by Padraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolElla
The best laid plans of MICE and men…
I should be writing this blog post from Washington DC where the Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI) is holding its annual conference. However, severe weather on East Coast USA caused my plans to be abandoned – having reached Boston without incidence I discovered onward connections to DC were cancelled due to pending storms. I decided it was better to go right back across the Atlantic on the very plane that brought me to New England than hole up in a blizzard in Boston for God knows how long. So I’m writing this from Dublin with one eye on the Twitter feed (#ADMEI) from DC for this year’s conference is addressing some crucially important issues concerning DMCs and PCOs and their place in the greater meetings industry.
Rock the Boat
2013 was the year when many DMC’s started to sense a return to a less skittish business environment. By now well adapted to the stormy turbulence of the “new” normal – marketplace fragmentation, shrinking budgets, lastminute.com etc – we finally got our sea legs, began to feel the deck under our feet and felt we had control of the ship again. But some DMCs didn’t weather the storms and one powerful Armada even found the rocks, sending shock waves across the industry at large.
ADMEI – global voice of the industry
In a specially convened panel the ADMEI leadership addressed the issues around financial stability for DMCs. Led by ADMEI President and DMC legend, Grant Snider, the panel included a veritable who’s who of the DMC world – Shari Millman, AlliedPRA; Susan Gray, MAC Meetings; Chris Lee, ACCESS Destination Management; Jennifer Patino, Hosts Global Alliance; and Bent Hadler, World of DMCs. Representing the widest possible demographic of DMCs – consortia and independent, domestic and international – speakers highlighted ADMEI’s indispensable role as the “global voice” of the DMC industry but cautioned that ADMEI would not and could not provide financial guarantees for its membership – no more and no less than MPI, Site or PCMA does for its people.
Customers doing business with DMCs, big and small, must adhere to the same caveat emptor that applies in all business transactions and conduct appropriate due diligence around the financial security of the business in question. Ratings agencies like Dun & Bradsheet along with the laws and regulations of a small number of global destinations may provide a degree of security around the financial stability of the company with which you’re dealing. However, there’s no quick fix here and each company must conduct its own research
ADMEI’s core purpose is to define, protect and promote the DMC profession. This session clearly demonstrated ADMEI’s unswerving commitment to defend the reputation of our sector and to give voice and credibility to our value proposition. It also showed unequivocally the value to all DMCs of our association and the absolute need to be a member of ADMEI if you’re a professional destination management organization.
Can you protect your “Intellectual Property”
Along with Marty Mackay and Ben Tedeschi, I was due to participate on today’s panel moderated by Tim Covell on “Striking the Balance between Proprietary and Innovation”. This, too, is an important subject for DMCs and one which has been on the agenda for many, many years. Consider this: you, and all your competitors, receive an RFP from a global Brand that is planning a big event in your destination. You spend half a day in creative meditation and emerge with a killer idea that goes into your brilliant RFP response. The Brand awards the business to one of your competitors but uses what you regard to be your idea. Familiar?
Yes, indeed, we have all been there. Without the benefits of hearing the sage input of my esteemed panel colleagues, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is a battle which I don’t think we should fight. Or, at least, it’s a battle that we could fight and maybe win but in the process we’d lose the war! Let me explain.
In our very own lifetimes we have experienced an information revolution akin to what happened back in 1450 when Gutenberg invented the printing press in Germany. The printing press allowed information and ideas to take flight and assume a life of their own, independent of their originator. The internet does precisely the same thing but at significantly faster speeds. I can post a thought on Twitter and, nanoseconds after I press send, this thought can be accessed, acted upon, replicated and plagiarized in Berlin, Buenos Aires and Beijing. In this brave new Information age ideas are as difficult to control as mice at a crossroads. And I’m unaware of any cast iron legal protection you can place over them – what DMC in any destination is able to prove definitively and conclusively that he was the only one to come up with the bright idea of using the Fire Station as a venue and to employ a Bridget Jones lookalike to slide down the fireman’s pole at 30 minute intervals throughout the night?
Very few confidential RFP responses from DMCs can justifiably be labelled as “intellectual property” the way a graphic designer might refer to an original logo he created or a medical scientist to primary research he conducted. We’re playing with destination assets that, for the most part, are in the public domain and not specifically belonging to us. We should definitely mark our RFPs as “confidential” and highlight our expectation that our ideas would not be used outside of the context of their creation – by so doing we’re at least expressing a hope that courtesy and respect might be extended to us and to the efforts we have made to provide a creative response.
However, when we don’t get the business and when it appears that our ideas have been stolen we should be stoic and calm. Take it on the chin and move on. If you’re really annoyed and convinced that your ideas were “stolen” then don’t compete for that brand’s business next time it comes to town. But lose the righteous indignation, stop bitching and moaning and don’t try spend time, energy and money winning a battle and losing the war. The internet has democratized information and many of your customers are savvy searchers who can find just about any piece of information, idea or insight within a couple of mouse clicks.
NOTE: Carrie Brown, who is part of Laurie Stroll’s excellent team at Newport Hospitality, tells me on Twitter that “Concept Proposals” might be a way to prove your credentials without giving away your IP too early in the bid process. I’d love to hear more about this – can you post a brief summary of what constitutes a Concept Proposal in the comment box?
Padraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolElla, a boutique consultancy offering marketing and training services for the meetings and events industry