Personal Knowledge: It's What You Know

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We do a lot of writing at Morrissey & Company, and when I hear someone ask what to write about, my usual advice is to tell them, “Write what you know.” It’s good counsel. I struggled with this same quandary for today’s post until a colleague offered the same recommendation to me. So, today’s highlighted reputation communications tool is personal knowledge.

For the past 11 years, I’ve represented a wide range of clients: elected officials, financial institutions, universities, hospitals, industry titans, non-profit organizations. The list goes on, but you get the picture. Usually I grow to understand clients and their missions as we work to build defensive or promotional strategies. However, I can’t say that I know a client 100 percent at the beginning. The usual relationship begins with the all-important discovery phase to truly understand clients’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential threats. Informed by that, we design a plan tailored to achieve some set of organizational goals. Then, we execute the plan. Finally, success. It’s that simple, right?

Shorting the Path

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Now, I’m constantly looking for ways to cut to the chase of achieving a successful outcome, but haven’t found the silver bullet without jeopardizing that final result. There’s just no good way around each step. However, as I began working on a proposal for a new business opportunity a few weeks back, I discovered something: for the first time in many years, I was pitching something I know like the back of my hand, rendering the discovery phase that much shorter and, in some ways, richer. The prospective client is the home state of your faithful scribe.

Rather than starting the process with attempting to figure out “who” the prospective client is, I was able to lean on my personal knowledge, spend the saved time examining deeper opinion research, and sketch out the structure of our proposal. Of course, this is a dream assignment for someone who lived in the client state for all but six years of his life. But, the power of personal knowledge didn’t stop there.

Force Multiplier

We extended the concept by going to the street and our social networks to measure others’ personal knowledge. We dialogued face-to-face with visitors to Boston, receiving a diversity of perspectives and opinions about the prospect. And, since we’re amidst the information age, we practiced what we preach to clients and sought personal knowledge from the hundreds of people in our immediate social networks. With a few simple steps, we took my personal knowledge and multiplied by more than 100 times. This doesn’t constitute anything that my friends in the research world would consider “statistically significant,” but we certainly have a more complete picture for our proposal.

Now back to drafting this proposal. It’s due this week and time’s a tickin’. So long for now.

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