The Community Manager: Foe of the Status Quo

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This week CVS Pharmacy announced that it will cease to carry tobacco products in its stores, a plan that will take full effect later this year. The general response has been that of shock in the business world, as the second largest pharmacy chain in the nation stands to lose billions of dollars of revenue as a result of the ban, but also that of awe in online communities around the globe. Certainly it makes sense that a pharmacy, an entity devoted to selling the idea that well-being is accessible to the masses, would not peddle products that are inarguably linked to the deterioration of the health of its users and that of those around them, right? That’s just what CVS has boldly asserted in this groundbreaking move, however, it has also unintentionally steered the spotlight onto its competitors, who seem reluctant to join them… just yet.

Remember that awe that I just referred to? That’s right, people around the world are collectively exhaling in response to CVS’ decision, one that seems to echo: IT’S ABOUT TIME! Now that a major retailer of health products and services has done the unthinkable by denying Big Tobacco access to its loyal customers, the community has called other such chains, such as Walgreens and Rite Aid, to action.

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What does this mean for these companies’ Community Managers? Well, they face a daunting task– that of harnessing the power of their community’s voice to influence the Decisionmakers to do the right thing. And just what is the “right” thing? It is defined by the community as being that which they decide that they want, and it is the Community Manager’s job to convey that to the rest of the company so that they can act in the interests of the consumer. In this case, that’s for their pharmacy to stop masquerading as a pillar of public health and put an end to the sale of this dangerous commodity.

In addition to this responsibility, their position is precarious one– as the representatives of such competitors, these Community Managers can hardly continue to get away with promoting a contradictory mission* to their communities and, if said businesses are not prepared to take the appropriate steps to remedy the situation, will be forced to call out those who employ them. The result will lead to the turnover of this position until the company is held accountable and chooses to modify its conduct to match that of its stated objectives. The community will not tolerate a facade, and it is the Community Manager whose livelihood is at stake, as they must negotiate a fine line of staying true to both their brand and their base.

That is why I have dubbed the position of Community Manager as the Foe of the Status Quo. In this instance they will be the catalyst, as a champion of the people, in order to affect change for the benefit of the world community, as it demands. Without this valuable asset that acts as the ears that ultimately seek to inform brain causing it to act, these companies are in peril of losing touch with their customers…and then promptly with their profits.

*Company mission statements are as follows, as taken from their respective websites:

CVS: “…we’re reinventing pharmacy to help people on their path to better health.”

Rite Aid: “To improve the health and wellness of our communities through engaging experiences that provide our customers with the best products, services and advice to meet their unique needs.”

Walgreens: “To be the most trusted, convenient multichannel provider and advisor of innovative pharmacy, health and wellness solutions, and consumer goods and services in communities across America.”

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3 Comments

  1. Zina, I love how talked about them going against their mission. I also breathe a sigh of “it’s about time” when I learned about this. CVS takes pride on living well, so why sell a product like cigarettes. However, I am sure a flipped argument could be that they also sell candy and junk food which can be equally damaging to people’s health over long periods of time. Regardless, I thought this was a great example of the finesse it takes to perform as a community manager. There is a lot of back lash and supporters during controversial issues, and the community manager is in the middle of it all.

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  2. Zina- I love the topic you chose. It definitely presented a different side of the Community Manager position (the risk of being in between the public and management), and you picked the perfect story to communicate the gravity of that role. Also, I felt a little like I was reading the New York Times, taking a current event and presenting a different spin on it, so that was enjoyable :). Great job, very fun to read!
    Annnnndd, Happy Birthday!

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  3. Hi Zina:
    As with every post, I will always select a quote that resonated with me. This is your awesome quote (paragraph)

    “What does this mean for these companies’ Community Managers? Well, they face a daunting task– that of harnessing the power of their community’s voice to influence the Decisionmakers to do the right thing. And just what is the “right” thing? It is defined by the community as being that which they decide that they want, and it is the Community Manager’s job to convey that to the rest of the company so that they can act in the interests of the consumer. ”

    First, great job of using a current business example that reflects just how important the role of the Community Manager is to the company or organization. Also, I love the above paragraph because it is essential that businesses don’t hire Community Managers to manage the “marketing and PR functions.” As you demonstrated very well ( good content ) that companies and organizations need to rely on Community Managers to convey what is happening in the brand’s online community and convey this so that is not only just in the best interest of the customer/consumer, but be able to present it to the powers that be to buy-in to what the consumers/customers are saying and see how it will benefit their company or organization in a very competitive marketplace.

    Yes, the Community Manager ultimately works for the company or organization. But they hired the Community Manager to also be an advocate and voice of the consumer/customer. It is a dual role and very strategic role. But one that needs to be well thought out, well communicated to both the online community and to management and one that should be viewed as a valuable asset to both the online community ( customer/client) and to the company.

    Great job.

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