A Day in the Life: Laura Goss, Online Community Manager at Macmillan Cancer

by Jessica Ramesh

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The role of community manager is probably the only digital discipline to have its own dedicated day (27 January, if you want to pop it in next year’s diary) but the job remains largely unheralded. To shed some light on the work community managers do, Figaro Digital asked Laura Goss, Online Community Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, to share a day in her working life. Her diary provides an insight into the demands and rewards that come with managing the day-to-day operations of the UK’s largest peer support community for cancer patients.

9am – 11am

Typically, the first task of the day is to catch up on the previous evening’s activity. Macmillan Cancer Support’s community is covered during evenings and weekends by an out-of-hours team, and if something serious or concerning has happened overnight, that needs to take priority. Looking into a complex report can take a few hours, and we often work with colleagues in our senior nurse team to address any specific support needs.

On Monday mornings I run a team meeting where we go through our priorities for the week – who we’re meeting, what we’re working on and what content we’re publishing. We spend some time with our team’s digital project manager, who fills us in on community items in the development queue, and we also take the opportunity to discuss any weird and wonderful bugs or issues reported by our members.

11am – 1pm

At Macmillan we’re always looking for new ways to encourage our nurses and other professionals to engage with our communities online. A few times a month we run webchats, usually from 12-1pm, where anyone can drop in and ask a question. The webchat programme is varied. Some chats are devoted to specific cancer types while others are more general – to do with diet or side effects, for instance.

Once a month, our benefits advisors run a webchat devoted to supporting people dealing with the financial impact of cancer. The transcripts of these chats are consistently some of the most visited and engaged with pieces of content on the site.

A fair amount of my time during the day is taken up with meeting colleagues across the organisation, learning about new and ongoing initiatives and exploring how the community can either support or facilitate them. I occasionally meet up for external collaboration or knowledge-sharing meetings too. Macmillan’s online community is considered sector leading, so over the years I’ve spent time sharing what I’ve learned with cancer organisations from all over the world.

1pm – 2pm

During the course of the day, the team will spend a lot of time interacting with our members by email, on the site itself or by phone. The nature of our community means that most of the people we’re in contact with are going through intensely difficult periods in their lives. They could be going through cancer treatment, waiting anxiously for results, caring for a loved one or dealing with grief. It can be tough sometimes, so I try to get away from my desk during my lunch hour where possible, to get some fresh air and some space.

Being mindful of the impact this job can have is really important, so I’m always open to ideas that improve the team’s wellbeing. We take part in monthly external supervision as part of this, but I also try to inject some light-heartedness into the day too, with the odd animal-based video or nineties chart topper.

2pm – 5pm

If I get a chance in the afternoon, I like to spend some time with a cup of tea browsing through the latest blog posts our members have published on the site. You might imagine that a blog written by someone with or affected by cancer would be depressing, but this is rarely the case. Difficult issues and experiences are shared, it’s true, but many of the posts are striking in their humour, warmth, sincerity and candour.

From time to time I’ll share content that’s especially tickled or moved me with the wider digital team – who don’t always get as much opportunity as I do to explore what life is like for those we’re working for. I’m constantly reminded what a valuable lifeline our community is for people, and it feels like good practice to let the people around the direct team share in this too. On Fridays the day ends with trusty ‘wine o’clock’. We’re a huge, friendly team so it’s great to catch up on what everyone’s working on and share the highs and lows of the week.