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Paz Pisarski on Building Stronger Communities and the Power of Listening

Paz Pisarski_Earning Ears_01

Written by Adam Spencer

Powered by RedCircle

Episode Summary:

In this engaging episode of “Earning Ears,” Adam Spencer sits down with community building expert Paz Pisarski to delve into the transformative world of community development within the startup ecosystem. Paz shares her unique perspective on what differentiates an audience from a community and outlines the indispensable role of continuous engagement in creating an environment where members support and uplift one another.

Paz Pisarski illuminates the pathway from managing audiences to nurturing communities, emphasizing the importance of emphasizing transformative experiences over mere engagement metrics. She also reveals her shift to measuring community impact through members’ success stories, an insight that’s drastically changed her approach to community building.

Throughout the conversation, Paz articulates the nuances that define a successful community, the essential elements that promote growth, and the potential pitfalls to avoid. By anchoring her strategies in core principles like understanding the ‘why,’ building alongside community members, and aligning both member and business outcomes, Paz details how to foster a flourishing community in alignment with business objectives.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Transition from Audience to Community: Paz stresses the value of creating connections among members to elevate an audience to a genuine community.
  • Who, Not How: Paz advises that focusing on collaboration with others experienced in community building can be more beneficial than tackling the process alone.
  • Feedback as a Gift: Implementing regular feedback mechanisms at various community engagement points ensures that the community develops in line with member needs.
  • Balancing Business and Member Value: Successful communities provide substantial value to both the members and the business, necessitating a clear strategy that encompasses both aspects.
  • Avoiding Common Pitfalls: New community builders should focus on member engagement rather than getting bogged down by the choice of tech tools.

Notable Quotes:

  • “What flipped it from an audience to a community is we created a way for this group of people to connect and support each other on a regular basis.” – Paz Pisarski
  • “It’s like the counselors need counseling, the teachers still get taught by other people. So where were the communities for the community builders?” – Paz Pisarski
  • “Not every business should have a community, but many businesses with a community would benefit dearly from it.” – Paz Pisarski
  • “Focus on the highly engaged. Instead of focusing on reengaging disengaged members, focus on the five people who are there every single week.” – Paz Pisarski

Resources:

Transcript:

Adam Spencer: I’m Adam Spencer and this is Earning Ears, the show that helps you earn your audience’s attention. We talk to world class audience builders about the tools, tactics, and mindset they use to grow their audience from zero.

Paz Pisarski: What flipped it from an audience to a community is we created a way for this group of people to connect and support each other on a regular basis.

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Adam Spencer: That’s Paz Pisarski. Co-founder of the Community Collective, which exists to help community managers, founders, co-working spaces, and other organizations within the startup space build stronger communities. When it comes to building communities, Paz has plenty of experience. Previously, she managed startup Victoria’s Founder Community, Australia’s largest startup community with over 60, 000 people and grew RMIT’s activated community from 500 to more than 5, 000 in just a few short years.

Adam Spencer: In our conversation, we speak about the differences between an audience and community using a giving approach rather than a getting approach and Paz’s three top tips for growing community, some common pitfalls to avoid and plenty more.

Adam Spencer: So Paz, welcome to Earning Ears. What’s been earning your attention lately?

Paz Pisarski: It’s a great question, Adam. I think the biggest thing that’s been earning my ears at the moment. Is a reframe that a great community builder offered me. It actually just flipped everything I’ve ever known about community on its head.

Paz Pisarski: And it’s talking about engagement and it’s from Millie Tamati, who is the founder of Generalist World. She lives on an island in Scotland. And the reframe was instead of measuring community engagement, in our metrics and looking for, you know, how many times have people logged on or how many attendees are we getting in our community to measure the impact of it.

Paz Pisarski: We want to measure outcomes. We want to positively impact people’s lives with our communities. And so let’s measure how many transformational stories have members experienced as a result of being in our community. So, that’s what’s earning my ears at the moment.

Adam Spencer: Have you already started to implement that into the community collective and how you’re teaching that?

Adam Spencer: Maybe, you know, actually doing it within your community?

Paz Pisarski: Yeah. Yeah, as soon as I heard this, I opened our program evaluation form, which members fill out when they finish our community cohort program. And I added a question that says, Has our community cohort positively impacted your life? And if so, how?

Paz Pisarski: And then some of the stories that have come out, even just from asking that question was jaw

Adam Spencer: dropping. Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, just a side benefit to that is like, that’s great testimonial to market what you do as well. Yeah. You can use that in your marketing materials.

Paz Pisarski: 100%. We help people land jobs and even like test each other’s products and start new collaborations.

Paz Pisarski: The kind of intrinsic stories that you miss in the traditional data.

Adam Spencer: That’s awesome. And I’m sure a lot of people that are listening to this show have probably heard of you. And if they haven’t, you know, we’re going to have an awesome intro for you at the start of the show. But, like, take us back to the beginning of Paz’s journey.

Adam Spencer: How, how, when, or why did you kind of become obsessed with community building?

Paz Pisarski: Mmm, I’m very obsessed with community building. I think there have been two moments that have been very memorable in my life about communities. One is actually just about the general feeling of a community, and then the second one is about how it can actually change a life.

Paz Pisarski: So the first moment was, uh, I started playing classical guitar when I was four years old. I was classically trained by the Suzuki method, which is a Japanese style of learning an instrument, and trained as a classical guitarist for 20 years. And we joined this global community of musicians and we would travel to Japan, Italy, America every two years, and we’d perform these concerts together, one in the Sydney Opera House.

Paz Pisarski: And, you know, we would meet with these people that we couldn’t even speak to in the same language, but we would play songs. We’d help each other. We’d learn scales together and, and grow each other as musicians. And I felt so cared for and supported in this space. That, that was just eye opening, like we crossed borders, um, to play guitar with people that we’d never even met.

Paz Pisarski: So the power of community is far reaching. And the second moment, which was really about that life changing eye opener experience was when I was working at SisterWorks, uh, which is a not for profit in Melbourne and they support asylum seeker women. migrants and refugees to become financially independent by building their own business.

Paz Pisarski: And so we would connect this women community in person in Richmond, um, in a beautiful type co working craft. Shop front community space and we helped these women who, you know, move from Afghanistan or Latin America or Africa and they would arrive in Australia as lawyers, dentists and all of their qualifications would be deemed irrelevant.

Paz Pisarski: Awful and you know, they, they joined this community to meet other women who are in similar situations and then together we helped them build a business and being in this community, they were supporting each other. They were building new initiatives, which changed their lives, their family’s lives, their children’s lives.

Paz Pisarski: And they stayed with this community for years and they, and it’s still going. Uh, and so that showed me of the power of building entrepreneurial founder type communities where together we’re building businesses because it can not only change your life but the lives of

Adam Spencer: others. So what happened between leaving SisterWorks and the Community Collective?

Adam Spencer: What was the catalyst for you to start Community

Paz Pisarski: Collective? Yeah, so SisterWorks was Pretty much this platform for me afterwards, I got a taste of entrepreneurship, I got a taste of community building and that just sent me on fire. I mean, not literally, I wasn’t burning to the ground, but it set this like passion in me that wanted to explore more of these startup communities.

Paz Pisarski: So for about five to six years after that. I found myself at the intersection of building startup communities and helping people build businesses as a community manager. So I did that at RMIT university in Melbourne. Uh, I was with them for about three and a half years, running accelerator programs, managing a coworking space, built an online membership there, scaled the community from 500 to 5, 000 members.

Paz Pisarski: And after that joined, um, start of Victoria, which is now called the startup network, which is one of Australia’s largest. Startup communities. So join them was working alongside Judy Anderson Firth and Poppy Troella. And together we were helping founders build businesses, um, mainly in the home of Victoria, and now it’s across Australia.

Paz Pisarski: And, you know, at that point, the enter a pandemic in 2020. And 2021, uh, I was still working full time, but you know, obviously there was so much turmoil for so many humans, but especially business owners and especially in Melbourne, we were one of the most locked down cities in the world. We did like hundreds of days of stage four lockdown with five kilometer radiuses, like 5 p.

Paz Pisarski: m. curfew. Couldn’t sit on a park bench. Bench on like, it was madness, let alone run a business, open a store and like run your shop, you know? And so as a result, a lot of founders were experiencing a lot of hardship. And then as a result, of course, as you naturally would, they let they, they lent on the support of the accelerators and the communities that they were in.

Paz Pisarski: But what happened was there was so much pressure And responsibility on the community managers at the forefront of that, that we were also having our own challenges. We were now managing communities online, learning Zoom and Miro and. Like mural and just thrown in this like digital universe.

Adam Spencer: What’s mural?

Adam Spencer: I don’t even know what mural is.

Paz Pisarski: Exactly. Yeah. Uh, it’s like an online tech tool for like check in questions, icebreakers and things like that. And so, you know, at that point we kind of identified that, oh wow, like community builders are really at the forefront of building startup communities in Melbourne.

Paz Pisarski: And it’s really hard. It is. And I personally had a moment where I crumbled and I felt really overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure where to go to for support as well, and started reaching out to other community builders. And there was just this clear, you know, theme of us feeling like we didn’t have our community.

Paz Pisarski: You know, it’s like the counselors need counseling. The teachers still get taught by other people. So where were the communities for the community builders? So myself, Amelia Rainer from Blackbird Ventures and Jala Alex, who was. Working at Monash university at the time, but now at Friday, we brought together 17 community builders in between the fourth and fifth moment lockdown in June, 2021.

Paz Pisarski: And we had this electrifying group of people who taken off their face mask, sharing stories and talking about our challenges and wins and what we needed support with. And after that, it was. We had an air table link that was, you know, basically a sign up to hear about the meetups and it just got shared virally around.

Paz Pisarski: Australia and New Zealand. We had hundreds of community builders signing up through word of mouth. We, we moved down meetups online. Um, we were using the, the zoom account from Blackbird Ventures every month. And we had 70 to 80 community managers on the call, just talking about strategies and how do you build a community for a business specifically in the startup space.

Paz Pisarski: So that’s, that was how it all begun.

Adam Spencer: That’s awesome. And just before we kind of. Hit reset a bit and go back to kind of 101 of community building. How does an expert community builder like yourself, like, how did you do that? How did you kickstart that community? Like what would, what would like, if you can give us some, a couple of strategies or takeaways that you took out of that experience, like what worked, why did that work so well, the thing that turned into the Community Collective, an amazing business, an amazing community, like how did you start that?

Paz Pisarski: Yeah, it was wild. Like it was never our intention to build a business. You know, we wanted to help people. So we came at it from this give mindset, which we can dive into a bit later. And it’s pretty wild because some of the things that we did. You know, I’ve turned into this business. We’re a team of four, we have four different standalone offerings.

Paz Pisarski: We run an eight week program, you know, it’s turned into a fully fledged business from a meetup with 17 people. So two of the things that I think stand out that we did that excelled the growth, uh, was one. I like to think of this concept of niche cubed. So when you start a community, uh, even, or a business, a pretty, very similar fundamentals, you should be extremely specific on who you are serving and becoming niche cubed.

Paz Pisarski: So what I mean by niche cubed is you are. Being so niche, niche that you are understanding. Okay, we’re going to pick a industry. We’re going to pick a role type. We’re going to pick a country. We’re going to pick, uh, like we’re getting really niche on who is allowed into this community, um, and creating really niche criteria of joining.

Paz Pisarski: So what we did is we said, we’re going to serve community builders. So people in. In the roles of building startup communities in the startup space in Melbourne. So what that did was when we brought together 17 people, it was like, Oh my God, you’re also building a startup community in Melbourne during the pandemic.

Paz Pisarski: What are you doing? Like you get me and wow, I found my people. You want that feeling to be mind blowing. I’ve never even at that point I knew one community manager in Sydney. Suddenly I had 17 people in my local area. Who are in similar roles. Like that was just life changing. So niche cubed, get really clear on who you’re serving and then be exclusive.

Paz Pisarski: Communities are exclusive by design. We want to be exclusive so that we can adequately serve our members. We will be inclusive in a lot of matters that we do. And we can support more people later on the track, like later down the track, we started to say, okay, you know what, if you’re not in the startup space, that’s cool.

Paz Pisarski: Large tech companies, come on in. Not for profits, come on in. And then eventually we broke down the borders of the location. We had, we’re in 12 countries now. So, yeah, that Australian New Zealand didn’t come so quickly. I mean, that Australian New Zealand, grew, outgrew, um, very quickly. So we became lenient because the first believers had the most incredible experience that they wanted to tell other people about it.

Paz Pisarski: So we said no, a lot in the beginning to many people who applied.

Adam Spencer: Niche cubed and be exclusive. That’s the takeaways.

Paz Pisarski: Inclusively exclusive.

Adam Spencer: Inclusively exclusive. I like that. So just a one on one question. For people out there that are thinking about community, maybe they’ve got a newsletter. What’s the difference in your mind between audience and community?

Paz Pisarski: Yeah, great question. So for example, every business should have an audience. Not every business should have a community. Many businesses with a community would benefit dearly from it. So to identify the difference of audience in the community, we can use the example of the community collective. So At the Community Collective, we have both an audience and a community, so an audience is a passive involvement.

Paz Pisarski: It’s like a one to many communication. It is, um, subscribers on my newsletter. It, uh, they are followers on our social media accounts. They are visitors to our website. They consume our content. They’re like, ha, like, hardcore believers, but there’s this minimal sense of belonging, like, we speak to our audience, but our audience don’t speak to each other.

Paz Pisarski: There’s no way for our newsletter subscribers. To connect and support one another. It’s just one way top down. I like to think of it as like a triangle, like top down, and then a community is a circle. So we then also have a community at the Community Collective in our community cohort program. So this is an active involvement.

Paz Pisarski: It’s like a many to many communication style. You know, we’ve built a closed and private space to host 50 to 60 people twice a year to upskilling community building. And we built platforms for them to connect online. We have synchronous sessions. Online and in person. Um, and there’s this strong sense of belonging and all of the, those 60 members can support one another.

Paz Pisarski: They can connect, reach out to each other. They catch up on an ongoing and regular basis and they care about one another. So the, what flipped it from an audience to a community is we created a way. For this group of people to connect and support each other. I want

Adam Spencer: to ask, like, how, how do you make that jump in a second, but you just mentioned at the start of that answer that not every business should have a community.

Adam Spencer: What did, like, why?

Paz Pisarski: Yeah, yeah, it’s a great question. So I’m a hardcore community believer, but to build a community. It, you know, it doesn’t, it doesn’t just take a day, you know, it’s a, it’s a big investment. It takes a long time. It could take a couple months, couple years before you’re really seeing momentum, growth, like this strong sense of belonging because you are connecting humans.

Paz Pisarski: It’s not just managing data, it’s, it’s ambiguous and it takes time. Um, and so. I think to determine whether a business would benefit from a community is to really, we have like a diagnostic tool that we run businesses through to understand, okay, is it a great decision for you to build a community for your business?

Paz Pisarski: So, for example, uh, when we have businesses ask us about that, um, we first look at. What are the business goals? Like, what is your business vision? What’s the priority in the next year? What are you focusing on? And we get really clear on that. And so for example, a business might say, okay, cool. Like we’re just building like our B2B sales pipeline, but okay, cool.

Paz Pisarski: Great. And then we run them through the diagnostic tools. So we go, okay, cool. Like. Let’s ask you these four questions to see if a community would be a right fit. So first we have to ask, do you have the adequate resources? Do you have the time to build a community? Do you have the money to invest to build a community?

Paz Pisarski: I mean, we built a community with no funding at all, so it can be done. Um, but there, there is an energetic, a timely investment. Um, and do you have. That capacity at the moment is a big thing because if you don’t, it could be costly. You wouldn’t like, you know, if no one was managing it, it’s very difficult to actually execute it very well.

Paz Pisarski: Um, the second thing is market fit. So if you want to launch a community, what already exists in the market right now, are you going to be doubling up? Are you just going to be launching something that already exists? How are you different? How are you uniquely different? Position to build this community.

Paz Pisarski: If similar communities already exist in your niche cubed criterion, great. Let’s reach out to them. Maybe we can be collaborators instead of being, becoming competitors, but say, you know, you’ve got the resources. There’s no other community like it. Then we’d look at audience demand. So every business should have an audience, ideally they’ve kind of built an audience, although they’re building it at the moment.

Paz Pisarski: And then we’d, we’d go out and talk to that audience, say, Hey, we’re thinking of using these resources to fill this gap in the market, to build a community. Are you interested? Do you actually want to connect with one another? Like, do your newsletter subscribers want to support one another? Um, and if they do amazing, then the last criterion we would look at is the business motivation.

Paz Pisarski: So what I spoke about in the intro of this give mindset, um, the opposite of a give mindset is a get mindset. So what we kind of look at with businesses is. Why do you want to build a community and how is it going to achieve your goals? If you’re trying to increase B2B sales or B2B pipeline at the moment, like what is your motivation for building a community?

Paz Pisarski: If that business said to me, well, we want to build a community to increase. Um, like our B2B pipeline and generate sales. We want like new customers. We want a place to like add more marketing. That would be a get mindset. Everything I heard from there is what the business is going to gain from the community, which is important, but there has to be a give mindset from the business.

Paz Pisarski: There has to be an element of. I would like to serve people. You know what? I want to actually talk to partnership managers who deal with B2B sales. I want to support them. I want to connect with them. I want to allow them to grow in their role. And so that would be of service. So it’s like a dirty motivation compared to a clean motivation.

Paz Pisarski: You will always have both in a community. It has to be beneficial to the business. It has to be beneficial to the members, but it’s just a bit of a red flag sometimes when it’s like. I just need to get all this stuff from the community because, well, you may as well just invest in marketing and build an audience through that way.

Adam Spencer: Yeah. So let’s say that a business owner takes most, yeah, answers all those questions and it makes sense for them to start a community. They’ve got an audience. You know, they got a newsletter. How do you start, you know, down that path of building a community?

Paz Pisarski: Yeah. Yeah. So I think of two community building principles here.

Paz Pisarski: One is something that’s called who not how. And the second one is that feedback is a gift. So that first principle, how do you start building a community free business? Okay. Well, instead of thinking, How am I going to build this community? How am I going to manage this community on my own? How am I going to find the time to launch this?

Paz Pisarski: Think, who can help me build this community? Who has done this before? Who is pioneering in this space that I could learn from? Who has the time and energy to really help us execute this greatly? So I’m a big advocate for surprise, building networks and building things together. 101, when I decided to connect community builders in June, 2021, the first thing I did was I spoke to Jala Alex.

Paz Pisarski: I was connected with Melia Reyna, who was building it. Literally the exact same thing. And we all came together as a team. So think about who can help you build this community, whether you need expert support, like we’re helping people launch new communities from scratch in our program. We do, we come into businesses and help them, um, do that to give them the know how and save them a lot of pain and, and confusion, um, or, you know, you just leverage your own network and reach out to people and ask them if they can help you.

Paz Pisarski: Then the second element is feedback is a gift. So you want to be speaking to your audience. You want to exactly clearly outline, you know, who are you going to serve in this community? So get clear on that criterion, that niche cubed framework and understand, you know, what are the three criterion that this person would need to have to be able to come into that community.

Paz Pisarski: Great. Well, let’s go find them and then let’s talk about them. Talk to them. So to give you an example, when we saw the community collective, we wrote out those criterion and then we went out and spoke to 50 individuals and we asked them, what are your goals right now? What challenges are you facing? Where do you go to solve those challenges and what support could we help you with?

Paz Pisarski: So now we’re understanding from our target member, what they’re trying to achieve, what their challenges are. If they go anywhere else, that’s kind of tie into that market analysis and then how we could support them. So there’s a lot of other steps after that. The other kind of thing is looking at, you know, can you build a community strategy to then think about like.

Paz Pisarski: What happens inside this community? What’s the vision? What are the goals? What are the metrics? How are you going to measure success? Um, something we’ve been building is a master template of a community strategy. Similar, if you had like a marketing strategy or a business plan document, we’ve built a community strategy template.

Paz Pisarski: Over the past year and a half that outlines those kind of, here’s how, what I’m measuring and what I’m going after. That’s

Adam Spencer: awesome. I suppose that’s like gated, like, right? That’s not just, that’s, that’s probably proprietary. That structure that you’ve made for the coming up with the community plan

Paz Pisarski: of the template.

Paz Pisarski: We share it with anyone who goes through our community cohort program and we run workshops for them. And then we, um, bring that into businesses, but anyone can email us at hello at the community collective. co and then we can, um, yeah, chat to them about what they

Adam Spencer: need. How can they sign up, go on a wait list or sign up to, what’d you call it?

Adam Spencer: The cohort program. The cohort

Paz Pisarski: program. Yeah. Yeah, we have, we run two programs a year from April and September, and it’s on our website, thecommunitycollective. co. Forward slash cohort.

Adam Spencer: Right. Cool. How long is it? How long is the cohort?

Paz Pisarski: It’s eight weeks. And the aim is to welcome anyone who is actively involved in building community for a current business, any industry, anywhere in the world.

Paz Pisarski: The cohort program is across eight countries and. At the end of the program, you’ll leave with a community strategy template completed or revised if you have an existing one, and then we upskill you in public speaking operations and obviously connect you with a community of community builders.

Adam Spencer: I wanted to tackle this a bit later in the interview, but you just, you just mentioned, um, you know, you go into businesses to help.

Adam Spencer: Business owners, you know, to avoid a lot of that pain and confusion, like what are some of the, if some, yeah, or someone new that’s trying to start a community, what are some of the things that they do wrong that you see? Stumbling

Paz Pisarski: blocks. Yeah. I mean, building community is hard. Building community for a business is even harder because you need to have core outcomes and ideally a return on investment for the company.

Paz Pisarski: So some of the biggest pitfalls I see is one. People who are building the community, being able to adequately communicate the value of their role and the impact that the community is having on a business. So a way to solve that is by having something like a community strategy that outlines the top three goals and the top metrics that we’re measuring.

Paz Pisarski: Because for a community to be successful, we need to have clear pillars that are going to define that success, which is usually growth, High engagement and high revenue, ideally, they’re like my three favorite at the moment. Um, but there’s, you know, over hundreds of metrics that you could measure the success of a community and to understand exactly how to communicate that value back to the company is to be able to connect the happenings of the community and what’s happening inside that back to the company.

Paz Pisarski: So for example, if you have a, so for example, take. Butter, it’s a company, it’s a online conferencing tool like zoom, but more engaging. And they built a free community online that anyone can, uh, can join to learn about butter. So one of their metrics might be how many new customers are existing members of our free community that would then tie the free community directly to customer sales, because as a result of them being a member.

Paz Pisarski: They’ve bought that product. So that would be a great way to communicate back the value of running this free community for the business. Yeah.

Adam Spencer: It’s like using community to build trust in. You as a brand.

Paz Pisarski: Yeah. Exactly. And like, another great way to measure the community is you can ask people, um, it’s called a community impact score.

Paz Pisarski: It’s created by Richard Millington, who’s the founder of Fever Bee in England. And this basically asks someone, as a result of the community, are you more likely to X? So. Perhaps renew your subscription to this software platform. So then you’re asking, okay, as a result of being a member of this community, how likely are you to renew your subscription?

Paz Pisarski: Um, which is directly correlating them being a member to doing an action related to the business.

Adam Spencer: Yeah. Yep. So I did just go off topic a bit there. Jumping back on track, like, with this business owner, they want to start a community, they’ve answered your four questions, they’ve started implementing this strategy, how do they make sure they are kind of striking that balance between community’s got, you know, the community has to be getting, the members of the community have to be benefiting, but also the business, like, how do they Balance that

Paz Pisarski: for sure, for sure.

Paz Pisarski: It’s such a fine balance. You know, if we were just building community at our local netball team, like we don’t need to calculate ROI. We’re just delivering value for members. But once you start putting that business hat on, and we all should, you know, where ideally if we’re founders or creators, we have, um, intrinsic motivations as well.

Paz Pisarski: So the best thing to do is get a piece of A4 paper, fold it in half. Label one side of the paper member outcomes and the other side of the paper business outcomes. Then you want to write, you could just brainstorm, do a big brain dump, write all the things that members would gain value from. In this community.

Paz Pisarski: So you start writing, okay, they’re going to, uh, do one on one conversations with each other. They’re going to feel more confident. They’re going to learn about public speaking. They’re going to, um, travel and have more connections around the world. They’re going to get more product insights or gated content.

Paz Pisarski: So anything that they would find valuable. And then on the business outcomes, you want to write all the ideas that you have around how this community would positively impact your business. So, for example, uh, you could write increase sales, increase retention. We have higher referrals. Um, we get new product ideas.

Paz Pisarski: We have un, like on tap, unlimited feedback. Feedback of our offerings because we’ve been building these connections with members. We’ve got advocates, ambassadors, they’re growing the business for us. And so they would be some different outcomes of the community that the business could benefit from. Then you’ve basically got a brain dump and you want to then get really clear.

Paz Pisarski: Three is a magic number, no more than three, pick your top three priorities that you really want to focus on and then curate your strategy to make sure that you’re delivering that value to the members whilst also trying to deliver that value to the business through a community led approach.

Adam Spencer: I just want to mention something you said a couple of times, like how hard it is to build community.

Adam Spencer: It’s a very similar challenge to, you know, implementing a content strategy. Content is hard. You need, you need basically everything you’ve outlined that you need for a community. You kind of need as prerequisites before you even start down a content strategy path, you need high revenue. You need the time, you need to be able to.

Adam Spencer: Devote, you know, budget to it without expecting an ROI for a while. It’s a very similar thing. So I don’t know what my point is. I think I just wanted to complain about

Paz Pisarski: how hard it is. No, you’re right though, Adam. You know, it’s, it’s. Building a community is somewhat like building a business. You need to focus on your customer, listen to their feedback, build a great team, deliver value to them, and deliver value to the business.

Paz Pisarski: They’re very, very similar concepts. It’s just a bit ambiguous because people ask, What is a community for a business? Like, what does that look like? Like, what, where are they? Who are they? How, who’s managing them? Um, So, you know, it’s good to look at existing companies and how they’ve done it and learn from the great.

Paz Pisarski: Yeah.

Adam Spencer: I’m going to ask you who some of those greats are at the end of the interview. Um, but for now, what’s, what do you think your magic power is like for when, when it comes to community building, do you know what it is?

Paz Pisarski: Magic power. I wish I could like shape shift. That would be pretty cool, but I can’t.

Paz Pisarski: So an existing magic power. Uh, I think one of the biggest. Things I consciously lean into and come back to is listening and it might be counterintuitive in community building because a lot of people think, Oh, you’ve got to be extroverted. You’ve got to be outgoing and love public speaking and being a face of a brand.

Paz Pisarski: And yes, I think a lot of people with those types of personalities gravitate towards community building because there can be a lot of opportunities for that. But some of the best community builders I know are introverts. They listen, they love championing other people. They love serving and seeing other others thrive as a result of their expertise.

Paz Pisarski: And so why listening is so important is because as community builders in this profession, we are of service to the community. To the members, we are here to deliver value. So we need to listen to them adequately to understand, okay, where do we pivot? What’s working? What’s not, let’s cut that. Let’s launch this new thing to continuously improve the experience.

Paz Pisarski: Because if I wasn’t listening, I would just build a community that I want to be a part of. Yeah. And would some people follow? Sure. But would that have like created the virality that the community collective experienced? No, we spent hours on calls, doing interviews, chatting to 50 people, hundreds of people when we designed our cohort program.

Paz Pisarski: So we listened. That’s

Adam Spencer: again, another parallel between community building and content creation. I think content creators are there to serve unless, you know, if you’re just doing dances on TikTok, like generally speaking, a good content creator is creating content that adds value to the audience members.

Adam Spencer: Thanks. And you have to listen to them to hear what they want and just cause and, and keep creating content that adds value to their lives. So I see a lot of parallels between community building and just content creation in general. And I know I need to listen better. So that’s a good reminder. Um, so, and actually maybe to help me listen better.

Adam Spencer: What, what are some, like, do you have systems in place, like, Right. Workflows in place or tools you use or strategies you have that, that kind of help you regularly listen to your community.

Paz Pisarski: Hmm. Yeah. I love that. Well, I hope I’ve been earning your ears here today, Adam, for, for more listening. And yeah, yeah.

Paz Pisarski: I mean, listen to this, like the biggest thing about listening is building in habits and processes that allow. You to gather feedback on a regular basis. I have spoken to so many business owners, founders, community managers, and I asked them, when was the last time you spoke to your members? Got some feedback from them, ask them about their experience, maybe did a survey, had some like interviews with them and they go, Oh, a couple of years ago, maybe, or I can’t remember.

Paz Pisarski: I can’t remember. Uh, we did, we did it once. Haven’t done it in a while. And, and that’s so common and it’s so easy to do. Um, you know, I’ve been there in previous jobs and I think the constant reminder is okay, how do we build in processes so that we ensure we never. Forget. And so what that looks like, for example, we run our community cohort program twice a year.

Paz Pisarski: When they join, we are asking them, what are your goals? Why are you joining this program? What does success look like at the end of this? So boom, as soon as they join, we have a gateway for them to share feedback and information and data and insights with us from day one. And then in mid program, we have a mid program feedback that automatically goes out in week four.

Paz Pisarski: At the end, we have our post evaluation, um, at the end of week eight and they can do exit interviews one on one. At the end of every live session, um, we have a feedback button that they can share anonymous. Uh, anonymously on any one of their, um, cohort workshops. Every cohort, we welcome two people on a full scholarship where we sponsor a place to be a mystery feedbacker.

Paz Pisarski: I just made that name up then. We definitely need a workshop that, but we basically, Um, you know, we, we get, um, our cohort program, the second largest country our members are based in it is Nigeria. Um, and so we sponsor a lot of their places and, um, in the first program we had someone say, Oh, can we, can I just share feedback on the experience and give back because I can’t afford it.

Paz Pisarski: And so we started this scholarship fund and we have two people now who go through the program full, full paid places by us. And in exchange, they give us feedback on the experience at the end of every week. And then at the end of the. Sorry, at the end of every submission form, um, we give a, uh, like a gift or a reward to someone filling it out to basically be on this give get if they’re going to give us feedback, I want to give them something in return.

Paz Pisarski: So upon submission, they’d get all the group photos of workshops, the bigger, the ask, the bigger, the. The reward, and so our post evaluation, when someone completes that, they get a digital graduation pack, they get a whole program photo album, they get a certificate, they get a hundred dollar voucher to a future community cohort program, and so we are building in this habit, and we explicitly say at the start of the program, we welcome feedback here, you don’t need a form to Submit it.

Paz Pisarski: Message us at any point. Here are the avenues that you can do that.

Adam Spencer: I love everything that you’ve just said. More broadly than just like consciously building in feedback opportunities to hear back from your community. But I love just how you’ve really thought about the experience for people. Again, something that I am always thinking about how to do not only for clients through W2D1 media, but now as you know, we’ve recently launched the day one podcast network.

Adam Spencer: I need to give it a plug podcast network dedicated to founders, operators, and investors. And not only do I need to think about the user experience, the general experience that listeners have of all the shows we want to create, but you know, something that I didn’t think about was the experience I need to.

Adam Spencer: Give the hosts of each of the new shows that come on as they join the network and how I can make that onboarding and that entire experience. great for them. So I just, I’m just inspired by, you know, I say I need to do it and I try to do it, but you’ve done it and that’s, and what you, the experience you deliver is awesome.

Adam Spencer: Like I love that you’ve really thought it

Paz Pisarski: through. Yeah. And like even to bounce off that, Adam, like from A host perspective of, you know, we have speakers throughout our community cohort. We have coaches, um, we have ambassadors, alumni hosts, alumni editors. There are so many roles. There’s about 25 people involved in running our eight week cohort.

Paz Pisarski: And at the end of every workshop, yes, we ask members for feedback, but then we ask speakers in our speaker. Thank you. Email. You say, thank you so much. Here’s the photos. Like, here’s some testimonials about your LinkedIn recommendation. Plus, do you have any feedback about your speaker experience with us?

Paz Pisarski: Uh, you know, it’s like consciously seeking out and asking, not just saying, let me know if you have any feedback. People just disregard that if there’s a full stop at the end, you have to make it a question.

Adam Spencer: Can you give us your top three tips on how people can build a passionate, engaged community?

Paz Pisarski: Top three tips on how to build a passionate, engaged community.

Paz Pisarski: Number one is understanding your why. If you don’t know why you’re connecting these people, it’s gonna be a very long road. And if you’re not communicating that on a regular basis to these people, it’s going to be a bit confusing. So getting really clear on your why and the vision for the community and the mission, writing that down.

Paz Pisarski: It’s a one sentence statement. I look at Canva. Their vision is to empower the world to, To design, they’ve built so many communities off the back of their business that have just pioneered their success. So getting really clear on your why and the vision, and then communicating that to people is number one.

Paz Pisarski: Number two is build community alongside your members. This is the number one tactic that I’ve implemented across. Five different companies today, and it has catapulted the community activity, the business outcomes, and just the general enjoyment of building a community, because it can be freaking lonely.

Paz Pisarski: It’s weird. It’s like this paradox of, I’m a community builder, surrounded by thousands of members, but I have no one to lean on because I would never Go to the members as such and be vulnerable with my challenges because I’m there in a different role. So it can be a very strange paradox and something about building community alongside your members.

Paz Pisarski: An example of this is, okay, how can you champion existing members of your community to build it alongside you? This is another tactic for always getting feedback. So for example, we’ve launched ambassador programs to do this. So this is a free professional development program that we run at the Community Collective to upskill existing members to be at the forefront of building the community alongside us.

Paz Pisarski: So we host a fortnightly call with ambassadors. We ask them, what are your skills and goals? What are you trying to achieve? And how can we give you a platform through the community collective to do that? We have ambassadors that join us and they say, I want to upskill in public speaking. And we’re like, amazing.

Paz Pisarski: Let’s give you as many public speaking opportunities as we can put you. Well, let’s organize meetups, online sessions. Let’s organize something in Melbourne. You can be the face of that. And we’re really giving them the platform, the credibility, the goals, the learning that they wouldn’t have had. Otherwise had elsewhere.

Paz Pisarski: And as a result, like we are gaining so much value by being connected to these people. Ambassadors, you know, we had an ambassador that ran, um, Paulie Sosa. She ran this event for 55 people in Auckland, got a whole banner made for the community collective. There were dogs and children there. Um, and this event happened in Auckland just last month.

Paz Pisarski: And, you know, there was photos going out and so many great testimonials. And that’s just something that, Um, I could have never done on my own and because we’ve given ambassadors, you know, such a, a great role, they want to help expand, um, and, and give that feedback and experience to other people. So number one, get clear on your why and your vision.

Paz Pisarski: Number two, build community alongside your members. Number three is more of another principle of community building that I think a lot of people get wrong is instead of focusing on reengaging. Disengaged members focus on the highly engaged. So a lot of people think, Oh no, this person hasn’t attended.

Paz Pisarski: They’ve, they’ve gone MIA. They’re all logged out. These like a couple of people I haven’t seen in ages. And, and yes, you should not forget about them. Um, but instead of spending 80 percent of your time, like. Just fully trying to re engage these people, redesigning things for them. Look at the five people who are there every single week.

Paz Pisarski: They are suggesting, they’re engaged, they’re helping other people. They are always replying. They’re constantly in the presence of the community and focus on them to then build the community, create more voices, which will as a result re engage the disengaged

Adam Spencer: members. Yeah. Those people will become your ambassadors, like your, your biggest advocates.

Adam Spencer: What are some of the. Maybe just one or two like common pitfalls that new community builders should try to dodge.

Paz Pisarski: Yeah, I think spending too much time choosing tech tools is a big one.

Adam Spencer: Oh boy, that’s the next

Paz Pisarski: question. Yeah, yeah. I think a lot of people get caught up in how this community will look. What are the functionalities?

Paz Pisarski: What are the features? What is the onboarding experience? Is it going to be a Facebook group? Is it going to be a closed Platform on disco. co, is it going to be a slack or WhatsApp, you know, people spend too much time researching the product and the tech tools and the forum and the space and the look and feel of the community, which does obviously impact the experience.

Paz Pisarski: And it is important, but a tactic to actually do that is you’re much better to spend your time with your members, with your target members. Asking them, what tech tools do you use? What habits do you usually like, what habits do you have to check certain technology platforms at the moment? Cause if you’re building a new community, say if a business wanted to turn their newsletter into a community, instead of spending 20 hours researching all the platforms, send a survey to your newsletter subscribers saying, Hey, which tech tool do you use the most?

Paz Pisarski: WhatsApp, Slack, XYZ? And let them tell you and then deliver. So ask for feedback, listen, and then just deliver that. You just go, great, because if I build a community, it would probably be in a LinkedIn private group. Our community connects on Slack and that’s where they want to be, so that’s where I’m going to go.

Adam Spencer: Perfect. I’m not going to ask the tool question now, because it seems a bit redundant, go and ask your members what tech tools they want you to use or that they already use. So

Paz Pisarski: I mean, I do, there are some biased tech tools that I love for community building, which you should include in your list when you ask your members, because some of the ones that are up and coming are definitely butter, as I mentioned, dot us for online conferencing tools.

Paz Pisarski: Disco. co is phenomenal for your custom built member portal. And then I love discourse as well. If you’re looking at building an online forum, you have a lot of information and data, um, as like an always on community. Um, that’s like phenomenal for that kind of amalgamation. Okay.

Adam Spencer: Awesome. Fantastic. Any other tools?

Paz Pisarski: I love intros. ai. I use it to connect members on an ongoing basis using AI and it’s all automated. So I don’t have to make introductions and they get to control it themselves. That’s awesome.

Adam Spencer: Um, so at, at this, again, at the start of this episode, I was somewhere in there. I mentioned, I was going to ask you who, who like, The top communities you see out there, you’ve, you’ve mentioned Canva.

Adam Spencer: I think you like Canva and what they’re doing and hopefully in the Australian kind of startup ecosystem. But it doesn’t matter if they’re not like, who are the standout communities that you go, wow,

Paz Pisarski: they’re killing it. Yeah. I look at the incredible work that Briony Cole has built. She goes between Melbourne and New York and she has built an incredible Space for people who want to break into the sex tech industry.

Paz Pisarski: So if they want to build a business in sex tech or land a job in that space, it’s basically, you know, a really great landing for anyone in such a taboo industry that is, you know, it can be really hard to talk about. Um, and so I think that, yeah, what she’s built is phenomenal. There’s like alumni building the program alongside her.

Paz Pisarski: It’s across so many different countries. Um, and she’s just really pioneered. I think they’re up to cohort 10 or 11, um, at the moment. So yeah, she’s definitely one to watch and one I speak to regularly as well. And another community builder. Um, David Perel, who built Rite of Passage, is one that I look up to constantly, their head of operations as well just joined our advisory board, Dan Sleeman, and I am just blown away about what they’ve built.

Paz Pisarski: They’ve built an incredible program and space where this community shows up twice a year, five weeks at a time to upskill in writing, so newsletters, building a brand voice, being a thought leader. And they have hundreds of people. They get about 300 people per program showing up across all these different countries around the world.

Paz Pisarski: And I’ve never felt so connected to people in such a big cohort. I met that many people, felt so encouraged, and they had hundreds of past members coming back a second, a third, five, ten times, repeating their programs, um, and showing up to this community each year. So, yeah, they’re definitely one to watch.

Paz Pisarski: Both

Adam Spencer: sound like incredible guests for a community creative podcast. Indeed,

Paz Pisarski: indeed. Watch this space. Mm

Adam Spencer: hmm. So, is there a case study of, is there a company that you’ve worked with or you’ve seen, maybe you haven’t worked with them, but you’ve seen them implement a community and It’s just had, you know, exponential, exponentially positive kind of impacts on their business.

Paz Pisarski: Yeah, I mean, so many, I think one of the businesses that stands out is Happy Spaces, which is a co working space in Torquay. And they’ve had a few venues, but they are predominantly about 50 to 60 kilometres outside of a CBD so they’re, they’re not that big. In smaller regional areas, people can usually walk to work and I absolutely love their philosophy of this close to home co working.

Paz Pisarski: And I joined their team for about three to six months because they had all of these members in this incredible space and there was this sense of connection. They had great people, but they wanted to really implement a community strategy just to amplify the experience. And so we came in, we did an audit of the space, we did ran interviews with all of the members who are working from the desks, and as a result we started rolling out like a new events cadence, we pointed a member directory, we asked them what kind of gatherings they want, we wanted like a BYO lunch, and so we brought together, we brought in like an annual, Um, mid year celebration, end of year celebration, and as a result, their capacity has gone from 60 percent to nearly 90%.

Paz Pisarski: Um, members still run the BYO lunch every Tuesday, even if a team member isn’t here. They’ve had so many more referrals, um, and the space is just buzzing. You can see when people catch up after work. They go surfing together. There’s drinks. Um, there’s a guy’s group. There’s a girl’s group now, and, um, and many others.

Paz Pisarski: And so, as a result It has positively impacted the vibe of the space and just increased their overall business. And of course, a lot of other factors tie in, tie into that. But yeah, the, the difference from such a small element of focusing on how do we connect these people was phenomenal.

Adam Spencer: Paz, thank you so much for joining me on Early Years.

Adam Spencer: Before we wrap up though, is there anything that I haven’t asked you? Is there anything you want to leave the listener with? Anything you want to cap off our awesome interview

Paz Pisarski: with. Yeah. Thanks so much, Adam. I think, um, the biggest thing is to remember what does success look like for yourself. If you’re a business owner, a creator, you’re considering building a community for a company or for your own business purpose, just think about what does success look like for you personally, as a human on this earth, I think for me, my definition of success is to be of service for others.

Paz Pisarski: while still feeling energetically fulfilled. If I don’t burn out along the way and I have time to play my guitar, go to the beach, read my book, spend time with my family, do some veggie gardening, whilst also building a high growth community led business, I feel pretty good. Awesome. Thank you,

Adam Spencer: Paz. I’m going to need some veggie gardening

Paz Pisarski: tips.

Paz Pisarski: Oh, I’ve got plenty.

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Earning Ears

How to create a show that earns your audience’s attention