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.
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.
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.