Don’t Outspend, Out-teach and Share

February 24, 2011
posted by sheric

In this last post based on the book REWORK, I want to address the chapter on using your web presence to teach rather than shill. I regularly advise filmmakers and artists on building their brand using online tools and one thing I always say is share your knowledge. Don’t use your website or social networking page to constantly talk about yourself and your projects. Everyone is an expert at something, so use that expertise to build relationships. Some get it, some don’t.

The book chapter is again about a page and a half and it spends some time talking about how to outmanuever the big guys. In the case of the book, they are talking about corporations. In your case, I am talking about Hollywood. Studios have large marketing departments with large budgets to spend large amounts of money to buy people’s attention. You know why that is a problem? They are doing what every other studio is doing. They buy advertising, they sponsor events, they hire agencies to redouble the efforts of the people hired full time to do that job and then complain that marketing costs are just skyrocketing. They go to great lengths to outspend each other. What they don’t do is teach.

“Teaching forms a bond you just don’t get from traditional marketing tactics. Earning loyalty by teaching forms a whole different connection. They’ll trust you more. They’ll respect you more.”

I know several filmmakers doing this right now. My friend Jon Reiss was doing this on his blog before he finally gathered up all of his writing in Think Outside the Box Office. He still blogs. Well before that, my friend Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe gathered up their filmmaking knowledge into a series of books called The Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook. Chris still does this on his site and through his bi monthly internet TV show. Gary King regularly shares his experiences and thoughts on filmmaking on his blog An Indie Life. Screenwriter John August devotes his personal site to sharing his knowledge of screenwriting; he even has a tag line that says “A ton of useful information about screenwriting.” It would be so easy for them to use static sites that are completely devoted to one of their films, so much less work, but that isn’t how people get to know them. All of them can’t spend tons of money to get attention for their work, but they can spend time and energy which is not something studios are willing to do. Besides the fact that big corporations are obsessed with being secretive. Everything they do has to pass through lawyers and publicists and upper management. When you are small and niche, you can outmanuever that, you answer to yourself.

I know what you are thinking, you want that studio type success so you will emulate what they do. You can’t, you don’t have that kind of cash and the type of films you are making do not compete with the multimillion dollar extravaganzas they make. Take those thoughts and put them away. Celebrate the niche, OWN it. Where is it written you must scale big to be a success? Believe me, if the Hollywood dream is still your main goal, become a small success. They will come to you to get a piece of that. Isn’t that a better position to be in, having them come to YOU?

Now, consider how do some people become “personalities” and capitalize financially? Often it is by being a respected expert. Do you know Emeril Lagasse, Paula Deen, Martha Stewart, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith? You do because they freely share their knowledge and opinions, they are respected as experts in their industry. You may not like their work, their food, their movies but you have to admit you know who they are. They didn’t get into your consciousness by being secretive and hoarding their expertise. They put it right out there along with their work. Shouldn’t it scare Paula that copying her recipes might give someone else a competitive advantage? No, just following her recipes isn’t going to result in a competitive business model. Paula is a unique talent and so are you. Share your knowledge, champion other people’s talents more than your own. You empire will grow much faster that way, rather than by toiling in secret obscurity. And be patient for god’s sake! It will take some time for you to capture attention; it won’t be immediate gratification. All of the above personalities spent long, hard hours working and sharing long before TV studios and film studios picked up their work for wide distribution so that everyone knows their names and so it will be with you. First, you have to start.

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