Thursday, April 16, 2009

When Stakeholders Get Greedy

There are now 85 destination marketing organizations accredited to the new International standards for community marketing including DCVB, which was among the first two dozen in North America and the first here in North Carolina.

But I know at least one DMO that isn’t going to be accredited any time soon and it is very sad. It’s a destination that was one of the first to organize for marketing the destination as a whole. It also has a very enviable blend of place based, cultural, built, and historical assets.

But instead of preparing itself for accreditation, this destination marketing organization is being slowly but agonizingly cannibalized from within by an unholy alliance of greedy and obviously very uninventive stakeholders bent on feeding on its flesh.

No matter that this destination has been hit harder than most by the downturn, the jackals are too busy ripping it apart to care. It will bleed out before the community as a whole and officials who should be protecting it figure out what they’ve lost.

The formula isn’t new and thankfully it almost never works. One stakeholder, feeling entitled to special treatment, gets greedy and engineers a coup. It’s usually about money. Someone needs money…big money…for a pet project. Someone else suggests the way to pay for it is to get the destination marketing organization to foot the bill.

Another stakeholder who should have put its foot down because it stood to lose out to the imbalance created, panicked and instead of defending what was best for the community, jumped in to grab its share. Yet still another stakeholder that should have been sticking up for the business community is complicit because its aging funding model is rendering them impotent to do much more for the community than to promote itself.

None of it would be happening if Nero wasn’t fiddling while Rome burned.

What’s truly remarkable is how seldom this formula succeeds. And even when it does, once the jackals are sated or the community awakens to see how fast and far its status as a destination has eroded, how far behind other destinations it has fallen in reaping a fiscal yield from visitors…people who care about the destination will rise up, run the jackals out of town and begin the arduous task of rebuilding a true destination marketing effort, free of special interests:

- One that pursues market segments based on potential for that community overall, not any one stakeholder group

- One that brands the community based on its true personality and character, not what one stakeholder group or another demands it should be, out of arrogance.

- One protected from power plays like this.

- One that generates the community's full potential for the business climate and the tax base.

- One interested in striving for best practices rather than self interests.

Any community is only a heart beat from this type of disaster if it ever drops its guard or permits egomaniacs to form unholy cabals of self interest. It can happen anywhere -but not for long. You see destination marketing is based on sound organic principals of community interest…not self interest…there is nothing that can replace it…just ask communities that had to resurrect a DMO.

10 signs to spot these rogue stakeholders:

  • Big ego and arrogance

  • Personal and Political agendas

  • Full of themselves, never listen, because they are always talking

  • Zero sum gain...its always about "them" not "us"

  • Expert at everything

  • Self-righteous and self serving

  • Conniving and duplicitous

  • Uninventive and greedy

  • Make decisions based on who’s asking

  • Corner people and groups rather than collaborate


Anonymous said...

Keeping a regional DMO together is a challenge. We have three cities located in the two counties we represent and it is astounding how much time and effort is involved in hand-holding to keep things together.

Reyn said...

I can only image. That's why that approach has rarely worked. It is very hard, not matter how proximate to find any two, let alone three communities close enough in proximity, cultural identity and place based assets to appeal to consumers as one place.

Without that, an extra later, not matter how politically expedient won't work unless it is organic.

Unfortunately the decision is usually made politically rather than with good research.

People orginally thought continents would be the only layer you needed, then countires, then states...but those all ended up being filters by which to make a decision on which oasis/destination/community to visit.

Sounds like your area needed another filter size doesn't fit wishes.