Pssst … my company is great, but don’t tell anyone

Please pardon my rant. I got an email the other day that made me really angry. It wasn’t the core content that did it, it was the disclaimer at the top.

Here’s what it said:

“Protect your investment in [Association X]. The information contained in [Association X] News is paid for by your membership dues. Please protect your investment by refraining from sharing this information with non members.”

Why did this little disclaimer, or warning, get me so hot under the collar? I think it was because I hate watching people make silly mistakes because they aren’t paying attention (my wife, by the way, will tell you this is because we hate most those negative traits in others that we have in ourselves, but that’s an entirely different blog post).

I lose sleep trying to figure out how to get people to think exactly that about my company, and to share the information with others and here is someone asking me not to do that.

A little background: The organization that issued the email in question is an industry association. The email was an installment of their regular email newsletter where they recap industry hot topics and tell members what the association is doing (justifying the membership fees). There is nothing very sensitive in the content and I have never seen anything particularly proprietary.

I cringe a little bit when I think of the opportunity being lost. The newsletter does have some good information. I find it a valuable source to catch up on issues I want to keep abreast of.  I think the content they share does a decent job of positioning them as experts in the industry.

What this quote says to me is that the organization feels that information in this email newsletter is so important, no one should get it for free. That it is more important to keep it a secret than to use it to grow revenue. Fine, some information should be paid for. Creators of original content should feel free to charge for it. But if your information is so valuable, why put it in the most shareable form of communication and admonish people for doing what comes naturally?

Years ago, while I was still in journalism school, I was the person who put together the (then printed) newsletter for a different association. I shudder to think that someone would think what I pulled together each month was the true value the organization had to offer. If they did, I was savagely under paid.

At a deeper level, I think this suggests there is a command and control type of information-as-power-philosophy within the organization. That bothers me even more because I deal with that attitude all the time and it just so ridiculously counter productive.  I’ll save that rant for another day, though.

How much should we share, though? There are new platforms every month to share information on. No limits to the thirst of those looking for information. How much should we give away? When does it become counter productive to growing our business? Please share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.


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