By Ahava Leibtag published December 13, 2010

Five Personality Types You Need on Your Digital Communications Team

There is a lot of great conversation around building a great digital communications team.  Most of the conversation centers around the types of professionals you should hire, grow and promote.  But, what if your budget is small? Or, what if you outsourced certain functions, so your core team can focus on strategy?  What should your team look like then?

Last time we talked about  moving toward user engagement strategy teams, as a way to centralize your marketing and communications functions. A user engagement strategy team is a way to bring together different training and experience to solidify your strategy and streamline your tactics.  It takes time, energy and planning, but it can be done.  So, now, who should be on this undefeatable team?

Instead of describing the professional qualifications of the people you usually see on these lists, I’m not going to design your team for you. (However, I do think you need a strong Information Architect, an experienced and detailed content professional and a user-focused visual designer.)

You know your talent and who has the skills you need to move toward a strong digital communications team who thinks about strategy as well as tactics.  So, instead of talking about skills, I’m going to describe the types of personalities you need on those teams:

The User Advocate

While thinking about the user should be a personality trait of all members of your team, we are sometimes so close to our work that we fail to see how outsiders may perceive it.  On every team I’ve ever been on, there’s always one person who circles the conversation back to the unique needs of each user.  Sometimes business strategy does not align with user goals—hard to imagine, but we’ve all seen it. The User Advocate will try to find the right thing to do for the user, and usually will find a way to align those goals to the business strategy.

The Cheerleader

Every team needs one person who will cheer their efforts.  You might hear this person say, “To every problem, there’s a solution.” Do not underestimate the need for a Julie Andrews-type to continue to uplift the team and provide encouragement, even in the face of what seems like an insurmountable problem or even failure.  And, more importantly, you really need The Cheerleader to balance the next necessary personality.

The Cynic

Oh, we all know The Cynic: he’s the one in the meeting who rolls his eyes, always asks questions, presses the point. He’s incredibly useful, though, because you’d make mistakes without The Cynic. You’d start living in the clouds, instead of tackling the weeds. Cynics are good because they can project what the future will look like and they can provide an accurate scenario of how it might go wrong.  Knowing where the obstacles are will help you avoid them.  Think of The Cynic as your personal early warning system.  And, when he gets out of hand, make him go to lunch with the cheerleader.

The Risk-Taker

This character wants to put it out there before it’s tested, believes more is more, and isn’t always thinking about the consequences of major decisions.  The value of The Risk Taker is that she pushes the team forward.  She lets you see what is possible and is not afraid of making mistakes.  Great leaders know that mistakes will be made.  They mitigate that by trying to make the best possible decision with the information they have in hand at the moment.  I’m not saying load your team with irresponsible gamblers.  I’m saying look for someone who is willing to jump, but who can often be pulled back from the ledge by our next type:

The Analyzer

Different from The Cynic, The Analyzer believes in data, statistics and demonstrated facts. She’ll consistently bring you back to your strategy by looking at proof that you’re doing the right thing.  For example, The Analyzer might say, “Our analytics are showing we made a bad architecture decision about click-through pathways. Let’s brainstorm about how to fix that.” Truth be told, it’s good to have a little bit of her in every member of your user engagement strategy team, but make sure you have at least one person who believes in data, big-picture analysis and post-game rundowns.  She’ll help you improve your game, and will advocate for the business.

So tell me, without naming your name, do you have personality types like this on your teams?  Did I forget anyone? And, do you think the perfect triangulation of IA, writer/content strategist and visual designer is the right one?

Author: Ahava Leibtag

Based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Ahava Leibtag is a Web content strategist and writer. She leads AHA Media Group, a Web and content consulting firm, and authors the blog Online it ALL Matters. She thinks 60 words is way too few to communicate why she’s interesting. You can connect with Ahava on Twitter at @ahaval.

Other posts by Ahava Leibtag

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