The AAEP is committed to the support and professional development of its members. The organization is also committed to transparency and openness. To that end, we regularly encourage members and anyone who is considering membership to contact us with questions, suggestions, collaborations. We love communication!
We believe a rising tide raises all boats. We believe that collaboration for the betterment of the industry and its workers is the way forward. If the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is in the Power of Community and the reminder that we are all more alike than we are different.
We have been honored, enthused, and buoyed by other industry professionals - marketing and staffing agencies, experiential staff, industry thought leaders, and production companies - who have gladly taken our hand or offered theirs and worked with us to find ways to help event staff and our industry.
The Experiential Marketing industry has lacked a professional association. Most industries have one, and these associations have helped grow the industries they serve by solving whatever problems their industry faces. Our industry faces a handful of problems, too, and a professional association is the ideal vehicle to solve these problems.
To be clear, the greatest problem facing our industry at the moment is the shutdown resulting from COVID-19. That is the problem that we are focused on right now, because it’s big and it’s immediate. We are aware that there are multiple problems in the industry, and we hope to contribute to solutions for all of them.
What’s the Industry Problem as it pertains to event staff?
The Experiential Marketing industry has evolved in the past 20 years, yet we are still plagued with the same staffing problems that were present in the year 2000:
No show/no call. Theft of client assets and gift cards. Theft of client sponsored vehicles. Paycheck fraud. Disparaging the client brand directly to the client. Triple booking gigs for the same weekend and then last-minute cancellations (often with no show/no call) of the events which aren’t deemed “as good.” Con-artist rings who threaten legal action with the (often successful) hope that they will receive a settlement from their target in order to avoid the high cost of attorneys and court. Radically unprofessional onsite behavior and performance. The list goes on. We all have stories. Event staff who engage in such behavior damage the industry and create a domino effect of negative financial repercussions for everyone.
There are many truly exceptional event staffers in our industry. Because of their excellent performance and reputation, they stay busy with work and top-level gigs. They are well-loved. Staffing agencies seek to retain them for as many events as possible and clients ask for them by name. Awesome! We seek more of this! Our mission is to help all event staff improve and book more and better gigs. This in turn keeps clients happy and more willing to invest in person-to-person experiential marketing. It’s good news for everyone.
The continuing undercurrent of bad actors in the industry, however, creates widespread damage due to their dreadful behavior. Their destruction even casts doubt on good staff and decreases the amount of compensation a client is willing to pay.
Clients (Brands) are the ones who ultimately fund the experiential industry.
There are only so many times marketing and staffing agencies can explain away bad behavior to clients, ask for forgiveness, offer make-goods, eat costs. Clients will only continue to provide compensation for poor performance and bad behavior for so long. Clients already ask with increasing frequency “How do I know this staff will do a great job? How do I know this staffer is worth this pay rate? Why did I pay for a person who was sub-par? Why am I not just using my own employees? ” Clients have become more savvy through their experiences in the maturing industry. They, too, are hyper-aware of the “bad-apple” staffing problem.
If we, as an industry, do not self-correct and provide a system of accountability to decrease the probability of poor event staff being frequently contracted or hired, clients will find a way to protect their marketing investments. This could include decreasing the amount they are willing to pay for event staff or finding another way to staff their events or to simply market their products in some way other than events.
We have been barreling toward this eventuality if we do not get better and provide more consistency of high-performance. Given the present national and socio-economic climate, the time may be arriving sooner than we think if we do not self-invest in fixing problems which afflict the entire industry.
The two complementary ways to elevate and professionalize event staff are to provide education and provide a system of accountability - a formal grievance process.
The AAEP is not seeking to be the Angie’s List or Yelp of the industry. Rating platforms like that already exist in our industry, and they have their place. We are also not interested in becoming embroiled in personal disputes. That just creates more damage.
We are establishing a platform for a more formal grievance process, one which allows for serious claims that can be substantiated or refuted. Grievances are only for specific, clear violations of the Code of Conduct which can be substantiated. This isn’t a free-for-all. It’s designed to establish a mutually agreed upon, industry-wide Code of Conduct and to create accountability if someone violates it.
What is the AAEP Grievance Process?
We have not formally rolled out the grievance process yet.
We understand the importance of getting this right and are still working on it. We seek to ensure that it is a trusted and properly arbitrated process which provides legitimate and objective results. Our goal is to provide a way for the industry to weed out consistently poor performers and support and elevate good workers - for everyone’s benefit.
Posted at the time of the AAEP’s live launch in December, within the AAEP’s first monthly newsletter in January, and housed in the permanent Resources section of the AAEP website is an article which announces the fact that a formal grievance process will be coming soon. The article details that only AAEP members can file grievances about other AAEP members who have violated the Code of Conduct. Members include both individual and corporate members.
The Membership Terms and Agreement that members sign when they join includes a section with the basic structure of the grievance process. We included initial mention of the process in our Terms & Conditions in order to provide transparency to members and eliminate surprises. Once the process is ready to roll-out, the Terms and Agreement will be updated to reflect the new information, and we will notify members and the general public.
Membership Terms and Agreements are standard fare for organizations and they protect everyone by providing a relationship framework. Included at the end of the AAEP’s Terms and Agreement is an invitation to contact AAEP with any questions or comments or if any part of the Agreement is not understood, and we stand by that.
We are not here to tell anyone which organization to join or to un-join. We are here to help elevate event staff professionally with knowledge, resources, and critical-thinking skills so that they can feel confident making informed decisions on their own. We are here to help make each person better and to safe-guard the industry against issues which harm us all. We welcome your questions and collaboration to the same end.
We don’t have all the answers, but we look forward to the journey to find them and we trust that you are with us!
Stay healthy and safe,
Nanette Studebaker, Executive Director & Co-Founder
Teeg Stouffer & Matthew Cox, Co-Founders