Friday, June 13, 2008

Do they know where to find you?

Hot on the heels of, and closely related to my last post, I recently had a rather odd conversation with a prospective client. I raised the possibility of including user-generated content in a solution we were scoping out. The client wasn't ready to go that route. He was concerned that the material that the users contributed might not be accurate. To illustrate his point, he cited another forum, with several thousand members. One of these individuals had become recognised as the de facto expert on a learning resource which my client's organisation had published. He was... well... miffed. He couldn't understand why the users would go to this man via the discussion forum, rather than coming to the creators of the resource.

I couldn't help wondering: would they know where to find him?

Very few of the learning materials we are asked to develop for customers have "credits". Who designed and developed the materials? Who owns them? Where do you go if you have questions? Who can you speak to?

Well, if you hit your search engine, type in the name of the learning resource and it takes you to a discussion forum with thousands of participants, how much do you care whether any of these people actually wrote/developed/whatever the material?

So, I have a suggestion to make that may seem a bit "Well, duh!" If you want to be the person/organisation people come to when they have questions about some or other material you have produced, then MAKE SURE THEY KNOW HOW TO FIND YOU!

Enter in to the conversation yourself. Be reachable. Be accessible. Be approachable. Make it easy for them.

Not very "if you build it they will come," I know. But there you have it.


Jason Allen said...

Fantastic Post, Karyn.
In our office, we are in the process of starting to 'Brand' everything we produce as a training dept. Not that we don't want people using 'unofficial user-generated content', because there's really no way to stop that, we just want people to be able to ask the right questions of the right people should something be unclear.
That and it doesn't hurt to see our dept's logo splashed all over our reps desks!

Anonymous said...

@jammasterjay. Thanks.

Because we're third party providers, we build materials on behalf of others and are seldom (if ever) credited with it. Which is fine under some circumstances. Our clients usually brand their material in some way, but if that is being published for external people who are not part of the organisation, does that mean that they know how to contact the people behind the content? Not always.

But going back to my first point about third party providers not getting the credit. This works both ways. Some of our clients also use other providers. We don't win every bid we make. Fair enough. Sometimes these other providers develop very whizzy things that are instructionally poor. Or they put together something with great graphics but dire navigation and zero learner engagement. Fine... Until people make the assumption that we must have done it because we have a track record with that client.

I can't help feeling that there should be a way of identifying who has produced a certain piece so that other clients can approach them - or avoid them - in respect of their own requirements (as the case may be).

Harold Jarche said...

They should know how to find you and you should let them use the products on their terms. But that would be flipping the industrial producer-consumer model on its head, wouldn't it? In the meantime, learners just keeping using free content, like wikipedia, and make much of the locked-down stuff irrelevant.

There I go on my commie open source rant again ;-)

Anonymous said...

@harold You and your hat are welcome here, you know that!

Anonymous said...

Valid point Karyn. You hit the nail on the head as usual. Nice strategy!