June 3, 2015

Altruism or self-interest? The Art of Giving it Away. 36 professional communicators from around the world tell Glasgow-based PR agency owner, David Sawyer, why they’re give-a-holics.

When it comes to doing favours all of us has one of three styles: backscratcher; one-way-streeter; or give-a-holic.


These are the most common. Backscratchers will scratch your back – like offering you assistance or making valuable introductions – just as long as you scratch their back, too.  They’ll help you out only on the understanding they’ll get something from you in return. They’re tally keepers: I helped out Steve, now he’s on the hook to me.


One-way-streeters try to get other people to serve their ends while carefully guarding their own expertise and time. The traffic is all one way with this style of person. It’s best for our mental well-being to give these people as wide a berth as possible. They take without giving. They’re sometimes cynical, often bitter and always self-serving.


The give-a-holics offer assistance, they share knowledge and make valuable introductions. They do it to be helpful and don’t keep a tally. Often being around give-a-holics makes us better sharers inspiring backscratchers to become give-a-holics, too.

pablo (1)

I’ve been thinking about back scratchers, one-way-streeters and give-a-holics for a while. This post started life as a short thought. But it was David Sawyer who introduced me to the term enlightened self-interest.

David is a fellow contributor to My PRstack: A practical guide to modern PR tools and workflow. He produced a chapter: Using a personal #PRstack for SEO, headlines, writing and images. Whilst I wrote about Using Circloscope to build relationships on Google+.

Through several emails we compared notes on the #PRstack community and why we’d contributed to its first ebook. David, who owns Glasgow-based Zude PR, has since taken this note-swapping idea to a whole new level and asked colleagues he describes as “36 of the world’s leading communications experts” why they give stuff away.

In a new 9,000-word article: ‘How to Get On in New Communications: Be Nice’ David poses the same three questions to each contributor with the guide of asking everyone to write 50 words and choose to answer one, two or all three questions:

  1. Why do you “give it all away for free”? Was there a specific lightbulb moment when your mindset shifted?
  2. What are the benefits and disbenefits to you of enlightened self-interest? How long did it take before it started paying off for you?
  3. Where, if anywhere, do you draw the full disclosure line?


I tackled the first question. Here’s my take on why I share so much and when it started:

“Why do I ‘give it all away for free’? I’m guided by a line from the US motivational speaker Tony Robbins: ‘What you know doesn’t mean shit. What you do means everything’. The purpose of communication is action: to influence; to form or change opinions; to alter behaviours. So I decided to put my expertise into action and share what I know.

“Knowledge is power, runs the cliché. But in the industrial age of command and control hierarchy this line meant: guard knowledge; hoard it. Be a knowledge miser. Having a head full of knowledge made you indispensable to your organisation. In today’s social age knowledge is still power. But now power comes from getting things done by sharing that knowledge within your network and beyond. Today we realise that knowledge is that rarest of assets. One that increases the more it’s used and shared.”

Cyrus Shepard quote

I’m honoured David has allowed me to rub shoulders alongside such communications luminaries – here’s the full list and links to their Twitter handles:

Richard Bailey, Ryan Biddulph, Deirdre Breakenridge, Michael Brenner, Philippe Borremans, Stuart Bruce, Mike Carhart-Harris, Adam Connell, Andy Crestodina, Gini Dietrich, Jeff Domansky, Judy Gombita, Scott Guthrie, Sarah Hall, Ann Handley, Arik Hanson, Derek Howie, Doug Kessler, Larry Kim, Glenn Leibowitz, Rich Leigh, Julia McCoy, Mike McGrail, Rachel Miller, Sarah Moreton, Neil Patel, Sarah Pinch, Ted Rubin, David Meerman Scott, Cyrus Shepard, Dan Slee, Andrew Bruce Smith, Paul Sutton, Stephen Waddington, Angharad Welsh and Alex Yong.

Read why they give it all away for free here.  

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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  1. Grt stuff.

    Yesterday was a blast:

    1. Great comments. 2. An enhanced network. 3. 1000 views 4. 500+ social shares (and that’s without the FB because I learnt that if you put a link in to native FB in advance, even if you delete it and put it back in after publish, it still doesn’t render. So even though the post has been shared hundreds of times on FB/liked/commented on, it ain’t recognised by social share counters. I also learnt that this is the same with a snip.ly ). 5. 20-ish subscribers to my list, inc. Ted Rubin:O). 6. 10 new L:In Connections. 7. 20 or so new Twitter Followers. 8. Backlinks from you, Rachel at allthings, and a guest post/he’s gong to use it somehow as a post on his website, on Ted Rubin’s website in a couple of weeks. 9. Blog featured as top content In my daily email from Nuzzel, contentgems and commspro.

    The list is endless.

    But best are a few people I don’t know who have been inspired by the post and feel it is has affirmed their contrarian approach e.g. you can be nice and do well in business. That’s by far the best.

    And how the hell are you going to Stephen’s barbie e.g, you being in Sydney?


    D P.S. And best of all I still managed a meeting with a local hack, leading to a very important local paper article today, preceded by website go live and community reach out yesterday before news hits paper, plus I picked up another new project yesterday to redo a guy’s website. And you know how that came about: content marketing. Met him six months back, told him his website and social presence was a bit shit, in the nicest possible way. Two months later he signed up to my Zude’s top 4 and he’s eventually given up finding time “to do it himself” and because of my newsleter nagging away at him every week, I was completely front of mind. And what he liked: I met him in Dec, and told him how he could do his website him,self, gave him all the tools, all the links. I’m rambling now. See you later, d

    David Sawyer FCIPR | Director, Zude PR 07770 886923 | 0141 569 0342 dave@zudepr.co.uk | @zudepr

    [image: http://zudepr.co.uk]

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