People are obsessed with process. How did you get to where you are and learn what you know? That’s why YouTube is an obsession: it’s all about “how you do it” or “how you did it.” There are two motivations for sharing what’s behind the curtain that I can discern: humble-bragging (hey, look what I can do) and also-ran (hey, look, I can do it too!). Whatever the motivation, be it thought-leadership or surfing the wave, people are never satisfied with just knowing how to do it, they’re fascinated by not only how to, but how you. When people want to know how you did it, they don’t want to just see the final, edited, version — they’re interested in seeing all the struggle, challenge, revisions, and endless iterations it took to finally be ready for opening night.
People are obsessed by broken notes and hands-on-the-knees “I can’t go any further” moments and how that adversity ends up, after yelling and screaming, after the finally reveal.
Obviously, people who want to do what you do and learn what you know are your natural target; however, so are your prospects and your clients.
Your clients want to have insight into your process because they want to know a little bit of what’s gone into all the money they’ve budgeted for your project. They want to know what they’re spending their money on. And even though how hard or easy it may well be in reality, your client wants to buy into what you’re doing on a daily basis to get a feel about who you are, what drives you, your character, your worth ethic, and whether you’ve got the right stuff.
We already do this in the form of case studies. Everyone adores case studies: What Is The Problem/Strategy? What Was Our Solution? What Was the Outcome? Sure, I understand that case studies are vetted, revised, considered, and often-times contrived. But we all know how valuable they are; why wouldn’t you go out of your way to become a case study as a brand, as a company, as a service-provider, and as a trusted member of the tribe.
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Who the hell are you? Why the hell are bothering me? Why the hell should I give you my money? My attention? Why the hell should I listen to you? Why should I believe what you’re pitching me? Why is your advice any better than anything my interns or my nieces and nephews can come up with as digital natives and Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, and Pinterest perma-squaters, residents, social network condo-owners.
Allowing a portal into your process, your day-to-day, the story-boarding of what and how you do your work; even more, share extras about the senior and junior staff beyond what their bio pages offer — those uptight, controlled, and boring bio pages. Add to that an opportunity for each one of your staff to explore, expand, and develop their own brands online.
While you may well feel that you staff should remain safely behind the herald of your own brand, it is your responsibility to groom your staff and one of your responsibilities is to develop the reputation, brand, image, and visibility of those people who work for you and, by extension, not only represent you but at you.
Some reasons to hide your staff could be:
- You’re embarrassed of them
- They’re secretly outsourced
- You’re underpaying them, so if you let them shine, they’ll surely be poached, you slum lord
- You’re insecure that your elaborate PR house of cards could be easily brought down by the smallest peep by someone who isn’t part of your approved-and-vetted communications team (i.e., you’re an insufferable control freak and are not dealing with the social media age well at all and are probably publicly blaming your reticence on your lawyers, but you know the truth)
Anyway, I digress.
What this all reminds me of is the mind-blowing I got when I visited Dave Eggers‘ 826dc writing center. What I noticed in their classroom when I was there were framed manuscripts from Fitzgerald, I believe, or was it Hemingway? There was a lot of red. There were quite a few revisions separating F. Scott‘s or Ernest’s notes from his first typed manuscript and then from his final manuscript even before his editors and publisher got hold of it.
It was eye-opening to see this process when, for whatever reason, I never even considered that maybe his lean, clear, manly-tough prose might have been aggressively reduced from something more conversational, meandering, or lost.
While I might have remained more in awe of Scott and Ernie, I appreciate them more now for their art, their struggle, and their craft because I have insight into their process. Instead of merely being gifted, merely channeling the Muses directly onto paper effortlessly while drinking wine from skin bladders and smoking, smoking, smoking, I instead understand the work, the struggle, and the manifested product, in print, called The Sun Also Rises AKA Fiesta, that I’ve visited and revisited for the last thirty-years.
When I used to speak on photography, back in the days when I shot for Corbis, people were always more interested in what cameras (Nikon n90s), what lenses (Nikkor 2.8 AF), what film (Fuji 100), and even what bag I used (Domke), than they were interested in my photographs (I’ll assume that their interest in my process reflected well on the quality of my images).
And, to come full circle, we’re obsessed by process. We want a narrative. We need a little struggle. We want a noble journey and we need to know that our money, no matter how much or how little, went towards buying not simply result but also process.
And don’t worry about IP or revealing too much. If that’s your natural fear and your innate concern, you’ll probably end up sharing way too little, no matter how hard you try. And don’t worry about being found out or coming up short: the way the world works, in many cases, what seems easy for us is perceived as magic to others — except when it comes to modern art, where exactly the opposite is true.
And you don’t have to share it all at once. The strip tease that is your business and creative process can be spread over weeks, moths, or forever.
But before you balk, don’t worry: while you might feel like your process may well be mundane, obvious, and boring, it’s new, exciting, and revelatory to everyone else.
Good luck and let me know how it goes for you.