Although I have enjoyed many enlightening conversations with many special event professionals, every now and then someone I call tells me no. As in, “No, I don’t talk to the media.”
These people are sharp (or I wouldn’t have called them in the first place) and think they are doing the best thing for their businesses.
But they are wrong.
Their first rationale is that they are protecting business secrets from competitors. But unless your employees are indentured to you for life and you make sure that no guest ever attends your events, then your work is already out in the open.
Good, innovative work always gets noticed, always gets talked about, always gets imitated. But turn to page 26 to see what event designer extraordinaire John Daly says about imitators.
Perhaps more important, by failing to speak with the media, you miss the opportunity to shape your company’s image.
Being in business is like living in a small town: Whether they have personal experience with you or not, the industry and the public have some impression of you and your company. Speaking with the media gives you the chance to tell your story, to shape the image of your company.
If you don’t shape the image of your company, others will do it for you. One party rental operator kept telling me that he wouldn’t talk to me about his company, but that didn’t stop him from taking potshots at his competitors.
Why should you care about your company’s image?
I don’t know of any other industry where the opportunities for alliances and partnerships are so fluid as they are in special events. The company you regard as a competitor today may be calling you tomorrow to partner on a major special event. But if your capabilities are not known, you may not get that call.
Your public image is also important for ensuring that you get the best work force possible. Employees want to work for companies that are widely respected. The labor market in the United States is the tightest it has been in 30 years. A good public image could be a good recruiting tool for you.
Being willing to be a spokesperson can pay off for you personally. You raise your own visibility and build credibility in the industry and the business community. This can be useful in your career. The payoff is the same for your company when it comes time to look for additional financing, for acquisitions, for a sale.
One reason companies in this industry are a little more shy about speaking to the media is that the special event industry itself is barely 20 years old. More mature industries are accustomed to discussing such benchmarks as operating ratios and strategic planning. They are more used to seeing coverage about their industry, period.
Your candor can also shape the future of our business. By sharing good ideas (what some people see as inviting copycats), we raise the quality of our product—special events. And when excellent special events are in the news, more customers will be interested in buying our product.
A recent front-page story in the Los Angeles Times describes the rush of dot-com companies to throw splashy special events in order to lure new employees and create a media buzz. But if these events are poorly executed, the result will be fewer customers interested in staging special events at all. They will spend their money on other communication tools.
At The Special Event 2000, sharing information—about new products, professional skills, design ideas, business tips—is the whole point. (Turn to page 31 for full details.) Veterans of the show tell me that the No. 1 reason they attend is the opportunity they have to network.
You’ve got an important story to tell. Don’t be shy about telling it.