When does a just cause start to suffer from people turning off? When does banging the drum just become noise?

There are many causes discussed so often, without allowing sufficient time for change, that the conversation becomes nothing but a repetition of itself, and people start to lose interest in the fundamental message.

Banging the drum on any subject is fine. People don’t mind sounds, people are intrigued by sounds, but if you start banging the same drum, making the exact same sound too often, doesn’t it just become noise and people turn off?

This idea can be translated across many different formats, and many different scenarios, but I want to focus on three specific examples which, in my opinion, will bring three different results. One positive, one mixed, and one negative. Below we will look at The George Floyd protests, women & people of colour in business, and finally, audience engagement.

The global movement at the minute is on racial equality, and quite rightly so. The way in which police in The USA deal with people of colour, and specifically those of Afro-Caribbean origin, has long been the subject of public scrutiny, but the way the George Floyd case has ignited public feeling globally is something I have never really seen the like of. The Black Lives Matter movement has been gaining momentum over a number of years, and NFL athlete Colin Kapernick and others will now feel that their actions in response to the treatment of their fellow countrymen have been justified. The NFL has made a complete U-turn, having effectively forced Kapernick into retirement after his demonstrations during the national anthem before games in which he was to take part.

The NFL originally, and until only recently, was unwilling to stand in support of Kapernick and others, probably in fear of alienating a predominantly white fan base, likely seen as more affluent and of more benefit to the organisation financially. Since the surge in global support for the movement, the league’s position has completely changed, now completely in support of Kapernick’s actions. Too little too late some might say, with his career effectively ruined. Then again who would want to represent an organisation that was too worried about negative PR than supporting its players and their beliefs in the face of racial brutality.

The Black Lives Matter protests, and protests against racism should never stop banging the drum. This global pandemic has been deeply rooted in parts of society for centuries and needs to end. In this case the noise is needed.

The next situation I want to cover is a subject that has been doing the rounds for a number of years. It came up in the Global Exhibitions Industry Think Tank, of which I am a part, during a meeting last week, and how people perceive it in its current state is interesting. The discussion around women and people of colour occupying far fewer C-Suite level positions than they should is a topic that has been cause of much protest over a sustained period, and rightly so, but is there a danger that the message is becoming repetitive without ever changing and therefore becoming weaker?

We live in a world where people now feel able to voice their opinions much more than they used to. The whole idea of seen and not heard is one that over the last 20 years seems to have completely disappeared, as anyone who feels like they have something to say has found a platform to do it. Social Media is a big part to play in this, but people have found their voice and it has made for questions being asked that in the past may not have been.

Women and people of colour may not in the past have held as many top level positions as they should. Some will argue they still don’t, but isn’t this something that’ll take time to adjust? Surely we can’t displace people and push our senior leaders into early retirement for  the sake of a box ticking exercise? My own personal view is that times ARE changing, and that this situation is improving, but jobs can only become available when they become available and so that change will take time. Isn’t it more important to take time to appreciate the progress that HAS been made in this area rather than sticking with the same old “not enough” message?

Is there also not a stronger argument for the right person being employed, regardless of sex, religion or race? What if that means the current ratios remain the same? Is that still wrong?

In our group meeting last week we spent a long time discussing the merits of blind CV’s and interviews, a recruiter’s view (we have 2 in our group), male only vs female only businesses (which both happen, but strangely the male only businesses seem to get all the negative press), double standards, and how best we could look to solve the perceived problem over time. People will make up their own minds but ultimately there IS progress being made on this front. It isn’t going to change overnight, but it is changing, and more inclusivity is being seen for women and people of colour. The question is, are those who are campaigning for it to change instantly in danger of clouding their own message by demanding it happens quickly rather than naturally?

Finally, noise noise noise. Spamming….. How much is too much? How often is too often? Is there a magic formula for converting email opens into click throughs when reaching out to exhibitors, visitors and consumers? I certainly don’t have the answer to that, but could less in fact be more? How do we measure that? As an industry so concerned by numbers to show our business strength, are we in danger of turning people off through spamming their inbox? What is the perfect time scale between newsletters? If you host an annual show is it a monthly bulletin? Is it more often? Is it less?

I know people that ignore emails from their own sports club, because they feel they receive too many. They therefore then read none that come through because they don’t regard them with any value, and this is messaging about something they love to do! It becomes completely counterproductive because the important messaging never gets through and then needs to be repeated through another platform, costing someone's time at the very least! Surely, this is as bad as someone unsubscribing. Seeing nothing you have to say as relevant or interesting because over a period when they were engaged with you, they were bombarded with irrelevant content. Clients are a lot easier to lose than gain, we all know that, so is it worth taking the risk for the sake of selling an extra few newsletter banners? Maybe less really is more.

Not everyone will agree with me, and that’s fine, but think about whether you disagree because it suits your own opinion, or whether you think I am fundamentally wrong. Each person can be biased towards their own point of view, but isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to change?