The Travesty of Event Invitations
A number of brands want me to “attend” their product launch events but very few are able to articulate why they want me there. When, on email, I ask them why they want me there, most of them perceive this as me being arrogant. I’m trying to determine what value the brand thinks I will add to their launch event. Because they clearly haven’t thought this through.
The days of inviting the “media” to a launch event to wine and dine them and to show them a “Bollywood Celebrity” up-close, are over. Regardless of how many launch events continue to employ this method of Public Relations, they’re flogging a dead horse, and they don’t know it.
The rise of smart, authentic, engaged consumers is a tide that isn’t subsiding any time soon. People like me, who pointedly ask, “But why?”, are currently in the minority, but our questions are getting more frequent and louder. Others are noticing that brands respond differently to us. Engage with us more professionally. These “others” are currently curious, but will soon start to emulate. ( Prior to that, they have to determine why they themselves do what they do. Without knowing their own motivations and agenda, it would be arrogant to expect brands and PR to answer the “But why?” )
“Oh, we only wanted to invite you as a guest because you’ve been so supportive of our brand in the past.” This is bullshit. Most who respond with this are people I’ve never worked with, never spoken with, never even exchanged email with – not even a generic press release. Not that I’m encouraging you to send me a generic press release. I will politely request you to remove from your mailing list twice, after which, if you continue to send emails, I will mark you as spam.
I get it. You have the budget to spend on booking a restaurant, buying food and booze for a hundred people, employing a chauffeur service to ferry some of them, hiring artists who are entertainment for the evening. But you don’t have the budget to pay me for the work you expect from me.
Build a relationship by scheduling a business meeting if you believe I’m that important to your brand’s success. Am I at all relevant to your brand’s success? Why? If the answer is that I can do a wonderful narrative-based photo story for your brand’s launch event, it would make sense to also ear-mark a budget for hiring me to do this. It would also make sense to determine what you are going to do with the images I will produce, without which, it is just another wasteful exercise. You have all these visuals documenting the launch of your brand’s shiny new product and you don’t utilize those to further engage with your audience or my audience. That’s a travesty.
It isn’t even about me per se. Anyone you invite to an event, you invite for a reason. If you’re not prepared to share that reasoning with your potential guest, something is off. That’s not a nice feeling.
A majority of “bloggers” like me ( there isn’t anyone like me in India ), will probably still show up for your event because they want to establish a relationship. Attending an event, especially in a city like Delhi, is more about being seen. If I am there, I will be seen, I might even be photographed, and the brand will be grateful that I was there and those twenty other bloggers were not.
The brand doesn’t care about you. They only care about their numbers. How many of the invited guest list actually showed up, on the basis of which the PR agency can declare it was a “successful” event, on the basis of which they may continue to be retained by the client brand.
If you tell me why you want me, I’m in a better position to deliver exactly what you want from me. And tell me in advance, so that I have time to prepare for the assignment.