What Does a Brand Manager (or Community Leader) Do?

Jane at AWP 2009
Jane mans the Writer's Digest table at AWP 2009 (Chicago)

I’m often asked what my job at Writer’s Digest encompasses, or what my typical day is like.

My official title is Publisher & Editorial Director of the Writing Community. Internally, I’m referred to as a Community Leader, or CL for short. Sometimes I call myself a brand manager, like on LinkedIn.

But none of these titles accurately reflect the diversity of things I’m responsible for (books, magazines, competitions, events, online subscription products, online education, eCommerce, marketing, advertising, partnerships …).

Today I read an interview with Bud Caddell, who is on a shortlist of people I greatly admire and closely follow. He made the following comments that come close to describing my role at Writer’s Digest:

Bud: And taking it back to what a brand manager, these days, is responsible for is overwhelming. They’re responsible for all ends of production, all ends of actual delivery of product. They’re responsible for the advertising, for the marketing, for reporting. There’s just so much they’re trying to juggle at the same time, I think it’s too much. I think they’re overburdened with that. And then adding on information intake with that is frightening to them. Now they have to go read blogs plus they have to manage the normal day-to-day? It’s overlooked when we talk about what brand managers should be or shouldn’t be. Just all the other responsibilities that they’re forced, right now, to tackle.

[some stuff snipped]

Bud: So all of us must grow our own skill set, I think, to survive. Make ourselves more uncomfortable.

Grant: It’s nice. It’s a co‑conspiracy of smart people, finally. And it’s people smart enough to know the real order of difficulty we’re looking at as we try to solve problems and the kinds of intellectual activities you’ve just described. To know that those are necessary, to know that there have to be moments when you don’t know and you put yourself in a state of real discomfort. What’s the famous line from George Bernard Shaw, “Most people would rather die than think. Most do.”

Bud: Right.

Grant: Right? We get comfortable with our categories, we use them over and over again, and it’s that climbing out of that, it’s like getting out of a space capsule without your astronaut’s suit on. Right? It’s not pleasant not to think in the ideas that make thinking easy. It’s quite horrible in a way. Unless you’re pushed into it in a moment of inspiration. Just suddenly you have an idea, and you went through none of the the pain of transition, somehow it happened to somebody else, you don’t know, but you just got the idea for nothing.

Bud: Right.

Grant: You didn’t have to spend anytime in the world doing this. That’s all right, I’m just babbling.

Bud: For me, pain is often—and pain and being uncomfortable are the best catalysts for thinking. Brands are too untouchable. Brands have amassed too much power for themselves. So they never really have to be uncomfortable unless they want to make themselves feel uncomfortable.

Grant: And in a weird way, maybe the CCO becomes the detonation box that you have inside the C suite. You have the person who is prepared to make themselves exquisitely uncomfortable so that other members of the C suite don’t have to, “That’s what we pay you for, to spare us that discomfort.” [laughter].

Bud: The whipping boy of the organization.

Keep up with Bud Caddell at What Consumes Me.

And if these ideas interest you, check out Chief Culture Officer by Grant McCracken. It’s on my Kindle now.

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