Friday, March 18, 2011

How to lose potential business

I'm a great fan of good business practice, as we all are. I'm looking for good, efficient service. The sort offered by some of my clients like The Savoy (not that I'm taking all the credit)

With customers being a bit harder to come by these days, you'd think that companies would try a bit harder to get customers. Here are two examples of incredibly poor customer service that I've experienced in the past few days.

I was speaking recently at International Confex at Earls Court. It's the biggest UK show for event organisers and venues. There were hundreds of hotels, tourist boards and suppliers exhibiting. I visited fifty stands, explained that I was interested in their service or venue, since I may be able to recommend them to clients. In every case, my details were taken, either from my bar-coded badge, or my business card. In the two weeks since the event, I've received three emails from exhibitors. One was nicely personalised, referred to my interests, and suggested possible collaboration. The other two were sent impersonally and made no connection whatever. One was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. I also received one phone call. Just one. It was from a lovely lady called Jean, who represents a hotel in Dublin. She was superb, and I will definitely recommend her venue.

That was it. From fifty companies that I asked for information, in an environment where they had paid to meet potential clients, over ninety per cent failed to follow up.

Here's another example. I was asked earlier this week by a friend in the US for a recommendation of a PR company in China. I know a few, but not that well, so I decided to make some enquiries. Several people recommended the same company. I rang their London office with the query. I was put through to someone's voicemail, which included in the outgoing message "I will call you back within two hours". The next day, I still hadn't received a call, so I rang them again, and this time spoke to a real person.They said I'd have to ring a different office and gave me a number. It turned out to be Haymarket publishing, not their other office at all. I rang the company again. They gave me a different number, which turned out to be a fax machine. You can imagine my mood by now, since all I'm trying to do is to refer them to a friend who is looking to employ them. Finally, I managed to speak to someone in the other office, only to hear "We don't deal with that, you need to call our Singapore office". It was too late to call Singapore, so I rang the next morning (today as I type this). The phone diverted to a mobile number, and the person I spoke to told me "This is my personal mobile, you shouldn't be using this number". I apologised (even though it wasn't my fault). I've now given up on them.

So here's the thing. I've been in the position of a customer looking for a supplier. I'm offering paid work to companies. I've ended up so frustrated that I've given up. I would never dream of treating my customers and potential customers in that way. Nor would you, I'm sure.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ten things speakers dislike about event planners

This is not a career suicide note. It has been compiled following a challenge from two leading members of MPI (Meeting Professionals International) – Paul Cook (Former UK President) and Anthony Hyde (Immediate Past UK President). The latter has agreed to write “Ten things that event planners dislike about speakers”. Of course, we all love each other really. But just occasionally, things go awry.

So here’s my list:

1. No confirmation of the event. A booking has been made months ahead, it’s in pencil in the speaker’s diary, but there is no further communication until three days before the gig.

2. Re-organisation of the agenda. An opening keynote becomes a closing keynote, or a workshop becomes a breakfast seminar. The last person to know may be the speaker.

3. No time for rehearsal. A professional speaker will always want to run a sound check and room check well before their speech.

4. No-fee events, with no obvious benefit to the speaker. There may be promises of “great networking opportunities”, but when the tea and biscuits cost more than a top-quality speaker, something is wrong.

5. Filming the speaker without permission (or a release form which gives away the speaker’s copyright). This should never happen, and should be negotiated in advance.

6. Telling the speaker as they begin “Can you cut your speech by 20 minutes” or “can you keep going until coffee – the next speaker hasn’t arrived”

7. Demanding copies of slides three months in advance. Many speakers don’t use slides. Some event planners don’t understand that.

8. No briefing for the speakers, or no contact with the end client. This is all too common, and can lead to a mis-match between speaker and audience. Building a relationship between speaker and client is crucial.

9. No speaker liaison person and no response to speaker enquiries.

10. Late cancellations and subsequent debates about cancellation fees.

Other than that, everything is fine! Of course, the above happen only rarely – and I hope they never happen to you. I love event planners really.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Media Coach Radio Show 11th March 2011

This week; PR in exchange for coffee; Global Speakers Summit; Twitrelief; A grave affair; Slow and Simple; Being Controversial; Where’s my Tweet?; An interview with Paul du Toit; Music from Kynk

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Global Ambassador or Prince of Pratfalls?

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, is under fire for his association with convicted sex offfender Jeffrey Epstein. This follows hard on the heels of his "Wikileaks' embarrassment when it was alleged that a US diplomat had reported on the Prince's remarks about bribery in Kyrgystan and the investigation into the Al-Yamamah arms deal.

His Royal Highness is no stranger to public approbation. Like almost every other member of the Royal Family, bar perhaps his mother, he has come under fire for his links, his behaviour or his comments. It goes along with having a high profile and a comfortable lifestyle, a circumstance coveted and often envied by many.

There's also no doubt that his role on behalf of UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) has been instrumental in securing valuable export contracts for UK companies. It seems likely that in purely financial terms, his work has made a large positive contribution to the UK economy, at little cost to the taxpayer. He takes no pay for his role, but his expenses are covered. I for one, don't begrudge the cost of his first-class travel and five star accommodation if it brings in business for British companies.

However, at some point his value may evaporate. It's the same as any celebrity that has an association with a brand, paid or otherwise. When things are going well, the relationship is good for everyone, but when a celebrity is caught (literally or figuratively) with their trousers down, they quickly become persona non grata.

It's hard to judge where Prince Andrew's reputation is going. His friends, and some government ministers are rallying round. Everything has to be handled very carefully because of his royal status. My guess is that he's been in a few private conversations with politicians and UKTI bosses, and he's been told to lie low and say nothing for a while. When the storm has either blown over, or reached a point where he has to leave his UKTI role quietly, a statement will be made.

As used to be said about a much earlier Duke of York, at the moment he's neither up nor down.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

How to manage a crisis at an event

I'm speaking today at International Confex on how to manage a crisis at an event. In case you can't be there, or as a reminder of the key points, I've created a summary of the main points. Of course, there'll be a lot more info if you come along.

Here are the ten key things you should do if a crisis occurs -

1. Recognise that you have a crisis

2. Prepare for senior staff being door-stepped and ambushed by reporters

3. Be seen and heard doing the right things

4. The media must not be ignored during a crisis. TV is the most important medium

5. Set up a communication process with the media as quickly as possible

6. The most senior staff must take charge and be seen as company spokespeople

7. Talk about people first, property second, and money third.

8. Focus on your feelings about the situation, and how it will be prevented from happening again

9. Become the single most authoritative source of information about the crisis

10. Keep a close eye on media coverage, and take every opportunity to correct inaccurate reporting

Of course, your key staff must be properly trained to speak to the media. Here's where to find help.