Promotional models, like it or not, are the face of your business as far as the public is concerned.
You like it when they present themselves in such a way that is authentic to your brand, and hate it when they miss the mark. Of course, almost all promotional models want to get a job perfect, so the reason for their missing the mark is often a simple misunderstanding. Who was to blame is irrelevant, the more important question to ask is if everyone in your organisation, from the CEO through the rest of the team understands the voice of your brand, and how to best communicate it.
The reason this matters is best communicated through the following story. All names, details and pretty much everything else have been changed to ensure the guilty parties cannot be identified. Apart from us, but we accept our guilt and have learnt a great deal from it!
PUSH Agency was engaged by a regional liquor company (again, not the real industry) to run a promotional campaign in local supermarkets. The idea was that tastings would take place in-store, to introduce the public to the brand, and its unique taste. Our role was to use our database to identify and hire promotional models across multiple states, all who needed to have experience in bartending – which the client thought would get the vibe right. The client, trying to do everything in line with best practice, also created a four-page guideline document, explaining the brand and the product and why it was important that the models behave a certain way.
“Promotional models must behave in a friendly and outgoing fashion. The brand is fearless and unrelenting, fights the status quo and doesn’t care for rules. This event is about getting in the public’s face and empowering them to live their lives differently.”
This document was sent to all promotional models across multiple states as part of their training. The only other information received by the promotional models was a representative of the brand at the location when they arrived, whose job it was to remind them of the ingredients and brewing method, in case they had forgotten.
The client refused our offer to create an online training video, or to assign regional team leaders to direct the event, which was coordinated to occur on the same day. In retrospect, we should have insisted.
The issue was that words can have multiple meanings, depending on how they are interpreted by individuals. There was a second issue, in that without a test run there was no opportunity to analyse the process and review any learnings, but communication was the crucial mistake.
In many locations, the promotional models understood the brief perfectly. They laughed and smiled, had fun and enjoyed their time with the product. They casually handed out the tiny samples, making jokes about drinking when you should be shopping and generally putting a smile on people’s faces. Some supermarket managers gave wonderful feedback on how the promotion lifted the energy in their stores.
In some locations, however, the brief was missed entirely. Promotional models took the branding document far too literally, and became almost aggressive in their approach, their version of, “getting in people’s faces.” Others became overly flirtatious, and others took rule breaking to a whole new level. In one cringeworthy occurrence, a promotional model actually ended up in an argument with a store manager as to where she was allowed to stand.
None of these models were trying to do anything apart from a spectacular job. They had taken the brand to heart and were doing what they felt was demonstrative of the organisation that was employing them. Many were delighted with the outcome and felt they had nailed the brief, lived the brand, and done themselves proud.
During the debrief and after interviewing the promotional models it became painfully apparent where everyone had gone wrong. Luckily, the fallout wasn’t terrible, and we were able to recreate the event with more checks and balances in place, including a far more robust training process and brand communication schedule. This time, it included visuals and more operational directions, rather than brand marketing speak.
Promotional models are often highly creative and committed to the work they are doing. As a result, it’s up to us, and you the client, to make sure they understand clearly what they are supposed to do – and not just what we think they should know.
As an event staffing agency, we are often faced with not being able to assist potential clients. As with any business, if the budget doesn’t allow for our assistance, or we cannot fulfil all obligations then we will be honest in our assessment, and try to offer our advice, in the hope that we may be able to assist in the future. The types of advice we offer to clients who can’t afford us yet, or who we can’t assist for whatever reason as an event staffing agency are broad but usually fall into one of the following two categories:
Finding the Right Event Staff
How to identify and attract event staff that will complement the event, and not put it in danger of failure is one of the crucial skills and the reason we exist as an organisation. Event staffing agency best practice is one of combining art with science, and a lot of hard work. However, there are a few things you can do to give you the best chance of finding event staff that could make all the difference, and making sure your event goes off without a hitch.
– Look for Attitude First, and then Expertise.
Hire people who are eager to take part in your event, and who present as having the right personal attributes. Find people who are teachable, will listen to instruction, and who will be in the right place at the right time. Skills can be taught; attitude cannot. One caveat to this, if you have a highly technical product or a technically demanding skill set requirement, then obviously disregard this to a logical extent.
– Resist the Temptation to Fill the Required Roles Quickly
This is especially important if you have a number of roles to fill. Large events require a lot of event staff, and the temptation is often to simply get a lot of people in a room and offer them jobs – after all, it’s just an event right?
An event staffing agency that is effective will interview every single person, or at least have a structure in place to determine whether they are suitable or not. We use the largest database of promotional talent in North America, and drill down on core attributes and skill sets depending on our client. For a business who is doing it on their own, it may be more practical to conduct an online test or a telephone screen. Perhaps if it is a local event, bring groups of people into your offices, and offer a group briefing, followed by individual testing or interviews. When completed in a structured manner, these can be done with great effectiveness and in a short period of time. For a national event in many locations, talk to PUSH.
Run a Good Event
– Make Sure Everything is Intentional
Have you ever been to an event, either put on by an event staffing agency or not, and been impressed with how smooth and structured everything was? The event ran on time, and the room seemed unusually professional in the way it was presented. Staff were effective, and you felt compelled to go where you were told.
This is the difference between an intentional event and a reactive one. Before an intentional event, the event manager will usually have incredibly pedantic requirements about the way things are supposed to work. They will ask that seating is perfectly lined up, and will triple and double check to make sure this is the case. If there are notepads and pens on chairs or tables, they will be presented in exactly the same way for each setting. Timings will be rehearsed and non-negotiable, and any adjustments that need to be made will only happen if noted on the official run sheet. Everyone dealing with this event manager will likely become agitated and mystified as to why they are so finicky about minor details.
It’s because minor details are the reason events are perfect, or just good.
Intentional events leave nothing to chance because a good event manager knows that things will go wrong, but through being pedantic they can minimise the chances of it happening too many times. An event manager who is, ” walking the room,” to make sure everything is perfect before an event starts is reducing the chance of variables, not trying to make other staff member’s lives difficult… although that is usually the result.
Reactive event managers are a nightmare for an event staffing agency because they assume everything will go well and as a result things are overlooked, and mistakes are made. In an event, mistakes are made before the event starts, and only realised once they have happened. Average event managers justify these failings through shrugging their shoulders and pointing out that it could happen to anyone… I mean, who could have seen this coming?
A good event manager.
So preferably hire PUSH for your next event, but if that’s not possible, then you can take on the mantle of the event staffing agency, and produce something wonderful.
When it comes to event staffing, we have been around the block once or twice. From working with household names to international businesses and plucky local start-ups, we have seen it all. Product launches for a shoestring technology business, samplings at local supermarkets, brand launches to give away cars, concerts and movie premiers. We’re probably in a position to claim a certain level of expertise.
We have gathered staffing expertise in so many broad categories that we could write a blog on each one – and sometimes we do. When someone asked us for a team of bartenders to staff their bar for a 1920’s style product release for 1000 people, we knew that someone who knows how to pour a beer and a vodka lime and tonic, isn’t going to be good enough. We look at what’s expected, and find staff that can get the job done, by defining the job in the first place.
Can you pour an Old-Fashioned? What are the ingredients? What sort of garnish would you use?
What about a Cosmopolitan?
How do you handle a busy cash bar?
What do you say to a drunk patron?
These are just a few of the questions that bartending staff who know what they’re doing will be able to answer easily.
This is just one example of how event staffing can be done well, and it’s an opportunity – if missed or underestimated – to do it poorly. Finding someone who fits a general overview of the role, isn’t the same as finding a team of staff that can get the job done brilliantly.
Perhaps wait staff are the most underestimated.
Aside from having to know how to carry plates (far more complicated than you think) wait staff also need to be able to explain various dishes and interact with the public. Even at a cocktail function, when walking around with a tray of food a good waiter or waitress should be able to explain exactly what they are holding, and how it was made. They should also be able to handle questions like, “is this salty?”
“This hasn’t got gluten in it does it?”
“I’m allergic to peanuts, was this cooked near peanuts?”
Promotional staff are often the reason that an event fails to deliver at optimum levels. We discovered the gap in staffing early on, with a lack of product knowledge, or experience in the specific event usually being the reason for less than stellar results. The staff weren’t to blame, and the client certainly wasn’t – we needed to hold ourselves to a higher standard. So we began increasing the number of requirements we had for special events, from increasing product knowledge requirements to an appreciation of the intricacies of a client’s business. We put planning processes in place and had staff go through a testing protocol to ensure everyone was up to standard.
Security and valet services are another event staffing area that is often underestimated, because security guards are licensed and valets are experienced. However, with both, an understanding by the staff of the expectations involved is critical. Have security staff worked in a, “hands off,” fashion before? Meaning, are the staff experienced in negotiating an elegant removal of a guest from a location, without creating a fuss? At a black-tie function when a guest becomes intoxicated, and it is the host’s legal responsibility to remove them from the premises, a good security guard is worth their weight in gold. Likewise, the valet who has to collect a car urgently due to a guest having an emergency, and manages to do so without an issue can create a feeling of gratitude in that guest, which echoes through to the host.
Special event staffing is a discipline reliant on knowledge, and a commitment to top performance. Event staff at PUSH Agency are held to a high level of performance, and we hold ourselves to that level also. Staff are the reason that events succeed and fail, and event staffing, when looked at in this fashion, becomes crucial, especially when you consider how much money is being invested in the event, by a business that expects results.
Event staff are often the unsung heroes of the event planning and management business. sure, they only appear once the event is ready to start, and plenty of people have been working hard to make sure the whole thing goes off without a hitch, but what happens next is the most important part of the whole thing.
Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of average event staff who show up, go through the motions and then go home. But I’m talking about the event staff that make a difference – those who pour their heart and soul into the event, and as a result, contribute more than just their presence.
Before the event itself, the event planner and event management team have created something that will add significant value to the business. They’ve put together a schedule, worked with suppliers and overcome more adversity than the average person should have to. This includes smiling politely when senior management asks, “how are things going?” in that tone of voice that insinuates event planning is about the same skill-set as party planning for a three-year-old’s birthday party. And now comes the most stressful part of all – the event itself.
At PUSH, our team aims to be a contributor to the event, not another problem for the event planner to deal with. The goal is to understand the flow of the event and minimize any distractions from the core outcomes. Our team will introduce themselves when they arrive, and ask if there are any last-minute changes to the event schedule. Team leaders will work with other event staff to make sure there are no slip-ups, and all team members will be communicated with – without the event team having to speak to every individual, and explain every change, and then re-explain it for those who didn’t quite get it.
We know how important this is, because we’ve done this so many times before. Honestly, we have learned from our mistakes and know that event staff are crucial to creating an event that matters, but can also be the reason an event is unduly stressful or doesn’t maintain focus on the core business outcomes. We have seen event staff that don’t reflect the client’s brand, or appear disinterested. While this is terrible, at least it can be explained but what can’t be, are event staff that don’t do what they are supposed to do, either through being ineffective or through a lack of communication.
That’s where we come in.
Event staff rely on an open flow of communication to know what to do next. In complex events, we have multilayered teams that have senior event staff ensuring that everything gets done, and that any communication from the event management team is clearly communicated, and managed effectively. We know that every member of the PUSH event staff is a reflection on our business, and yours. We work hard to make sure that our event staff are the best in the business, not only because they are passionate about what they do, but because they have the systems around them to support them in achieving great results for everyone.