Rule: Drop the Defensive
Being on the front lines of community interaction, whether through a community development team, fan relations team, or public relations team can quickly lead to feelings of personal attacks. As the representatives of a company, we often feel like people are bashing us personally when in reality they’re bashing the big, cold, impersonal company that we work for.
Engaging in an ongoing, two-way dialogue is a crucial step in forming a better relationship with the community. But be careful when you’re giving answers that you’re not taking a defensive positioning. It’s easy to do, and it’s something to be watched constantly. Nothing will upset a community more than you, as their liaison into the company acting like you’re not somewhat neutral in the discussion.
Certainly you should have limits, and should make them clear upfront and repeatedly. I use the phrase "I can’t discuss unreleased products" so much that it’s now a running joke in the community that I start every answer with that statement whether it applies or not out of habit.
And certainly you can push back when the discussion is based around facts or assumptions that are simply not correct. But don’t get all upset about it when you do – don’t make this personal. The fans aren’t mad at you, Mr. Community Liaison. They’re upset at the issue or at the company as one big entity.