I have met people who fancied themselves as business people (meaning they're pretty much failing at it or are inept or are too cheap to pay anyone) who wanted me to produce content for free, telling me I'd get "exposure." For instance, one person who was building their digital identity after their broadcasting one was fizzling told me about a website they were either creating or had already created (they were vague), and they wanted people to write for their blog. I asked them how much they're paying the writers, and they said "oh nothing, you can get exposure." Obviously, the person hadn't done their research or assumed I was new to the digital world because I had already been blogging for years, and had even gotten paid for doing blog posts for other people or had gotten paid for editing them. By the time the has-been mediaite had met me, I had already experienced professional writing, and at that point was picky about who I'd write for, for free.
Another time, a person who was working for a company asked me to not only write something, but go out into the community, interview people, record the interviews, edit and make them sound pretty, post them somewhere, and they would be broadcast, again vaguely somewhere at some time. I asked how much they were paying for such a project that sounded like it would be both time-consuming and energy-expending, and they said that I would have to find the advertisers, and besides, I would get "exposure."
In both those instances, the people asked me; I didn't approach them, so I assumed since they asked me, they would have something to offer more that just "exposure." They didn't even bother to offer a gift card or another kind of perk. While the has-been was an individual, the other person worked for a business that had been set up by someone else, and even they didn't have the money to pay for a service that they requested.
I have had exposure for years, which I built up. Some of it has been through work, so I happened to get paid for it. Other exposure has not been for work, but has led to paid work. That's what exposure does: it gets your name out there so that people can do an online search and find out what you're able to do. But after a while, it's not as necessary, unless you have a goal in mind.
For instance, once I started teaching others about podcasting (and after I'd gotten exposure for my own podcast), I wanted to write about it. So I contacted a publicity pro whose excellent website, The Publicity Hound, did not have such information. It took a while, but I was able to write a two-part article about it. More recently, I wrote another how-to podcasting article after contacting the International Association of Business Communicators, whose website didn't have anything about it either. I didn't get paid to write those, but the difference was that I contacted them and knew they were a chance to get exposure. It was my goal, and I took action to achieve it.
But I also wrote a couple articles for free after someone asked me. In that case, I had been wanting to write about my experience doing technical editing, since I'd been toiling at that alone in obscurity, and I wanted to communicate with the larger world about it (since I'm not a solitary-loving introvert). I was at a meeting of the Society for Technical Communication, and the newsletter editor, Robert Delwood, was talking to me about my experience. Then he asked me to write articles for the newsletter, and since no one gets paid to write for it and it's an organization (not a business), I didn't make such an assumption. And he didn't have to say "you'll get exposure" either. It was just a request for a contribution. What resulted was a description of my struggle, and another about the importance of grammar.
Ok, so it might seem like I'm self-promoting, which I sort of am, but I'm also making a point: if people want something substantial done and especially can afford it, they should pay. They shouldn't make the "exposure" argument unless someone suggests it, e.g., if someone says to them, "I have no online presence. Can I write something for you? I need the exposure." But for a business person to try to convince someone to give them free content via the "exposure" argument is not good business.
I believe many in advertising & other fields have similar issues. Even job hunters are asked to do extensive work for free as part of an interview process, by companies that can afford to pay for staff. Truly irritating....
They probably do that to see if someone knows how to do the work, but it's usually a simple test, not completion of a substantial project. The winning-business way of getting work from someone is to hire them temporarily, and if they work out, hire them for longer (or permanently).
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