Thursday, March 10, 2011

Give Away Knowledge

I attended a short seminar sometime last year and probably should be embarrassed to say that I don't  remember the topic or even if I learned anything about that particular topic. I do remember exactly one thing--give away your knowledge.

Many of you are probably bristling at this. "WHAT? Give away what I've worked so hard to (l)earn?! No way." I'm here to change your mind about that.


The story in that seminar revolved around the presenter's brother. She had helped him build a website for his fledgling geologic consulting services. During the planning stages she noticed how much detailed, technical information was coming across her desk. Dumbfounded he would essentially give away trade secrets, she immediately called him to discuss the error of his ways. Apparently, they went back and forth about this for weeks, but her brother's position finally won out.

She begrudgingly finished his site and washed her hands of the whole thing. Brothers can be SO stupid! Funny thing happened though, a few months later her brother forwarded an email from a client. A few weeks later, another. And a few more in the following weeks each saying essentially the same thing--they chose to work with him specifically because of the wealth of knowledge on his website. That knowledge did two things--convinced them he knew what he was doing and--here's the important part--they couldn't or shouldn't do that sort of work on their own.

I bring this all up now because I just got finished with a RISE session that did exactly the same thing for me. Anne Lasseigne Tiedt's session yesterday was titled "10 Must-Know PR Secrets that Help Entrepreneurs Gain Momentum,"-- a great little bit of PR in and of itself. Everybody wants to know secrets. She's giving away ten of the must-know ones for free and she gets the name of her business in there as well. Pretty brilliant.

There are over 100 RISE sessions scheduled this week. I signed up for only three and this was one of them. In part due specifically to the title, but also because the description was thorough and engaging. But you want know what really cemented for me that I needed to bother to be at 6th and Congress at lunchtime? She included two short lines about parking information. Seriously? Parking info? I loved it. Immediately I realized she had thought through this presentation thoroughly enough to recognize  many work-at-home types might be turned off by the downtown location and the possible parking issues. Again, brilliant.

I could go on for a while about just how great Anne's presentation was yesterday, but I'll condense it down to the essentials. She prepared and delivered a thoughtful, organized and informative presentation. She used a clear, clean powerpoint presentation as the framework and seamlessly integrated anecdotal stories to illustrate the various points. Essentially she gave everybody in that room not only a roadmap for creating and implementing their own fully functioning PR campaign but fleshed out that map with all the important places to visit along the way. She's probably got a few more secrets up her sleeve, but I'm pretty sure if I had thought to ask, she would have told me those as well.

I have a background in graphic design, advertising, direct marketing. I also have a decent working knowledge of the basic mechanics of PR and even some idea of how to go about making it happen. Given that sort of skill set you might think I walked out of the session thinking "Awesome. I know exactly what I need to do now and I'm going to go make it happen." Wrong. Half way through the presentation I started thinking, "I wonder how small a client they would take on?" Not only was it quickly apparent how much Anne knows, but also how much I don't.

Working among a community of artists, designers and craftsmen I often meet people very concerned about how to protect their ideas, designs and work from others. Though this is a real problem for some, it's not one I've ever been too concerned with. Every now and then someone will come to my booth during a show and engage in a really in-depth discussion about materials and process. This happened a few months back at a small show and after the customer walked away, my booth neighbor stepped over with a really concerned look on her face, "How come you just told him exactly how to make that piece??!" I'm not sure she thought I was naïve or just stupid, but either way she was feeling pretty sorry for me.

It seems to be a bit of a temperament thing. It's never been my inclination to be secretive. I learned everything I know from other people, yet I make something slightly different from all of them. If this guy wants to take the info we talked about and go do something interesting--go for it! My neighbor seemed to assumed he was going to go make exactly what I make and then show up as my booth neighbor at the next show. I think anybody interested enough to discuss the finer details of creating teeny-tiny rivets is the sort who has ideas of their own.

Now, do artists get ripped off all the time? Absolutely. Is it Joe Bagofdonuts the guy to worry about? Nope. Worry about those folks from Anthropology or Urban Outfitters if you want, but I'm inclined to think this is a waste of time as well. If you've got time, do what Anne does--use it to perfect your craft and then spread that knowledge as far an wide as you can. Knowledge is not zero-sum. Giving it away does not diminish you but elucidates who you are and how you are unique. Give away your knowledge. The world will thank you by showing up.

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If you think you could use Anne's help, you're probably right. She can be found at Momentum PR.
A fun post from askowlbert that also talks a bit about giving away knowledge.


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UPDATE:
Just found this related post on Seth Godin's blog.

1 comment:

Anne Lasseigne Tiedt said...

Christine, Wow! Thank you for sharing your feedback about my RISEWeek 2011 presentation. I really had a lot of fun writing the 'PR Secrets' presentation.

I spoke last year and it was a great experience. So great that I began creating new content for this presentation over two months ago... and then finished it up on Monday!

I believe that in all aspects of your life you should treat others as you'd like to be treated. I can't stand it when a speaker lacks preparation, information, examples or energy. I then wonder why I gave away an hour of my time that I can never get back.

I don't want to ever do that to anyone. Thanks for noticing.