Director of Network Operations
The problem underlying the title and undervalueing your advise runs deep. Most the people talking to you (especially nonprofits) think of the web/internet as a tactical support for the rest of the operations.
They want the “web” guy to support our restoration initiative, the web team to support fundraising, the web team to support field, the web to support membership. Web is a tactic the departments should use.
The reality is that dominating the web conversation is now a strategic pillar that can drive success in influencing the politics, fundraising, field and other key elements of the operation. (examples Ilovemountians, AlexsLemonade, Ron Paul, GreenmyApple, etc)
A good strategist and senior management operative will need to look at the over all mission, understand the constraints of other managers, understand the path of the campaign and organizational culture. The good strategist will compete in a larger organizational context for funding and the freedom form other departments to begin to implement a plan to dominate web discussion.
Without someone shift the organization at that level of management process an organization would rarely do even simple house parties or bake sales (lots of energy investment low return) and never any of the things we see the big campaigns doing now (why should they pick a song? - because if the online community is engaged on our site they are not engaged on our opponets’ site…etc))
The problem with hire an “internet guy” is that it is rarely ever perceived as a senior management position. They are not asking you for a staffer that could actually alter the message, strategy of the organization. They are looking for glorified tech support.
The problem is not the title but the positioning in the organization. Few groups can pay for the skills for a new senior management staff position so they get lots of technical wizs with a million ideas and no skills to get the organizational culture to shift.
Hire staff that can shift your culture. Call them whatever…
There is still a need for Director of Communicaitons. One is about message and message frame. We are talking about networks and engagement.
If our people go in looking to be Director of Communicaiotn they are going to get asked about frames, polling, focus group work, working with reporters, care and feeding of the press, cable ads, TV production, advance, etc. How many of the great web strategist could even hold themselves in a TV interview to stay on campaign message (rather than talk about tech? (no offense to the BS interviews you all have done). Our people are not Directors of Communications. Our people are very important but so is communication.
The key to positioning it correctly is to explain culture is shifting. The campaign or nonprofit is organizing in our culture. The culture shift is changing everything. Our culture is increasingly networked and online. The organization or campaign needs a senior management team that works to capture and channel modern networks of supporters to create the change we seek.
There is a need for a Director of Network Operations that works on staff, internal culture, seeking online networks, and empowering them or “hacking” them to create the advocacy outcomes we seek.
This is the way we should be positioning the folks that we know. These are the skill set NOI and others should build.
Good riff Zack
Every day I have the same conversation with at least one non-profit or campaign. They call and say, “Do you have an Internet person we can hire?” (Today I had four of these calls, and therefore this post.)
“No, don’t hire an Internet guy,” I say. “You need to make your senior leaders, campaigners & organizers responsible for the Internet just as they’re responsible for everything else. The Internet is the biggest, greatest opportunity you have—so why would you outsource it to some Internet person you’ll just stick in a closet anyways?”
But it usually feels like I’m wasting my breath. They call back a few weeks later and say, “We’ve taken your advice and decided to hire an Internet person…do you have any recommendations?”
So I think that all of us “Internet people” need to put our foot down. Let’s remove “Internet” from our titles and resumes. The longer we leave “Internet” on our name tags, the longer we’re enabling all this bad behavior—and devaluing our own contribution to the movement at the same time.
I know people who are the future of the progressive movement. Most of them have “Internet” stuck on them. But they are not Internet strategists, they are strategists. They are not Internet communicators, they are communicators. They are not Internet organizers, they are organizers.