by Roopinder Tara, Tenlinks.com
Quite often, companies pay for journalists to attend their events by covering all the costs. This has most journalists jumping for joy: it's one of the perks of being part of the press. There are not a lot of journalists who work for publications with a travel and expense budget, and few journalists could ever see faroff exotic locales on their own.
So if we can get airfare, hotels (usually a nice, downtown, business-class hotel), and meals (sometimes at the best restaurants in town) -- and be the envy of friends and family. Even hang around at the bar and get the tab picked up. We jump at the opportunity. In return, the companies get some coverage. It's an unwritten rule ...until recently.
Sometimes, I just can't find a unique angle that I think will interest anyone. And so I was notified that I would not be welcome at an upcoming big bash held by a CAD company annually. I had been to their last big bash, but wrote nothing about it. Nothing. Not a d*mn word. And so I had not met "expectations." Finally, it was in writing.
I don't question the decision. There was a pretty good chance that I might have gone again and still not found anything worthy of note.
Or, this time I might have taken the opportunity to get to know the company and its products better, using that information as "background" (journalist-speak for involvement not directly resulting in articles).
Or, I might used the trip to further business relationships.
Or, I might faithfully transcribe the keynote speeches, rehash the material presented to each of us, painstakingly and carefully prepared for me by a diligent PR team who has worked hard to provide press releases, product information, even graphics and captions, bios of the execs and case histories.
Some of this material is ready-to-use. I could do a cut-and-paste article, with little thought of my own. But there are journalists who are better at this than I am, and I could always refer to their work.
Rules for Free Trips
There are could be many who strive to see the world at the expense of companies who seek only immediate favorable coverage. I thought I'd take the opportunity to write out some of the unwritten rules. There's not many of them, and they are very simple.
- Basically, you behave like a good guest, don't write anything bad or critical while you are there, and then send a warm "thank-you note" in the form of a complimentary article about the company and its products disguised as a report from the field to your readers.
- Tweet like mad. It doesn't matter if your followers can't keep up with your hundred tweets during an event and may likely unfollow you. What matters to companies is that they have PR staff who counting the tweets. They know who the top tweeters are, and so you need to let them know that you are industriously and frantically covering their show.
- Pay particular attention to the wit and wisdom dispensed by the top executives. Companies trot out their top executives at these events, so shouldn't they be well-photographed and -quoted? They have scripted and rehearsed, honed their points, put their entire company on-message, and practiced their jokes.
(How would you feel if you did all that and the paid guests (journalists) wrote nothing? If you have been given an interview, don't think for a minute that the CAD exec has been reading your stuff or is delighted to finally meet you. In his mind, he deigned to give you some of his valuable time and that had better turn into something that makes him look good.
- Follow up with a longer article, or series of articles after the event, and if the event is expensive enough (i.e., you have been flown across oceans), then you had better keep up the coverage all year long so that when they plan their next event, you will be on their mind. Also, be receptive to press releases, company events, etc. There should be nothing, no matter how trivial, that you should ignore from such a generous host.
Following these simple rules will guarantee that you will be invited to future events.
[Reprinted by permission of CAD Insider.]
When CADCAM users start calling out this corrupt system for what it is and reject slick ad based CADCAM magazines, advertising driven CADCAM web forums, paid off so called CADCAM "industry analysts" and worthless CADCAM fanboi fog blogs (that get special treatment from CADCAM companies) then, and only then, will the CADCAM business finally get better.
CADCAM Technology Leaders group on LinkedIn.
Posted by: Jon Banquer | Jun 30, 2014 at 10:23 AM
Ahh, Roopinder, such a disservice you have done to the CAD market and those of us who cover it. I would like to share another perspective -- mine -- because readers of this blog deserve a more balanced explanation.
Much of the event coverage done by CAD editors, bloggers, etc. is subsidized by CAD vendors, yes -- but not all. Many publications do have travel budgets and fund a good portion of these trips; often the event organizer (vendor) pays for hotel and some meals but not always airfare, ground transportation, and other incidental expenses. I realize some writers and bloggers insist on full funding before they'll accept an invitation (because they cannot afford to attend otherwise), but this is not true across the board. At Cadalyst, if the event is worth covering in our editorial opinion, then we attend, and we pay whatever expenses are necessary to do so. If the event isn't relevant, we don't go. Last year, I attended a vendor-sponsored conference overseas; it was my first time invited and I had every reason to believe it would be relevant to Cadalyst readers. It wasn't relevant enough, unfortunately, so I won't accept the invitation if it comes again this year.
Covering industry events is exhausting and takes us away from the office and our families. Many of us arrive at the last minute, work 12- to 16-hour days during the event, then fly home the minute it ends. We do it because it's our job to stay connected with the people, companies, and products that make up the CAD community -- and we believe our readers want to know what happens at events they cannot attend themselves. I feel fortunate to have visited some amazing places in the course of my work, and I am grateful when vendors help with travel expenses, but I don't cover any event because it's a "free trip."
Posted by: Nancy Johnson, Cadalyst | Jun 30, 2014 at 01:36 PM
Was there any proofreading done on this post?!? Under "Rules for Free Tips" it reads "There are could be many who strive" and that's just a single example.
This seriously lacks professionalism.
Posted by: Normand C. | Jun 30, 2014 at 08:07 PM
Roopinder and Nancy both make valid comments. As a part-time freelance writer there is no way that I can justify attending a media event unless someone else picks up the tab.
I have found that almost all of these events follow s standard script.
1. Welcomed by the company CEO or other senior executive, who emphasizes that their number one priority is to listen to and respond to their users.
2. Sales/marketing brag about how much their sales and market penetration have grown, and predictions of their future growth. After attending a few such events a simple extrapolation shows that in 4.73 years every CAD company will have 138.7% market share.
3.Presentations by several customers who emphasize that it would have been impossible to design and manufacture their current widget without the host's software. On the other hand, I'm so old that I remember that the 747 and the moon rockets were designed with paper, pencil, and slide rules.
4.We get to see what's new in the next release.
In my product reviews I try to focus on item 4 without passing too much judgment. What's good for one user isn't always of interest to another. I've been accused of not presenting a full, balanced report on the entire software package, including existing features, but the reality is that a new release typically includes about 250 new or revised features that I have to cover in about 1,000 words.
Having said all that, I've had a lot of fun as a CAD journalist. I live in Vancouver, CAD companies have taken me to Paris, Barcelona, Boston, Dallas, and Tualatin, Oregon. I've lost track of how many times I've been to Las Vegas. I've met Mario Andretti and James Cameron.
The all-time big score, however, was 2010 when a computer company whose name I won't mention (but their initials are hp) took David Cohn and I to the Indy 500. We had "hot" passes, which meant that for three days we were members of Gil de Ferran's pit crew. We had the same passes as the guys who went over the wall to change tires during the race. We were on the other side of the wall. We also had media passes which gave us access to even more locations. Died and gone to heaven...
Posted by: Bill Fane | Jul 01, 2014 at 09:39 AM