Bethesda: diversity in community management
Interview with Franziska Lehnert, Head of Communication GSA
We have tons! Alongside individual communities that are interested in certain brands or genres, we also have the Bethesda community itself, of course – the people who identify with us as a publisher and not with a specific brand or game we publish. And naturally, there is also the internal community – our employees – which is extremely valuable and important to us.
How important is the subject of diversity for your community management work and why?
It is absolutely integral. Diversity is part of our culture, our DNA, and consequently, it is automatically linked to how we act. We want everyone to feel comfortable with us; they should know that they are in safe hands. No exceptions. Naturally, this applies to all areas covered by our work, from social media communication and forums to direct communication by email, from direct messages and letters to events. Simply put, promoting diversity is part of our day-to-day work.
What specific measures are you taking to that end?
We openly advocate diversity on our social media channels and in person. Total equality is very important to us, and we take an active stand against discrimination in all discussions. We now always ensure that our event venues are fully accessible and that people with disabilities can enjoy our events and games without restrictions of any kind. One way in which we achieve this is by supplying special input devices.
Have you established netiquette for your communities? If so, what fundamental values is it based on?
It’s essentially based on the typical rules of conduct that most people learn growing up: courtesy and respect are extremely important to us on all the channels we manage. Basically, empathy is a good road map for social media in all areas of life.
As a company, how do you deal with problematic situations within your communities?
Openly, honestly and in a way that facilitates conflict resolution. Frequently, though, the community handles situations like this itself. We keep a close eye on potential sources of conflict and step in to moderate when de-escalation is required. This de-escalation might come in the form of a public warning, direct communication or even a ban from the community.
In general, we try to be a constant point of contact for the community and to offer live community meet-ups regularly every two to three months. Of course, we have to adhere to the international guidelines laid out by our parent company so that we speak with one voice around the world and share information in a coordinated way, but we also like to make regular use of local meet-ups to give our fans – and our critics – the opportunity to talk to us, ask questions and share their concerns. It really helps to clear up ambiguities and establish appropriate forms of conduct that can then be carried over from the real world into the digital one. This strategy also helps to make it clear to our players that they have a way to get in touch with us that is more effective than venting their spleen in posts on social media.
There are always going to be people who refuse to follow the rules. How do you deal with those members of the community? Where do you draw the line and how do you communicate the limits of tolerance?
When players take the wrong tone, tempers get frayed or discussions become over-emotional, we initially address the situation by politely pointing out the issue and gently asking those involved to please try to stay calm and rational. That generally helps and tends to settle everyone down. Players often don’t think about the fact that ‘real’ people are reading what they write.
Members of the public are often simply unaware of the details of our work and frequently, just giving people some background and explaining our processes can help a lot. For example, we might point out that as the social media team, we aren’t responsible for game development, or that we can’t offer bug fixes for games. We’re happy to provide more insight into the various aspects of our work to show the community that there are a lot of things that are simply out of our control.
The situation surrounding the uncut version of Wolfenstein: Youngblood requires a bit more explanation, of course. Our primary approach here is to keep explaining the circumstances and the legal situation, and to demonstrate how we make our decisions. In these cases, it’s helpful for us to bring partners like game or the USK on board to help us get our message out there, such as during our weekly Bethesda MainStream live stream.
In our community management work, we take a clear stance against violence, sexism, racism and repeat offences. We communicate clearly and publicly that we do not tolerate this sort of behaviour.
Do you have any tips on diversity in communities to offer other companies in the games industry?
Celebrate it! Diversity is a wonderful thing; it’s something we should promote and which we can be proud of. We should deal with differences of opinion or challenges in communication with this in mind – let’s talk about challenges instead of problems because ultimately, we’re all here for the same reason: our passion for games.