Too often channel and targets dominate community, says Santander's Keith Moor

During the UK election month of May 2015, Santander chief marketing officer Keith Moor was reminded of what communities, online and offline, should really be about - people.

Santander's Keith Moor was reminded of the importance of community during the UK general election
Santander's Keith Moor was reminded of the importance of community during the UK general election

I have lived in West Hampstead, North West London, for 20 years. It has changed a lot in that time – the shops, pubs, restaurants, infrastructure and, most importantly, the people. So have I. I moved there with Tania, my wife (we weren’t married then, though). We rented to see whether we liked the area. We then bought a flat and, as our wonderful children arrived, bought a house. We became what is commonly referred to as "part of the community".

‘Community’ has played a huge part in my life, both personally and professionally, over the past month. It would be impossible to write this without referring to the general election. It’s not my place to make sweeping political comments or judgements, but what I found very interesting was the number of conversations I had with friends and neighbours that centred on the conflict they were feeling between local and national issues.

Community was the driving force for choice

People were genuinely struggling with which took precedence when it came to putting an ‘X’ on their bit of paper in the ballot box. In many cases, the community in which they lived, and what happened within it, was a big driving force behind their eventual choice. In some cases, like mine, the impact locally was the single biggest factor.

People were genuinely struggling with which took precedence when it came to putting an ‘X’ on their bit of paper in the ballot box

At Santander, where I work, the importance of people feeling part of a community has also been prevalent over the past month. I’ve had several working sessions with the management team in my division, defining a way of bringing our people and their disparate disciplines together. The purpose is to create more of a sense of community – shared characteristics, goals and attitudes, ahead of functional annual objectives that drive performance-review sessions. The way of describing what we all do and what we aspire to be as a group working together.

Simple, personal and fair

We held a couple of division-wide sessions we call TeamTalk to unveil the work to the whole team and garner feedback. Thankfully, it’s all been very positive and something people feel will help unify everyone across our various disciplines and locations.

We have also been taking this thinking and applying it to the wider Santander Group across the many countries in which it operates. The challenge has been how to help the group in its adoption of the "Simple, personal, fair" values we have in the UK, while recognising local market characteristics, attitudes and language.

By doing this work we have given ourselves a greater sense of shared purpose and understanding.

A few of us spent some time at our global head office in Madrid, leading and participating in sessions with our counterparts from other countries, helping them understand how we are implementing those values in the UK – what we have found works well and, frankly, what didn’t work so well.

This process of understanding our common goals, recognising the issues we all have and tackling potential solutions together has genuinely helped unite those who have marketing responsibility across the globe for Santander.

Greater sense of purpose

I have worked in this business for many years, and this is the first time I really have felt this so strongly. No matter that we all live and work in different countries, we all feel much more part of a community now. We share not only a common goal, but also the problems and challenges we face. By doing this work we have given ourselves a greater sense of shared purpose and understanding.

I’ve been reminded how powerful communities can be and what they are really about. People

Often, the word community seems to me to be used in the context of a channel or tool. I’m thinking of the number of conversations I have had where it is used alongside Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and so on. I honestly don’t recall much, if any, explicit reference to the people who make up those online communities. More often than not, the channel, its characteristics and our targets dominate what’s being discussed.

Now I’ve had time to step back and reflect, I’m going to adapt a little to start first with the people in those communities.

So I guess that over the past month, more so than any other recently, I’ve been reminded how powerful communities can be and what they are really about. People.