The Essex lion effect – why charities should give away knowledge

The Essex lion

I recently read the excellent Free by Chris Anderson. It describes how today’s smartest businesses profit by giving something for nothing. Like TED, whose 2013 conference costs $7,500 to attend (and is sold out) yet will be streamed for free online.

How can charities do the same?

TED built a warm audience using YouTube videos of useful information. The audience then wanted to pay a premium price to be a real part of the TED family.

Now let’s imagine that fictional charity Lion Care wants to capitalise on the Essex lion saga. They discover a massive surge in searches related to keeping lions as pets (incredibly, it is possible). So they produce free guides on every possible aspect of lion care, including legal requirements, nutrition and keeping them from eating you. They email new videos, guides and tips, for free, to their new audience every fortnight, who are incredibly grateful for the hard-to-find info.

As lion experts, the content of the guides was blindingly obvious to their writers. But they wrote it anyway, and it was like gold dust to the readers. Lion Care later include a “Pride” membership offer in a mailer, to a now warm audience eager to be part of the pride.

How can you mine your cause’s knowledge to build your audience of supporters?

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