Episode 67: Adding Value Through Knowledge Share

Portrait of Cheryl Greer

At DHG, our ultimate goal is to add value for our clients each and every day. Knowledge share, a key aspect of our service strategy, is one of the ways in which we do that. In this podcast, Cheryl Greer, Senior Manager in our Tax Advisory practice, talks about her knowledge share experience with the Financial Services Group and how it has helped build her career.

Episode 67 Transcript:

AGH: Hello everyone, and welcome back to another episode of our DHG podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison, your host, and I love this venue because we get to hear about the things that matter the most to us – flexibility, careers and people.

Knowledge share is a key aspect of our service strategy. We developed our strategy about five years ago, and our ultimate goal is to add value for our clients, each and every day. We know that having knowledge share is one of the key ways we can add value. Just for our external audience, knowledge share to us is the same thing as thought leadership. That’s just how we talk about it.

Today, Cheryl Greer is joining me. She is a Senior Manager in our Tax Advisory Practice and she has been heavily involved in knowledge share with the Financial Services Group.

Welcome. Cheryl.

CG: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.

AGH: Okay, tell me a little bit about what your group is doing in the knowledge share area?

CG: Absolutely. We are doing various channels, but we have really focused on two main avenues, and that is email alerts and articles and presentations. So, we listen to our clients, we listen to the questions that they’re asking us, and then we form knowledge share email alerts around that. Or, we tailor our presentation when we have executive briefing days around what they’re asking us and what they’re concerned about.

AGH: That is awesome. I mean, talk about being able to add value to your client. So, what’s been your involvement in the development of the actual materials that have been shared?

CG: I’ve been involved in a couple of different ways. One was to really get our knowledge share process for our group up and running. We knew that we wanted to kind of increase our presence, we had been doing a few things here and there, but we didn’t have a formal editorial calendar or a formal process within our group. There is a formal process within DHG, but how does our group kind of get going and keep going and keep the momentum going? That was the first thing.

That started with, “Cheryl, let’s write a bunch of knowledge shares.” In a matter of about six weeks, we put together about six email alerts kind of back to back. I am in the tax practice, so we did have an unfair advantage I would say, of the new tax laws, and so there was a lot to talk about. There were a lot of things going on, a lot of things that people were wondering about, concerned about, and guidance coming out. So it really started with me writing a lot of email alerts.

Then, we started looking at how do we get others in our group involved? Once I kind of figured out the process and the best practice of how to get going, I started looking into what works, what doesn’t work, and filtering that down to get other managers and our staff involved. We have senior associates writing email alerts now. We have a goal in our group that everyone at least writes an email alert or participates in putting together presentation materials.

AGH: That’s awesome. I mean, that’s such a huge career development opportunity for those in your group.

CG: It really is because when you write about it, even if you’re only writing an email alert that’s maybe a couple of paragraphs or even a few sentences, you still need to read up on it and be knowledgeable about the topic and able to answer questions. We do try to keep our email alerts concise because we all have busy lives. We also found that a lot of our clients like to read just a quick news blurb to figure out if it applies to them and then give us a call for more information. Even in that situation, you still have to read up on the issues so that you’re prepared for those questions that may come in. So you really kind of learn the material really well.

AGH: Absolutely. I mean, just form my own experience, writing something short and concise is a lot harder than writing something long and verbose. So, I totally get that.

How has knowledge share served as a catalyst for conversations? You mentioned that they’ll read a little bit and then they’ll pick up the phone. Tell me a little bit more about how it’s been a catalyst for conversations with clients and prospects?

CG: Absolutely. We consider knowledge share both internally and externally. Obviously our email alerts, they go out to our external distribution list but they also go out internally. We also have regular calls with various people on the Financial Services Team as well. As an example, we did an email alert about an FMLA credit, that’s a tax credit for something that a lot of companies already provide, a paid leave. We did an email alert about that and I learned everything I wanted to know about FMLA leave. We had some clients ask about it, which we expected, but we actually got some calls from HR managers at companies we hadn’t talked to that said, “Hey, I want to learn more about this than maybe talk to your tax folks about it.” So we have actually had those conversations just as a result of those emails alerts.

Another avenue that’s worked really well for us is on educating our partners and our audit teams. We had in the tax world (I work in state tax as well), the Wayfair decision that came out, and so we educated our auditors about that. They started talking about it while out at the client and we got some nexus work out of that. They said, “Hey, have you heard about this? I’d love to introduce my tax people to it.”

So I think it’s really important to not only be reaching your clients and educating our clients but also be educating other members on your teams so that everyone can provide value and enhance the client experience.

AGH: That’s awesome. In our previous question, we had touched on how knowledge share can be something that serves as a career catalyst or helps build a career. At DHG, we talk about making people famous, I love that. So, if someone listening wanted to get started in knowledge share, but maybe they’re a little nervous or timid — you clearly were a trail blazer in this for your group — what would you say as a word of encouragement or advice on how to get started?

CG: Absolutely. I think there are a few things to keep in mind, and one of them is that everyone is nervous when they do this for the first time. I’m nervous right now because this is my very first podcast. Everyone is nervous, whether it is writing an email alert or an article, or preparing a presentation, or giving a presentation. One thing to keep in mind is that everyone gets the nerves when they are doing it and the important thing is to get over that hump and do it.

Another thing I tell people is don’t go at it alone. Especially here at DHG. You have resources to help you. If you are an external listener, reach out to the people in your professional network, not only for ideas but to bounce things off of and then maybe for help reviewing once you have put everything together.

So there’s always somebody that you can reach out to within your network to help you get a better product. You know, my perspective on something may be different than your perspective on something, and so I think that that’s important.

AGH: Before you go on, one of the things that came to my mind while you were talking is, I write a lot. I am in corporate communications, but sometimes there are certain topics that are intimidating to me, and I’ve been writing and communicating for over 20 years. But then I tell myself, “You know, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just get your thoughts down on paper.” Get your ideas, write down the facts, and it doesn’t have to be perfect, and you give yourself a nice runway of time. Things don’t have to be written in two minutes when you are first getting started. Just give yourself a good runway, I call it massage, you keep massaging the message until it is where you want it to be. For me, when I start to feel a little bit nervous if I am writing about a topic that I don’t feel as confident in, I keep reminding myself that the first time I put the words on the paper they don’t have to be perfect.

CG: I’ll just piggyback on that. I totally agree because I have felt that kind of writer’s block because I am not a writer. I am tax person that is trying to put together materials that are easy to understand by not only tax people but non-tax people too.

So one of the things I’ve done in those situations, because it can be intimidating to stare at that blank page and try to think of that first sentence, is I start with an outline. I start with the topics that I want to cover and then I build my sentences around that. Before I know it, I’ve got what I need in a few paragraphs. That is how I get over that hump.

AGH: Yes, brilliant.

CG: And the last one that I just wanted to touch on is that there are different avenues to knowledge share. You know, that is a broad, big topic that we talk about. I’ve mentioned that we do a lot of those quick-hit email alerts, social media shares, and more of those presentations in executive briefings. But there are all kinds of different things you can do. There are articles you can write, there are quick Twitter posts you can do. Knowledge share is really just educating your clients and people in your company, sharing that knowledge and adding value. There are all kinds of different areas you can do that. Our group has talked about the possibility of a tax talk podcast. Whether or not that is an avenue we want to take. So thinking about the different channels and what makes you comfortable.

I start our senior associates out with these email alerts. Because usually it starts with one over-reaching topic, just a few sentences or maybe a paragraph, and kind of a hook to get people thinking about the topic, how it applies to them and why they should call you back. Those are much less intimidating to start with. You start with that and then maybe you go into a full article next time, something more in depth. Or maybe you do a video for your website, or a podcast like this to share a question and answer about some of the questions you’re getting.

AGH: Yes, absolutely. That’s great advice. Okay we’ve gotten through all of our questions. I am going to go back and ask you, it wasn’t so bad doing a podcast, was it?

CG: It wasn’t. Actually, you made this very, very easy to do. So I am happy to say that I’ve gotten my first one under my belt and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

AGH: That’s right, now you’re ready to do a podcast that can be a knowledge share podcast, and when you are ready to get started, let me know and I will help you.

CG: Will do, absolutely.

AGH: I can share my knowledge. Thanks so much for the great insight that you’ve provided today.

CG: Absolutely. I am happy to be a part of it.

AGH: And thank you all for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stories about our Life Beyond Numbers.

Join us next time for another edition of Life at DHG.

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