I went to the 2013 North American Handmade Bike Show in Denver this weekend and had mostly a good time. The people running the media credentials were not a part of that good time, they pretty much invited me to use my tiny angry pen to give em some bad press, and since I am a blogger, I am contractually obligated to come through, so here it is:
A week before the show started I applied for media credentials for the show. I was not super optimistic that they would give them to me, but they did have a blog category on their media credentials page, and I blog and I know from handmade bikes, so I applied. A few days later I got a very polite yet somewhat oddly written email denying me my credentials that read more or less in full:
Tarik, thank you for your NAHBS media credential application. Sadly this year I am unable to offer you a credential. Build up your readership and we can revisit next time you apply.
Best regards and every success with the growth of your blog.
Paul the Communications Consultant
North American Handmade Bicycle Show
I am fine with that. As awesome as my blog is, I don't have enormous readership, the value is really only seen in the advanced metrics like VORB* and RIPV**, which, frankly, I don't expect everyone to appreciate. I also understand that NAHBS is a "big deal" now. I thanked them for the quick response and went on with my plans to attend the show. I had intended to try to set up a couple interviews with some framebuilders I know from way back, and try to get some high quality pictures during the Friday morning media hours for blog gold purposes, but I am pretty flexible and planned on going and seeing what I got.
So I was walking around the show, waiting in front of a pal's booth to check out his bikes and I spot someone talking to the builder while wearing a badge with some familiar words on it:
Hey look, someone is wearing a three day media pass with the words "Tarik Saleh, Moscaline". And yet they are not me. I was more than slightly taken aback at this and was not sure quite what to do. I decided not to push them down and take the pass, but instead find out what was going on. So I talked to them for a bit. Turns out their spouse is working in some press capacity for NAHBS and they gave them a badge from someone who the media people said is not coming to the show. This actually is not really that unreasonable, I have been to many big trade shows and there is all manner of badge swapping, borrowing and the like that goes on. The fact that they gave the spouse of someone working for the show a badge that was lying around is pretty typical. What is a bigger deal is that they denied me a press pass and then printed one out and gave it to someone who is not me.
I was kind of disgruntled at the media folks, but not that angry. But over the course of the day at least 4 people (all of whom had booths at the show) asked me who was wearing the badge with my name on it, which does not really reflect well on me or my blog (Moscaline is a "really big deal"), and after telling my story over and over again, reflects badly on the show. I was pretty prepared to let it go, but after other people noticed too, it kind of lead to my resolve to go and ask for my media pass the next morning.
So the next morning I go down to the media room to get my pass, the nice people volunteering have no trouble finding my name on the pass list, but they can't find my badge. So I tell them, look here is the deal, and explain that I was denied a pass, yet there is someone on the show floor walking around with my name on their badge, could I please have my media pass. They go back and talk to someone named Paul (could not see if it was the same guy who sent me the email or not) and they come back and say, sorry, we can't give you a press pass. Ok, can I talk to Paul? Sure they say, so I walk back there (with my daughter in tow) to go talk to Paul the decider.
I explain to him again what happened and he clearly does not want to talk to me as he refuses to meet my gaze as I am talking to him. He mutters a non-apology along the lines of "that should not have happened, we will look into it". I reiterate to him that I am not pleased that there is someone walking around the show with my name and blog on their credentials and I ask him to please issue me the media pass in my name he has already given to someone else. He refuses. I ask him if he realizes that this is going to result in bad press. He avoids eye contact and does not respond. So I ask him two more times much more directly if he understands that this causes bad press, until he finally looks at me and answers "yes". I tell him, OK you got it, and walk out. Hence the bad press you are reading now.
I don't like to tell people how to do their job, but let me go ahead and make a few suggestions: The only possible correct response to the above screw up is to say something like:
" I am very sorry this happened, we made a mistake, here, let me print out a press pass for you"
That would have instantly made this go from a bad review, to a humorous aside in a positive article. It would not have cost the show anything, except possibly $22 bucks in lost revenue for that day. My daughter wanted more stickers, so I happily went and paid an entry fee so we could go sticker hunting. I don't care about the money I spent on attending the show, but I do care that the media people were unable to enact a simple fix for a pretty embarrassing error. Cross the mighty bloggers at your peril I always say. Finally, let me further go ahead and make one more suggestion, I recommend you media folks stash a few credentials for "John (or Joann) Smith, Monthly Biking Publication" to give to those people who show up without credentials but need some in a hurry. That way you won't have small blondes walking around with badges that say "Tarik Saleh" on them, or worse, having innocent spouses of show employees having to be associated with Moscaline.
For those of you wanting actual NAHBS coverage, I probably will post some nice photos of the show tomorrow, while I am not currently a big fan of the media arm of the NAHBS, the show does fill a gap in the bike world and is pretty good for the framebuilders and the public, also there were lots of cool bikes there.
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