How Much Sharing of Knowledge is Too Much?

So last week I had a blast at Skip’s Summer School. Tasra and I gave a presentation on the power of video and social media to extend your brand. We had a Keynote file of 50+ slides. As always, we decided to post the presentation online for people to access. But, there was a tad of a hesitation. Should we? What if people copy it? What if they steal our secrets? Then common sense hit us and we realized that it’s much better off to share this info. In sharing we help the industry, and I firmly believe a rising tide raises all ships.

So the question arises, exactly how much knowledge and information should you share with your fellow colleagues? Do you give them just enough to want more, thereby resulting in buying your DVD or going to your seminar? Do you share nothing, keeping all your “secrets” to yourself? Or do you open up the flood gates and give up ALL the goods? It can be a tough balance, I’ll admit. But, ultimately, IMHO, the more you share, the more it comes back to you. I’m always surprised when I hear of colleagues reluctant or totally unwilling to share their knowledge. A friend of mine at a professional video association told me that he’s had trouble recruiting speakers this year because so many people he’s talked to don’t want to give away their “secrets.” This is another reason why it’s important to establish yourself as a unique brand. No one can copy “YOU.” So, in essence, you don’t need to worry.

If you look at the most respected leaders in any industry, they are always those people who give freely of their knowledge and wisdom. And I don’t mean they just sell DVDs or hold seminars. They’re giving this info away for free. They give of themselves on forums, their blogs, or speak at large association conventions for little, and in some cases, no pay. I believe this attitude to share what they know contributes to their position as leaders in their respective industries.

I do believe there are some situations where you may want to keep some things to yourself. If you have a particular recipe of Magic Bullet video filters, or Photoshop actions that help you achieve a signature “look,” I can understand wanting to keep that private. It’s what helps sets you apart. But, I would see nothing wrong with sharing HOW to manipulate filter or Photoshop actions to help others achieve their own look. It always baffles me when I hear of videographers or photographers not wanting to share their workflow secrets. If you’re just explaining the mechanics of post production, how do you hurt yourself in sharing that info?


If the purely altruistic reasons of giving back to your industry are not enough to get you to cough up the goods, here are three concrete business reasons why it makes sense to share:

  1. Establish yourself as an expert: when you establish yourself as an expert in any particular field, opportunities open up to you. You can offer coaching or consulting services; you can give seminars; you may be paid to give lectures. Friend and colleague Patrick Moreau of StillMotion in Canada has one of the most successful and highly followed wedding cinematography studios in the world. They have very expensive workshops that sell out completely. I largely believe it’s because Patrick does a great job of offering invaluable information, for free, all over the net. I believe my wife and I were given the opportunity to write our book because of how much value we put on giving away information for free.
  2. Build a large following: I alluded to this a bit when I mentioned Patrick, but when you freely give of your knowledge, people tend to be attracted to you, and your following can grow. Other examples that come to mind are the video podcasts Dane Sanders has down with, Zack Arias’s photography critiques, or the great marketing advice to videographers given by Doc Yankee. Yes, all these guys have other seminars, books, etc., but they are able to offer and sell those because they give so much great, and useful, FREE information too. As your following grows, so does your business opportunities.
  3. Karma: what goes around, comes around. This may not seem like a business reason per se, but it actually is. When you establish yourself as a great giver, when times comes that YOU need help, people are there to offer it. Maybe it’s a lens or camera body you need to borrow; or maybe you need help on a shoot; I’ve had numerous times where we’ve saved hundreds, if not thousands of dollars because of the generosity of colleagues who lent a helping hand (or an expensive camera). I think they were willing to do that, not only because they were givers themselves, but they appreciated what little I’ve been able to give.

In the end, you need to decide for yourself how much knowledge you’re willing to give. But, you may find that the tighter you try to hold on to knowledge, the more opportunities will slip through your fingers. Think about it.

15 thoughts on “How Much Sharing of Knowledge is Too Much?

  1. This reminded me of a class I had in college. For our design final, we had to create a 2-ad campaign – start to finish – in 2 hours. The professor let us talk to each other, go get coffee, or whatever, because as he said, “You can’t cheat.”

    Give two designers the exact same concept, and they will produce different ads. Give two photographers the same information on filters and layering, and they’ll produce different photos. You just can’t cheat.

  2. Well said. If you are not giving back to people I think you are heading in the wrong direction. Plus, I don’t know about most people, but it genuinely feels good to share and help people out – it brings a sense of satisfaction to know I am investing time and what ever knowledge into other people’s lives. I’ve grown in my photography based on the information and time people have invested in me – I want to do the same for others.

  3. this is always a good topic to rehash because it’s one of those things that we tend to forget and for which we need constant reminder. (as you confessed in the post)
    my bottom line is that if someone ASKS me for help in any capacity, I will help them if I can. I will not turn them away because i don’t want to share or don’t want to assist.
    i don’t broadcast to all my local competitors where i get my DVDs duplicated and printed, but when you specifically asked me about it, i didn’t hesitate to share.
    thanks for posting.

  4. thanks Ron! when i think of those who have helped me so much and given (and continue to give) freely to me as i grow and learn. how can i not do the same for others? thanks for sharing!

  5. @andrew – you make a very good point Andrew. Thanks for bringing it up. For the record, I don’t think people should go out of the way to blog all their knowledge, etc. But, much of what I’m referring to is indeed when someone is asked for knowledge, and the person being asked says no. Often times they say no due to some fear of giving up secrets that will weaken their competitive advantage. Or, they feel like they should be paid for their information. Whereas I do believe those cases do happen (where the info being requested is indeed proprietary, and or the content should be paid for), in most cases I’d say that is not the situation.

  6. Thank you so much for this post. I don’t think that people realize the disservice they can do to the industry if they keep their knowledge to themselves. And, the same is true of the disservice they do to themselves, because giving is getting and in all of my time as a photographer, I can learn something from every single person I come across, whether they have just begun or are in retirement. Sharing leads to growth on both sides!
    We need this reminder from time to time – thanks for being the one to bring it to us!

  7. I`m from Brazil and I was there only to see you, Jerry and Dane speaking. This is exactly what I felt while you guys were speaking. Thank you for sharing it!

  8. More good than bad comes from paying it forward. I never pay it forward in hopes of a payback but more times than not it’s a natural process. And the payback doesn’t always have a monetary value to it, or even something that boosts one ego, it can be a simple or grand act of compassion. I’m living, breathing proof of that. Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of Katrina and it was the compassion and generosity of fellow videographers/friends from around the country that helped us get through that horrible time in our lives/evacuation. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is really true. Thank you for this post Ron. Take care~

  9. Ron, Thank you for sharing this. I have been following your blog for a while. I am also enjoying your book at the moment. There is so much more to this industry than just producing videos or making the best work.I envision to make a change in the industry in my country.Keep up the good work. God Bless!

  10. Hi Kee,Thanks for reading the blog and the book. You are right that there is somuch more to this industry. Report back and let us know how you're changingyour country. 🙂

  11. Ron, Thank you for sharing this. I have been following your blog for a while. I am also enjoying your book at the moment. There is so much more to this industry than just producing videos or making the best work.I envision to make a change in the industry in my country.Keep up the good work. God Bless!

  12. Hi Kee,Thanks for reading the blog and the book. You are right that there is somuch more to this industry. Report back and let us know how you're changingyour country. 🙂

  13. The more you give the more you receive. Very common cliche yet so true and powerful. Almost all information can now be found in the internet and in marketing perspective the more quality information you are giving the more people and potential clients would trust anything that you would say, and they get hungry and ask for more. But at that time I think you can ask them something in return when they are asking for more.

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