Last Updated May 13, 2011 4:14 PM EDT
Well, flattering until they say: "... and you will receive tremendous exposure from this opportunity!"
Loosely translated, "tremendous exposure" almost always means "donate." That's when exposure is more like exploitation.
Keep in mind I'm not talking about donating time, money, or services to charity. Worthy causes deserve our support. The problem lies with requests from for-profit ventures. In those cases, we often don't get exposure. We let ourselves be exploited.
How can you tell the difference? There are two standards you can apply to any "opportunity":
- YNK: "You Never Know..." is based on the same logic as playing the lottery; after all, you have to play to win, right? So you provide articles or participate in a video or agree to speak to a group because, well, you never know what might result. The problem is, the result is usually nothing -- just like playing the lottery.
- WIIFM: "What's In It For Me?" is based on ensuring there's a quid as well as a quo. The tradeoff doesn't have to be equal, of course, but applying the WIIFM standard helps ensure your effort will pay off a tangible way.
Three examples of how the standard can be applied:
- An SPCA shelter asked me to write promotional literature. Pay? No. Exposure? No. But, a worthy cause, one I believe in, so WIIFM? I felt good about helping. (Never overlook emotional benefits.)
- A writer's group asked me to speak at a conference. No pay, but, "It will be great exposure," they enthused. Not really: Aspiring writers aren't my target audience since aspiring writers aren't likely to hire a ghostwriter. Still, maybe someone would decide to hire me? YNK... well, actually I do know. WIIFM? It sounded like fun and fit my schedule so I participated. (Hey, they asked nicely....)
- A national industry organization asked me to speak on productivity improvement. Pay was reasonable, exposure was great: CEOs, VCs, movers and shakers -- my target audience. The opportunity to get in front of that group was great exposure and resulted in a couple of book gigs as well as two consulting jobs. WIIFM? A lot.
Always evaluate "opportunities" to gain exposure using the same standard, even if at first it feels selfish. Where your time and resources are concerned, you should be selfish.
Otherwise, exposure is exploitation.
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