carrot and stick

Hannah Sharman-Cox runs through the essential etiquette when it comes to the perks of the job.

Our industry is generous. If you work hard, hone your skills, say your pleases and thank yous and say yes to opportunities that come your way, these opportunities can sometimes feel limitless. Regardless of whether you’re on the competition circuit or not and, thankfully these days, despite where in the UK you’re based, the brand trainings, the distillery trips, the lunches, brunches, beard trims, champagne receptions, festivals in the woods, free drinks, free drinks, and when they’re done, even more free drinks are pretty decadent.

Yep – this industry is truly a great one. But industry is the point. Industry means business and business means money and money, worse luck, makes the world go round.

We hopefully all understand how the cold, hard cash bit works. A consumer wants a drink. They choose a bar. The bar team writes a menu, buys the stock from a wholesaler which buys its stock from a supplier. The supplier needs to incentivise the wholesaler, who needs to incentivise the bar owner, who needs to incentivise the bartenders on the front line who need to incentivise the consumer to buy that drink. Round and round we go. Shaving pennies here and there can make a big difference and, regardless of your place in this food chain, GP is something we’ve all agonised over at some point.

But what about the bit that’s far harder to track? Brand loyalty and buy-in from ‘experiential marketing’. The investment from brands is obvious but the pressure is on these guys to succeed in their task, so rather than assume it’s your god-given right to enjoy the spoils of such success when you’re on the receiving end, what’s your obligation? Because there’s certainly money spent here too. And as above – there really is not such thing as a free lunch.

So here’s my quick-fire list, friends, as a sense check for us ALL (yes – journalists are certainly included) for 2020...

Missing a bus/train/flight 

All right, this is obvious – but, man, this happens a lot. Wake up earlier. Pack the day before. Get your shit together. It affects the whole trip for everyone involved and costs the brand much (unbudgeted) money. Naughty (and you probably won’t be invited back).

RSVP-ing to a brand training and not showing up

Education is how we all improve and our kind of information is unfortunately not yet included on the national curriculum. When someone organises a training there are not only costs involved but, maybe more importantly, targets too. Most brands have to train a certain number of people a year, and if you say you’re coming, they’re counting on you. Honestly, it’s better to decline the invitation so someone else can take that place, learn that nugget and ensure your friendly brand ambassador can hit their annual KPIs (Key Performance Indicator, for those of you who are lucky enough not to know what this is).

RSVP-ing to an event and not showing up

When it’s a big ol’ bash and you’re sure it won’t be noticed if you’re there or not – think again. First, the venue, staff numbers, security, glassware, garnishes, liquid, ice (I could go on) have been carefully considered based on how many people will be in attendance. If 10% of people don’t turn up, that’s 10% overspend on the calculated return on investment, which will be a simple sum of overall cost divided by number of people through the door. Too expensive – won’t happen again. Brutal but true. Once again just don’t say yes if really you mean no.

Missing a competition

And to caveat this – especially after you’ve entered and been selected to move into the next round. Competitions are a heady mix of fun and abject terror but they do have a purpose outside of gifting you a trip somewhere warm. Brands rely on competitions for a few things. Interaction. Loyalty. New ideas. New flavour pairings and certainly a chance to have something new to talk about on their social media. And so we’re back to targets. Ten finalists become eight. They’ve just missed their KPI by 20%. This could mean at worst that the competition doesn’t happen again, or if it does it could mean the prize value goes down because it wasn’t worth the investment because not enough people showed up. Bring your kit, prep your spiel, because you’ll probably also learn something or meet someone who could change your path...

Being terribly hungover

Turning up to anything too hungover to be any fun isn’t cool. Let’s move on.

Not writing a thank you note

Now then. I’m a stickler for this and I think if more people did it our industry would be better. When you’ve totally aced turning up, being on time, having fun and have got home with your goodie bag, you still have one more obligation – one that takes less than a few minutes.

Send an email, or a text, or even a Facebook message to say thank you and, if you have more than 30 seconds spare, tell the person who invited you one thing that you especially enjoyed. It allows the organiser to go back to their boss with some glowing testimonials and it may help shape the event or the brand strategy in the future. Plus, it’s good manners.

Success for brand teams can be measured by myriad things, but ultimately great results for them means great results for us. Because as long as the people who hold the purse strings can justify the spend, this glorious, decadent, unprecedented ecosystem can continue to flourish. And hurrah to that.