Tuesday, September 13, 2016

No-Show Events A Bow to Busy Culture

I recently received an invitation from an area non-profit organization that really caught my eye. It was for a 'No-Show Gala."

I was cordially invited "NOT to attend."

"No need to hire a sitter. No meed to buy a new outfit. No need to remember how to tie a black tie. We've got NOTHING planned!" So went the hilarious copy.

Then, of course, came the response card.

"Don't go out. Send it in."

I loved it, partly because of the creativity. But also because it seemed to acknowledge a feeling that I have and suspect is not unique--I'm busy, I'm overwhelmed with invitations and requests to get involved and sponsor and support and attend.

In fact, a simple Google search on "no-show gala" yielded quite a few images of similar invitations. This is now what the young people call "a thing."

As a  PR professional and professor, I know of the value and purpose of events. But my skeptical side often says, what a lot of hullabaloo when you're really just asking for a donation. This latest direct mailer cut to the chase and I felt it was refreshing.

But it also is a cautionary tale. If people are so overwhelmed then it gets more and more challenging for PR pros to break through and not just get attention, but foster relationship and earn involvement and support.

So while this invitation I received acknowledges that society is busy, it also caves in to making the appeal a simple fiduciary relationship. And we all lose something there, something simple yet big. We lose a sense of meaning and human bonding. We lose the essence of PR--relationship.

My advice to non-profits and businesses and political candidates and others is to stop thinking of events as mass appeal and think of them as intimate opportunities. Also, stop thinking of events in terms of an occasion to make the case for a cause and use them as a venue to celebrate achieving it. Have interesting speakers, positive messages about what has been done. Make it feel-good, not fill-the-bucket.

People might then send it in later with greater feeling of connection, and possibly therefore in larger amounts. If you tell them "don't go out" too many times they may just go away.

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