PR practitioners need to be very careful when they try to kid people they're celebrities or influential while back at the ranch they're actually just one notch above rent-a-crowd.
What's happening is that every company wanting to hold some sort of marketing event - a product launch, company function to raise profiles and so forth - wants to invite the same big names.
Now, there are so many events on the go and so little co-ordination between industries about who is having what event on what day, that the serious A list just can't manage to get to all 365 events to which they are invited in only 365 days.
But the PR people have a go at inviting them anyway because it is (a) worth a shot and (b) it looks good on the original invitation list and clients are hugely impressed.
Then what happens in that the majority of the A list can't make it so they put the carefully prepared contingency plan into effect and start sending out invitations to the "B" list. Now these are not quite celebs, not quite influential but just enough for the client to feel happy about shelling out a few hundred bucks a head having them a the function.
Now, the point is this. Well, the actual point is that there are far too many functions in the first place and many of these are a complete waste of time in terms of marketing. Secondly, far too many events all happen at round about the same time with organisers having made no effort at all to see what else is on when they randomly select dates on the basis of meeting the requirements of the chairman's wife's social calendar.
But, to get back to the other point. How do you know when you are on the A list and how can you work out that you have been relegated to the B list for any sort of function?
It's quite simple. If your invitation arrives three weeks or earlier before the event... you are on the A list.
If it arrives 10 days or less before the event - you are very definitely on the "B" list. (And don't fall for that story about someone suddenly deciding to have an event - 99,9% takes months to plan.)
Now, there are those, I am told, who hate being on the B list so much that they are insulted when invitations arrive so late and just refuse to go.
Others put their pride in their pockets and go along for the free food, drink and entertainment and couldn't care less what list they're on.
Unfortunately, there are so many of the latter group that the PR community just keeps implementing this strategy quite oblivious of the fact that one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to work out the reason behind getting late invitations.
Regrettably, this often makes a mockery of event marketing because so many events end up as an event for the sake of an event without any real benefit being gained for the company or industry body spending so much money.
Perhaps there is a gap here for the market research companies to offer to do a quick poll after an event to find out the value level for clients?
I think some of the results would be eye-openers.
About Chris Moerdyk
Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk
is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on moc.liamg@ckydreom
and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk