January 13, 2012
Many years ago, I worked my way through college with a variety of part-time jobs, including one at a convenience store. I worked the graveyard shift, which left me free to study when I wasn’t selling milk and eggs to the late-night customers.
I learned about the power of “free” one night when a lactose-intolerant customer asked me to slice his own solid five-pound block of cheese. “I know this is against the rules,” he said, “but I’ll pay you a few dollars if you help me out.” I got to know him from his frequent visits. Curious as to why he was suddenly eating cheese, I asked him for the story.
America’s dairy subsidies had yielded mountains of cheese, which the government had finally decided to distribute. Earlier in the week, a trailer arrived in the neighborhood. Eligible residents could pick up cardboard boxes containing their choice of blocks of USDA yellow or white American cheese — for free. Even the lactose intolerant had lined up, and soon a secondary market in cheese developed. Cheese had become the informal, temporary currency of the neighborhood, and people used it to barter for everything from babysitting services to cigarettes.
That lesson about the transformative power of “free” is around us now as Internet business models have changed how we pay for things and what we pay for.
At PRSA, we took this lesson to heart as we looked at our webinars during the past 18 months. We realized that the same digital technology that transformed the world of public relations had also changed the dynamics of online learning. In classic business terms, as the cost of technology fell, more organizations began to offer professional development.
As supply increased, prices continued to fall — in some cases, they become free of charge.
Last year, you told us that “free webinars” were the second-most regarded PRSA benefit, surpassed only by our Code of Ethics.
As we looked more closely at what members were saying, as well as the transformation of the webinar market, we decided that we needed to overhaul our business model. By bringing some functions in-house — and with some additional financial flexibility resulting from the dues increase that members approved for 2012 — we were able to figure out a way to embrace a free webinar model.
Starting this month, all of our webinars will be available to our members — for free. This will be the same lineup of programming that you expect, in the format that best suits your busy life. We already have nearly two dozen sessions planned through June. By the end of 2012, we expect to offer more than 50 different seminars.
Come take a fresh look at our online learning opportunities and see how they might best suit your career goals and needs. Learn at your convenience, either on your own or with colleagues, without worrying about your budget.
We know that you have other choices for learning about the profession, but unlike many other learning providers, PRSA is here for one reason alone: to advance you and the profession.