I've had the pleasure of working on and helping to set up LSEG’s developer relations practice from scratch, and I'd like to share some of the insights and experiences of that process.
Specifically, I'd like to discuss three core areas of a thriving DevRel operation:
- Content creation strategy
- Stakeholder management
- Community management
The challenges associated with a content strategy
We've all heard the phrase, “Content is King,” and this couldn't be more relevant than in the business of developer relations.
But when we start looking at content strategy, we quickly discover that the landscape is huge. It includes areas such as:
- The types of content to produce
- The platforms to engage on
- Content standards
- Personas we need to target
- How all this impacts our social media strategy
- And how we incorporate SEO into all of this.
And the more we think about this, the larger this list of requirements grows.
The biggest mistake we can make is trying to solve too many things all at once. Instead, a better approach is to look at one of the core elements of a content strategy, namely, the content creation roadmap.
Creating a content roadmap
A well-defined roadmap is more than just a timeline of the delivery of the content. It should also convey how the content aligns with key strategic goals and the values and outcomes being delivered.
By creating such a roadmap, we'll have a framework to discuss our strategy, we'll be able to prioritize the content that matters the most, and because we have finite resources, we can use this roadmap as part of our resource planning exercise.
It’ll also help us to highlight any investments required, such as the use of agencies or third-party platforms. And of course, we need to project manage the delivery of our content, and the roadmap will help to support that as well.
It’ll help us to define the target audiences for the content, and finally, it should be clear on all the defined measures of success for the types of content being produced. This is what a strong content roadmap will contain and provide.
So, the obvious next question is, how do we go about producing such a roadmap?
The first step is to make sure that we have a clear understanding of the business landscape that we're operating in. The sources for this understanding include:
- The identified customer challenges and opportunities
- Our competitors and what differentiates the value that we offer from this
- Familiarity with the product roadmaps to know what's being delivered.
Additionally, our frontline teams, sales account management, and customer success teams are another source of customer needs.
Customer journey mapping will help us to identify gaps and opportunities in the journey to adoption, and we should be aware of planned marketing campaigns that can provide us with opportunities for alignment.
Finally, we mustn't forget our company goals over the period of time that we're planning this.
In addition to these sources, we can also look at the help desk database to discover customer demands and requirements.
Online forums where customers will be exercising their voice on their needs are another source. Our developer advocates, through their interactions with customers, can provide insights, pain points, and wish lists.
Formal interviews through advisory forums, surveys, and round tables are another good source.
Today, many of us are utilizing platforms to manage the sales processes to get the analytics for our websites and other search functions. All these databases can provide some very interesting insights that we can feed into our content strategy.
Using these sources, we can create a content roadmap that aligns with business goals, planned campaigns, and product delivery, and this will really help us to amplify the messaging and value of the content being produced.
In addition to these sources, many companies also build persona models. When doing so, it's important to maintain a strong focus on the role needs, rather than just the role functions.
Such a model should also consider how those personas make up our current community, and those that we wish to attract.
And finally, we shouldn't forget that these models can be dynamic, so over time, we'll need to review these models again.
Developers are constantly challenged to maintain their knowledge on the latest technologies. Keeping our content relevant to these trends will not only support our existing members of the community but will also help us to attract new ones and support our brand.
The roadmap should also contain some flexibility to allow us to incorporate the next big thing that lands in the technology space.
A good recent example of this is large language models, and how many organizations have jumped on this capability to show relevance.
The content being planned must have defined measures for success. This includes webinars, online tutorials, blogs, guides, code samples, and all of the online activities that we perform.
Once we've built our roadmap, we should conduct a review to ensure that it's meeting all the goals of the strategy. Some of the areas that we can include in this review are:
- Whether there’s a strong alignment to the business goals and objectives
- Whether it supports the needs and challenges of the groups and personas that make up the community
- If it contains the variety and nature of materials to keep the broad set of our community members engaged.
- If it contains defined outcomes to report the successes.
These are some of the key considerations of a successful content strategy.
This brings us to our next topic, stakeholder management, and how we can share insights and outcomes that convey the strong values of our DevRel program.
Stakeholder management is key to a strong DevRel program
Good stakeholder management will allow us to communicate the value of our DevRel program and attract further investment to grow and evolve our developer operations.
It’ll also help us to further embed the discipline of DevRel into our business, and, if done correctly, will help to attract new talent as well.
Key activities that are part of good stakeholder management will include the collection of data and measures on all the activities of the program.
The production of a dashboard for stakeholders and partners is a really important tool to shape insights from the program, and this should be backed up by regular communications of this information with all of our partners, which can only come from our DevRel operation.
Developing a dashboard for effective stakeholder management
Creating a dashboard is going to be a powerful tool that we can utilize in stakeholder management.
So, how do we go about creating a compelling dashboard? And what should go into it?
Answering the questions below can help us discover some of this content. They include:
- How are you engaging with the community?
- How are you providing the “voice of the customer” back into the business?
- How have you used your insights to help direct the product strategy?
- How have you added value to our frontline teams to help them get the job done when speaking to these groups of users?
- What online engagements have taken place?
- How have your developer advocates created new value or investment in your products and services?
- How have you helped to improve the developer journey experience to adoption?
- What trends and opportunities are you seeing within the community?
- What has your team delivered to support your products, services, and brand?
- How have you delivered new experiences to your customers?
The answers to these questions will help you to source the right content for your dashboard.
When you've collected this information, there are a number of things to consider as you start to build your dashboard. The first of these is to be aware of some basic principles or design philosophy.
The dashboard should be self-servicing, stand on its feet, and tell a story. It's good to lead with insights, starting with the most basic information and then presenting the deeper insights as you go through it. It should include both qualitative and quantitative information.
We can measure the strength of our dashboard using a checklist. In your dashboard, you should try to include some sort of net promoter score or equivalent that provides meaningful insight into the level of engagement of your community.
It should include clear distinctions between qualitative and quantitative information, it should contain information on the past, present, and potential future trends, and it should also show information that highlights the demographics of your engaged users.
The key successes, values, and outcomes you've created should be in there, but you should also make sure it includes insights that touch all your stakeholders.
One of the aims of this dashboard should be to demonstrate clear links between the activities of your program and the goals of your business.
Finally, you should provide or at least imply direction and next steps in this dashboard.
Following the distribution of the dashboard, we may occasionally get the opportunity to present this to the stakeholders. Therefore, it's always a good idea to augment it with a presentation that supports deeper discussions of the information and insights that we're sharing to convey the value of our DevRel program.
It can also be used to help inspire stakeholders on new ways in which they can engage with our program, and that in turn will help us to create new value for the community that we serve.
One final tip is that we should look at trying to present this to as many partners within our organization as we can. Sometimes it's not just the stakeholders we need to show this to, but there’ll be other groups of people who are influential that can help to advocate for us.
Now let's move on to the last part of our agenda, community management, and how we can approach the discipline of building an active developer community.
Considerations for building an active and engaging community
As with content strategy, there's a ton of information available on building and managing developer communities. Again, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the size of the task and the many areas of consideration, which include:
- How we're managing the developer journey to adoption
- Who we're engaging with and why
- The science and standards behind managing an online forum
- How we’re collecting metrics and values for all of our community activities
- Where we've engaged with influencers and the impact of doing so
- And the value that we've created
And as before, the more we think about this challenge, the larger this list of considerations grows.
The key here is to keep things simple and to build on some core activities. This is the best way to attack this challenge.
One thing to keep in mind is that communities do take time to build. Specifically, it's a multi-year process. So, whilst our stakeholders may want us to build Rome in a day, we must carefully manage this process to show progress and to show successful outcomes and value to justify the continued investment in what we're doing.
This will be a balancing act as we try to stay on top of all of these activities.
Conducting community analysis
The first place to start is to understand in detail the groups that make up the current community. This means examining:
- The prominent groups of users, roles, and business functions within the community
- The needs of different types of members
- The influencers and decision makers - including specific job roles, individuals, or organizations that have influenced the markets that we operate in.
And finally, we need to have a clearer understanding of the customer journey for our products and services.
We can obtain further insights by proactively engaging community members in interviews, surveys, and organized meetings.
We can also look at the places where community members show up, and that's both online and in person, and observe the challenges and needs being discussed on those forums.
Finally, our own internal experts and SMEs will have a good set of insights to share here.
Planning your community engagements
When we start planning our community activities, we need to use the analysis of the community to prioritize our attention on the biggest gaps, pain points, and needs of our customers and members.
Aside from planning our own organized events, you should also consider showing up in the places your members attend. We know that developers dislike overt marketing and sales, so your messaging should never lead with the focus of your products and services.
Instead, approach the challenge from their eyes. Share the solutions that educate the community members, such that the use of your products and services are almost incidental to the act of providing this education. The ultimate goal should always be to provide community members with the ability to get their jobs done.
Additionally, we can amplify the messaging by ensuring that we look at our content roadmap and community strategy and ensure that they're aligned, because there's no point in recreating the same content.
If you're aware of planned marketing campaigns or promotions, align with those rather than creating separate streams.
And finally, developer advocacy teams need to scale. One way you can do this is by engaging the internal experts within your organization to help you with all of these activities.
When considering the management of your community, ensure that you maintain a focus on one of the most important goals of community, and that's to be the voice of the customer or community member. Your approach should be one of partnering with community members so that they help you shape and deliver the engagements that you're providing to the whole.
Today, more than ever, people tend to follow people, so ensure that you invest in publicly promoting your developer advocates. They're a walking, talking embodiment of your brand, so you should promote them as such.
Finally, ensure that you maintain engagement with all the groups of your community; prolonged periods of silence to any subgroup is one of the easiest ways to disengage and lose community members.
Top tips for community management
Here are some final tips for you on community management.
Firstly, the principle of openness. Openness isn’t just about open source standards, it also includes how you engage with your community.
Developers are knowledge workers seeking information that helps them get their jobs done. Adding a “contact us” or a “contact sales” barrier too early in the developer journey will significantly impact the success of your strategy.
Unless it's imperative, I’d recommend you openly share as much content as possible in the public domain. This will help you to build trust and loyalty with your community, and also encourage them to return back to you.
If you know of other communities where your target audience resides, consider collaboration with those other communities. Bring the power of both communities together for the benefit of all.
Community also isn't a one-way process. You should always be looking to celebrate the success of your community members, and this is another great way to keep engagement with your community.
As mentioned earlier, community building is a multi-year project. But what does that actually mean?
Typically, when you start building a community, you’ll start by leading the interactions with that community. Over time, you should aim to build strong and regular engagements, giving that community a voice.
The next stage will be to utilize their voice to influence the decision-making processes of all your products and services.
A healthy community program will be one that leads to the community experience being fully embraced and embedded into all aspects of your business.
If you haven't already, download our developer persona playbook for more insights into what work with a technical audience.