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I've been seeing people pass around this YouTube video the last week. An engineer explains why the other checkout line always seems to move faster. It's a simple video but well produced. When the person visits, he or she finds additional content that's also quite interesting. Each video imparts knowledge from an obscure domain of expertise, relates it to common everyday experiences, and frequently ends on a cute "the trials of a wife married to an engineer" joke. The "why does the other line move faster" video itself is perfectly timed to go viral, what with Christmas and then boxing day sales and standing in lines for airline checkin…
It's important to note, the Youtube "channel" isn't selling anything. But what it does is it raises the profile of the host and the institution backing it.
Now, look around your company. What obscure domains of knowledge does your company master? Ask yourself how can you package it for a lay person? You don't have to do a full blown YouTube channel but you could easily do a blog, setup a Facebook fan page, or even tweet. And don't underestimate the lay person's fascination with obscure areas of knowledge. Haven't you ever wondered what a day at Microsoft or a GM truck plant is like?
A small investment in a YouTube series can end up getting you or your company in the coveted "golden rolodex" journalists turn to when they need a pundit. Several years ago, an obscure but jovial economist Russ Roberts started doing a weekly podcast about economics. Economics is traditionally dry stuff but Roberts found a way to delve into his obscure domain of knowledge, present it in such a way a lay person can understand but he doesn't force his experts to slow down. After a couple years of podcasting, Roberts now turns up on various news shows. He's an instant pundit and he's raised the profile of his mid-level university (George Mason).
Roberts even did a hip hop video, rapping about Hayek vs. Keynes. I'm really not joking. The nearly 2 million visits this video has racked up is certainly no joke. If a TV series gets 2 million viewers these days it's considered a success by most non-network cable channels.
So, who knows. Chances are there are hidden talents and domains of knowledge within your company that can find a wider audience, an audience that will find its way to your company. Next time you hire an engineer, baker, barista, plumber, mechanic, or receptionist, find out if he or she has some community theater, stage, or musical background. These "soft" talents might prove to pay dividends.