Post image for Pepcom: We'd like to invite you to a party that we don't want you to attend

Pepcom: We'd like to invite you to a party that we don't want you to attend

by David Spark on December 21, 2009

Last week I received a nice invitation from Pepcom to attend yet another one of their press events, called “Digital Experience” being held at CES next year in January. I’ll be attending CES this year so I said sure, and thanked Pepcom for the invite. Over the past six years I’ve attended a handful of Pepcom’s press-only events such as “Digital Experience” and “MobileFocus” which are connected to existing major conferences such as CES and CTIA, respectively. The advantage of these events over the general trade show floor is I get to see a lot of new companies, new product announcements, plus it’s an opportunity to schmooze with my fellow journalists. I’m a 14-year veteran tech journalist and analyst that’s written and appeared in more than 30 media outlets in print, radio, and TV. I currently write and appear on ABC Radio, Mashable, Socialmedia.biz, Technologizer, Green 960 radio, Cranky Geeks (I’m on this week too), and KQED, not to mention blogging here at the Spark Minute.

After I graciously accepted the invitation to the event, I received the following message:

“Thanks for getting back to me, but unfortunately we will no longer be able to admit you. I just took a look at your site and saw you are doing media consulting. Please see our attached media guidelines. Of course this is nothing personal, just our policy!” – Pepcom representative

You invited me to an event and then you uninvited me? Wow, that’s rude.

We exchanged a few more emails and I told her all my media credentials but she wouldn’t budge. Because she just discovered I also generate revenue from consulting, I couldn’t attend their event anymore.

What did Pepcom do wrong?

What has Pepcom been doing for the six years I’ve been attending their events? – I’ve been on Pepcom’s mailing list for six years and they “just” looked at my site and saw I was doing media consulting? I’ve never hidden my professional and journalistic occupations. I’ve been in journalism, production, media consulting, and custom publishing for more than seven years. A visit to my business site, blog, or LinkedIn profile would have revealed all of that information. I know them. They obviously didn’t know me.

Why is Pepcom sending invites to a party I can’t attend? – Why were they sending me invites if by their standards I wasn’t qualified to attend? How about you don’t send me an invite in the first place? Look at your mailing list first and determine who is and isn’t qualified before you extend invitations.

If you made a mistake on an invitation, then it’s your fault, not mine – If you invite someone to an event, and you make a mistake about the person’s perceived qualifications, then that’s your mistake. Simply suck it up, and then don’t invite the person to the next event. You don’t uninvite them. Who does this…ever?! Sure, you can say, “It’s nothing personal,” but unfortunately it is. In fact, it’s extremely rude. What do you think etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige would say of your behavior?

Don’t hide your mistake behind your company policy – To defend their position of uninviting me, the Pepcom representative attached a copy of their 11-year-old policy. The reason for this policy is they’ve received complaints from event sponsors that journalists who also worked as consultants were using the forum to pitch their services. That seems a bit harsh to negate all journalists/consultants, but it’s their policy and their event, so be it. I asked the Pepcom representative if anybody had been complaining about me in particular? I didn’t get an answer, but I’m assuming not. Because if anyone did, they probably would have removed me from their invite list.

Insult a journalist, and they’re going to write about it – Journalists and bloggers are always looking for stories. This Pepcom representative obviously didn’t realize that this was going to become a story I’d write about.

They don’t accept journalists that generate additional revenue outside of journalism – Their disclaimer also mentioned that they only accepted full-time journalists. I have not been a full-time journalist for the past six years I’ve been attending their events. And I know many of the people who have been attending their events haven’t either. I suggested she start to dig into her list more and she’ll realize that many of the journalists she’s inviting are generating revenue via one of their unaccepted businesses such as educational, government, non-profit, industry associations, and think tanks. Yes, there are plenty of pure journalists still out there, but given the media climate many of them, even the good ones, have to find other ways to make money. To not invite them comes off as elitist.

Bouncer standing outside nightclub

What should have Pepcom done?

Eat your mistakes – As previously mentioned, if you make a mistake, you have to swallow it. What’s the worst that could happen? I attend the event and no one complains about me like they haven’t for the past six years. But by uninviting me I was so personally offended (although from their vantage they claim it wasn’t personal – just an 11-year-old company policy) that I was moved to write a blog post attacking their business practices. It would have been a lot safer for them to say nothing and then remove me from their invite list for future events.

Qualify your mailing list  before you send out invitations – Everyone does this. Why doesn’t Pepcom? What made them think that qualifying invites after people have accepted would be a good idea?

Send an apology email to all the journalists removed from the list - After you qualify your mailing list and before you send out the invite, send out a message to all the people you removed explaining why they’ve been removed. Apologize, but give them an option to point out their journalistic credentials that you may have missed. My friend Esme Vos, editor and producer of many events for MuniWireless, advises that Pepcom goes one step further and throws an event for all the people they had to remove. Doesn’t need to be as costly and as large as the other event. Maybe just a mixer.

Don’t negate journalists that wear other hats – Your sponsors are looking for quality people that represent media outlets they want to appear in. That should be your deciding factor. Not whether that person makes all their money from journalism and nothing else.

Bouncer standing outside a nightclub

I’m sure there’s far more history to Pepcom’s events than what I experienced in my single little incident. They’ve got more than 11 years of stories to tell. I invite them to engage in this public discussion.

Pepcom comments on FacebookTop photo, Creative Commons attribution (Vissago and nvidia.corporation / CC BY-NC 2.0)

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  • Bill Biggar

    A friend who is the #3 person at a publicly-traded corporation was the unlucky beneficiary of a mistake made by his assistant, who had returned from surgery a number of weeks ago and taking pain-killers when she sent out the invites to his annual movers-and-shakers Holiday party: she used the previous year’s invite list *without* passing it by him first.

    The first person to respond “yes”? The former #2 guy who had been fired a number of months before by Mr. #1.

    Whoops!

    Note: they did not un-invite the former #2. They sucked it up, fireworks or no. We will find out tomorrow!

    bb

  • http://www.samlevin.com Sam Levin

    Yes, after attending Pepcom events for 7 years, I too was told the same (you can’t attend becuase you consult). It’s amusing and really their collective loss.

    Read this Pepcom:

    1) Numerous high profile bloggers/journalist consult -AND- attend Pepcom.

    2) People read/view more via blogs (from you and I than any other form of traditional media outlet.

    3) Head to ShowStoppers. Steve and Dave Leon (owners) want bloggers to attend and share the message about their exhibitors.

    Hope this helps and hope Pepcom gets the message.

    Respectfully,
    Sam

  • http://www.launchlessons.com Joshua Weinberg

    I’ve been going something similar with them recently.

    I used to be a PR person and sold tables to many many companies at their events.

    I now blog AND consult for companies (not PR). I’d like to attend Pepcom for my blog… but they won’t budge. THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND YOU CAN BE A BLOGGER AND CONSULTANT.

    They, validly claim their table buyers don’t want junk-press…

    BUT! I am on a panel at this year’s CES “examining a preview of promising next-generation iPhone/iPod accessory products.”

    Can’t imagine that any table buyer with iPod/iPhone accessories wouldn’t want exposure to that!!!

  • David Spark

    Well, it turns out that I’m not the only one that’s had problems with Pepcom. They’ve denied admission to journalists that received invites from sponsors yet weren’t approved the Pepcom process. http://is.gd/5wzxb

    And they threatened to ban all CNET journalists if they had a party after the Pepcom event. http://is.gd/5wzzk

    Nothing new. Guess this post won’t make a dent.

  • http://www.politis.com David Politis

    I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not. Although I’ve been attending such press events for 15+ years, both as a PR dude (with clients) and as a self-syndicated columnist (from 1993-2003), I’ve seen (and heard) a number of VERY upset legit journos, bloggers & freelancers because of this type of approach.

    So . . . wanna line-up an interview with SANYO for its Innovation Award-winning electric bike — the eneloop bicycle. We’ll be doing demo rides, indoor on the carpeted floors of the Wynn, during Showstoppers. Interested?

    Email me at dpolitis (at) politis (dot) com.

    Hope to see you there.

    David Politis, for…
    SANYO

    c/o Politis Communications
    “Maximizing corporate value
    thru strategic communications”
    801-523-3730: Work
    801-556-8184: Cell
    http://www.politis.com: Website
    http://www.TheBettyFactor.com: Blog
    @dpolitis: Twitter Account

  • http://www.downtheavenue.com Renee Blodgett

    So, it begs the question – if you’re a consultant, under these rules, I guess that means that you have no media influence?

    Wasn’t the industry having that conversation 6-8 years ago? I wrote my own blog post in response to this – welcome feedback of course – http://www.downtheavenue.com/2009/12/consultants-cant-be-media-influencers-can-they.html

  • http://www.rosenfieldpr.com/ Norma Rosenfield

    To me, this reeks of organizers who have staffers who don't know the people on their lists, number one. And number two, you just don't disinvite someone. Unbelievable. And just plain tacky.

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    On the onset, that's what it would appear to be, but it wasn't. The staffer who contacted me had been with the company for years and had contacted me multiple times. Plus, I sent this post to the owner and controller of the company and I haven't got a response from anyone.

    This is a colossal mistake as anyone who is thinking of retaining Pepcom, and searches their name, will see this post. It's become the fourth result in Google.

  • http://www.rosenfieldpr.com/ Norma Rosenfield

    To me, this reeks of organizers who have staffers who don't know the people on their lists, number one. And number two, you just don't disinvite someone. Unbelievable. And just plain tacky.

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    On the onset, that's what it would appear to be, but it wasn't. The staffer who contacted me had been with the company for years and had contacted me multiple times. Plus, I sent this post to the owner and controller of the company and I haven't got a response from anyone.

    This is a colossal mistake as anyone who is thinking of retaining Pepcom, and searches their name, will see this post. It's become the fourth result in Google.

  • http://www.robinraskin.com/ robin

    Thanks for giving me the courage to come out of the disinvited closte. As a disinvited journalist myself I can see both sides of the issue.
    Keep the invite list exclusive and to a degree, it creates that “I got in; I'm important” aura which both clients, who pay good $ and status conscious press both like.
    It's more the way they handle it that I find distrubing, THe policy is not only arbitrary;it's vindictive. I was told that i wasn't a full time journalist anymore to which i answered “you show me a full time journalist and i'll show you someone headed for the homeless shelter.” Yet, clearly I pose a threat to John and Chris in my new lifestyle/shows capacity.
    When Pepcom feels threatened they lash out. For the record, they are wlcome guests at my events anytime. And that goes double for you.

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    As Renee Blodgett points out in her post, what is Pepcom doing holding onto an 11-year-old policy in this day and age? How could that policy pertain to anything today? Heck, our founding fathers knew that they'd have to amend the Constitution.

    Ultimately, it's their event, and they can run it any way they want. In turn, I can publish how insulted I was to be disinvited (My first time ever!) and I can go out of my way to tell their sponsors.

    I'd really like Pepcom to join in this debate, but they refuse to respond. By not talking it allows us to define the story.

  • http://www.robinraskin.com/ robin

    Thanks for giving me the courage to come out of the disinvited closte. As a disinvited journalist myself I can see both sides of the issue.
    Keep the invite list exclusive and to a degree, it creates that “I got in; I'm important” aura which both clients, who pay good $ and status conscious press both like.
    It's more the way they handle it that I find distrubing, THe policy is not only arbitrary;it's vindictive. I was told that i wasn't a full time journalist anymore to which i answered “you show me a full time journalist and i'll show you someone headed for the homeless shelter.” Yet, clearly I pose a threat to John and Chris in my new lifestyle/shows capacity.
    When Pepcom feels threatened they lash out. For the record, they are wlcome guests at my events anytime. And that goes double for you.

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    As Renee Blodgett points out in her post, what is Pepcom doing holding onto an 11-year-old policy in this day and age? How could that policy pertain to anything today? Heck, our founding fathers knew that they'd have to amend the Constitution.

    Ultimately, it's their event, and they can run it any way they want. In turn, I can publish how insulted I was to be disinvited (My first time ever!) and I can go out of my way to tell their sponsors.

    I'd really like Pepcom to join in this debate, but they refuse to respond. By not talking it allows us to define the story.

  • sfgary

    David, I came by yr. blog via the ZD Net tempest in a teapot on the old PR mail spam and your post on Social media “gurus. And now this fiasco, somebody ought to write a manual. I am now taking my cue from the Pepcom PR geniuses and am going to invite and then un-invite you. This must be some sort of a new trend I missed…

  • sfgary

    David, I came by yr. blog via the ZD Net tempest in a teapot on the old PR mail spam and your post on Social media “gurus. And now this fiasco, somebody ought to write a manual. I am now taking my cue from the Pepcom PR geniuses and am going to invite and then un-invite you. This must be some sort of a new trend I missed…

  • Samlevin

    this occurred to me last year David. I have attended many Pepcom events as a tech journalist. yes, i consult as well yet i surmise over 75% of all bloggers have other consulting arrangements. Pepcom has really created an unprofessional setting. Too bad cause several companies I cover have asked me to meet them at Pepcom. It's ok, ShowStoppers is similar to Pepcom yet with zero attitude. See you at ShowStoppers!

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    I have a few that have told me to meet them at Pepcom and I just forward them this article. :)

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