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, 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 will be a quid as well as a pro quo in the equation. The tradeoff doesn't have to be equal, of course, but applying the WIIFM standard helps ensure your effort will pay off in a tangible way.
If WIIFM sounds selfish, in a way it is - but in a good way. Using WIIFM as your standard ensures you evaluate opportunities to gain exposure as a deliverable with tangible outcomes. Exposure is only beneficial if you reach the audience you want to reach. If you aren't likely to reach your target audience you've strayed into YNK territory, the land where time, money, and resources are wasted.
Three examples of how the standard can be applied:
- A women's group asks you to conduct a self-defense seminar at their next meeting. Pay? No. Exposure? Probaby not since they are not your target audience. But, a worthy event, one you can definitely support, so What's In It For You? You felt good about helping. (Never overlook the emotional benefits.)
- A nursing home asks you to conduct a demonstration for the residents. No pay, but, "It will be great exposure for your business," they say. Not really: the elderly are in no way your target audience. Still, maybe they might tell their kids or grandkids. You Never Know...well, actually you do know. Nothing. But, it sounds like fun and fits your schedule so you participated. (After all, they asked nicely)
- A local TV station asks you to train a reporter for a day for an upcoming news segment. No pay, but exposure is great. The opportunity to get on TV, show your stuff, and put a face and a personality to your school is definitely worth the time you'll spend. WIIFM? A lot.
Apply the WIIFM standard to the opportunities you receive. After all, would you ever use YNK as a basis or justifying advertising expense? The only way you would is if you had time and money to burn. In advertising, the only standard you apply is WIIFM, and WIIFM better be exposure to your target audience and to potential customers.
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. If an opportunity won't help you reach your target audience, spend your time elsewhere.
Otherwise, exposure is exploitation.