job description”

  1. CarlenLea Says:

    You’ve just described my job pretty darn well. Note to self — ask for title change!

    I would add some traditional marketing skills here. It’s hard to report success to senior management if you don’t know what they expect to hear.

  2. Web Strategy by Jeremiah » Web Strategy Reading, A Roundup, June 12, 2007 Says:

    [...] Curious to what a Buzz Director is? Learn more about this type of new role, a lot of metaphors here. [...]

  3. Jeremy Gould Says:

    That’s really helpful for me Steve – and the reminder of your older post which sets it out nicely. I’ll feed it into our thinking for future government communications.

  4. Steve Bridger Says:

    Jeremy – this is heartening to hear. Please do keep us informed as to how this pans out. I can feel some “Buzz Director” workshops coming on… :)

  5. Paolo Ferrara Says:

    Hi Steve, the italian guys are working together… we’re talking about a wiki about the role of buzz director… first of all, maybe, we need an italian name… but we’ll do it…
    Thank you very much

  6. Ron Mader Says:

    I like the idea of ‘buzz director’ though I wish we could get away from the idea that it has to be a position within an individual organization. My idea is a bit more ambitious — we need buzz directors that are beholden to ideas or values more than a corporate logo (even if it is a ‘non profit’).

    That said, I really really like your idea and wish that more organizations had someone with this position. What will be needed to make this happen will be acceptance within organizations about the simple desire to communicate in a timely and accurate manner. Bring on the institutional wikis, bring on the buzz!

  7. Steve Bridger on the "Buzz" Director » The Buzz Bin Says:

    [...] the question, I’ve had a first pop at defining what a buzz director job description might look like but I’m not naive enough to think organizations will just embrace buzz directors (and what [...]

  8. Ed Mitchell: Platform neutral » Blog Archive » Community ROI Report Says:

    [...] since meeting some years ago which Steve is also taking forward as part of his ongoing ‘buzz director‘ idea. It’s a two part gig: 1: capture data, 2: report effectively into useful [...]

  9. DavePress » Digital Curator Says:

    [...] about, and the online community organiser that Seth Godin has discussed. Bring in other elements: Steve Bridger’s buzz director, David Wilcox’s institutional hacker, Nancy White’s community [...]