Right now, the Internet is buzzing with CES news as bloggers check out the latest consumer technology offerings. Last night, though, there was a break in the tweets about tech as people expressed outrage over popular podcaster, radio show host, and blogger Leo Laporte was denied access to a pre-CES press event called The Digital Experience put on by PR company Pepcom. Apparently, they didn’t know who he was. Leo’s pretty much a go-to guy in the tech field, so as you can guess, most of his fans were baffled.
In a quick audio clip, Leo says that he was denied access because they didn’t have credentials – proof that he qualifies as press in the tech field. I don’t know if that was a mistake on Leo’s end by not sending in paperwork or a mistake on Pepcom’s end by misplacing the paperwork. My attempts to contact Pepcom have gone unanswered.
Because Pepcom is being tight-lipped about what happened at The Digital Experience door, I’ll be clear about one thing: I don’t think an a-lister in any industry has the right to demand, “DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!?!” when they haven’t followed the registration process for an event. It’s rude, and more importantly, event staffers need the numbers ahead of time to make sure there’s enough food and they’re following fire code laws. That said, I really doubt that this is what happened. This isn’t Leo’s first time at a major event, and he’s not known for being a diva. I think this was simply a case of crossed wires (appropriate for a tech event, right?). I think there was a mix-up with the registration and Leo was mistakenly left off the list.
No matter who was to blame, though, what really matters is that Pepcom staffers – those at the door representing the company – should have without question allowed him access.
See, if you’re a business owner, especially a PR agency, you’re responsible for knowing who the content creators are in your industry. Access for Leo would have meant a ton of additional press for their event, and for all of the companies at their event. Word on the street is that the companies involved paid $15,000 to have a booth at The Digital Experience, and when you’re shelling out that kind of dough, you want access to the best media personalities and analysts in the industry. The fact that Leo instead went somewhere else that evening was a huge blow to those companies.
It can be difficult to know everyone in your industry, especially when you’re new. I’ll never forget the look of shock and horror on a friend’s face when I asked, “Who is Chris Brogan?” several years ago. As a relatively new blogger, I legitimately didn’t know. So I don’t really blame the people working the door for not knowing.
The first person I blame is the person who put together the list. If the people working the door were newbies, they should have had a group of people under the header, “These people didn’t complete the registration process correctly, but they need to be allowed access anyway because they’re a-listers and we want them at our event.” Okay, maybe the header needs a little work, but you get the idea.
At the very least, there should have been protocol – someone at Pepcom who well acquainted with people in the tech industry should have been on call to give approval (or not) if someone arrive who wasn’t on the list. Especially when they arrived with a camera crew who was on the list. It was obviously a mistake.
The second person (or team of people) I blame is whoever was running Pepcom’s social media accounts.
It’s bad enough that this was exploding on Twitter and Pepcom didn’t respond. After Leo’s initial tweet, tons of his fans tweeted about it. When looking to see if Pepcom responded…I couldn’t even find a valid Twitter account for them. Their site says @PepcomEvents, but there’s no profile under that name, and @Pepcom is a egg profile with no tweets. Maybe I’m missing something? How are you a PR events company without a Twitter account?
Update: I’ve been told be a few people that @PepcomEvents was their Twitter handle, but when they started getting all sorts of negative attention over the Leo incident, they changed it so people couldn’t find them and eventually just completely disappeared. I can’t confirm this because, once again, Pepcom ignored my emails and phone call…but…WOW. There are no other words. Just wow.
What they do definitely have is a Facebook page…which says nothing about the Leo Laporte incident. in fact, they very quickly deleted every post mentioning it as it was uploaded to their page. You can see now that their wall is squeaky clean with no negative posts at all.
But this is the Internet. Once something is posted, it doesn’t just disappear. Facebook user Adam J. Kragt was smart enough to start taking screenshots as posts were being deleted. Pepcom took that post off their wall of course, but you can still see the images here.
People were mad. In his audio clip, Leo sounded more disappointed than angry, but in any case, this was a huge Pepcom mistake, and they didn’t do anything to correct it. Social media gives us the awesome ability to screw up in public…but it also gives us the chance to easily and publicly apologize and make things right. As soon as he was denied access, Pepcom should have reached out to him on Twitter or Facebook and corrected the problem. Somebody was obviously monitoring their social media accounts (at least, on Facebook), so why didn’t anyone try to fix the mistake? Why did they instead try to hide it by deleting negative posts?
Will this blow over? Yes. I’m sure an equally big scandal will rock the Internet soon (if it hasn’t already during the writing of this post). People will be saying, “Pepcom who?”
But what really matters to Pepcom, to any business, is the button line – the money. And if I was a company involved with their event or thinking about getting involved with it, I wouldn’t be so quick to jump on board next year. I would be more inclined to spend my sponsorship budget on other events where major players in the industry aren’t turned away at the door. Leo has said that he won’t be going back to their events and I’d be worried, as a sponsor, that others would follow in his footsteps. So while the general public will probably easily forget, the people who write the checks won’t…and when they search for press about The Digital Experience, this post is what they’ll find.
** Update by Rick**
When I read Alli’s post, I pretty much agreed with her entire Post. One thing that struck me is that Leo’s TWiT is one of the most high profile press entities at CES. He has one of only two networks I am aware of that have a booth at the front of the show. The other is CNET.
I had our Deb go take a couple photos of Leo’s booth. Here is the TWiT booth at the very front of the South Hall at CES.
Pretty hard for any attendee at CES including the PR flacks to miss.
I heard about this shortly after it happened thanks to a tweet from schmittastic . It was an honest mistake, but the even bigger mistake was deleting people’s posts on their Facebook page. From what I could tell, there was nothing vulgar, just people wondering how they managed to mess up and to offer an honest apology.
Long live screen capture software!
Wait wait wait – you say “it’s his responsibility to register” and “their responsibility to have the numbers accurate” but then “just go ahead and let him in anyways.”
Just because he isn’t acting like a diva doesn’t mean he should be given the treatment. If he didn’t register, he shouldn’t be allowed “just because he’s Leo!”
@ikeif I will let Alli speak for herself but I don’t think that is what she was saying. The two are not mutually exclusive. I don’t think we know the facts yet, if Leo registered but his registration got lost somehow, or if he decided to attend without registering.
Let’s take the worst example, Leo never registered and showed up. That would be his fault. By all accounts he didn’t act like a diva at all and left disappointed but not angry.
On the other hand, the very nature of Pepcom’s event is to get exposure for their paying sponsors to the tech press. Leo is undoubtedly a very influential member of that press and any PR flack worth his salt should know who he is. They could have also very quickly asked a couple of other journalists at the event who would have vouched for him.
Unless the event was sold out (which it may have been), they should have found a way to let him in.
Again it’s not the end of the world that they didn’t. But simply erasing posts on their Facebook page (unless they were abusive or offensive) and not acknowledging the incident at all?
I don’t really see how that can be overlooked.
@blogworld@ikeif I was going to add on to my original reply saying something along those lines (well, not your entire reply, but mainly “let’s wait until the details are all out before coming to conclusions”).
Also, I blame my sleep-deprived brain.
The second part – I concur (well, the entire reply, I do). I think somehow I merely got to “Leo was disappointed, why wasn’t he let in anyways” in the article and shut down – but thanks for your informed, thoughtful reply.
@ikeif No worries. Your comment was right on point. I was just trying to clarify something I was thinking about as well.
debng went and took some pictures of leolaporte booth at CES and I updated @allison_boyer’s post with a couple of those photos. You can see it’s pretty darn big. It is also right at the front of the show. There is only one other media entity I know of at CES with that kind of presence and that’s CNET.
Thanks again for the comments. It sounds like we are all pretty much in agreement at this point?
@blogworld You are correct! 🙂
@ikeif Rick’s right in that we don’t know what happened. It’s speculation since Pepcom isn’t talking. My point is that I don’t think it’s right for people to act like divas just because they’re *insert big name here* – but Leo didn’t do that. It was a mistake.
(For the record, in my book, acting like a diva includes showing up somewhere and thinking you don’t have to follow the rules to get in. It doesn’t always mean you cause a scene. There are a lot of quiet divas out there. But again, I don’t think Leo was in that mind set. It seemed like a legitimate mistake.)
Whether it was his fault or Pepcom’s fault, we may never know, since Pepcom isn’t answering questions. What we do know is that when an honest mistake happens, you should fix the problem for the sake of your sponsors. I fully believe Pepcom has a responsibility to provide the best coverage possible when people are shelling out $15k for a booth. In the tech industry, Leo is a part of the equation if you want the best coverage possible, so to turn him away at the door because of a mix-up was ridiculous.
I don’t think a-listers should get special treatment, whether they follow the rules or not, but in my opinion, special treatment is something they get for personal pleasure. When you give someone like Leo a little extra help to get into an event even though there was a mix-up, it’s not because you want him to be happy. It’s because you know that he’s going to bring a lot of attention to the event and the sponsors. It’s a professional courtesy because it is good for everyone involved.
So yes, I’m arguing that Leo should have been allowed entry (unless it was completely sold out), no matter who made the mistake simply because he’s Leo. And if it was sold out, there should have been apologies made, not “we don’t know who you are” and complete disregard on social media.
@blogworld That was quick! That looks like MacBreak Weekly broadcast just a short while ago!:)
@Milnoc Such a sad Leo
From what I heard this this was posted, the Pepcom Events twitter account was deleted because of all the negative tweets that were coming in just as Pepcom was deleting comments on their Facebook page. I also heard Pepcom was banning the people from their Facebook page who made the negative comments.
@ArtemusRex Hm, that’s really interesting! I did hear that they were banning people on Facebook, but couldn’t find anyone to confirm. That makes sense that they shut down their Twitter account. It seemed weird to me that it was listed on their website, but their was no actual account under that name.
@allison_boyer@ArtemusRex I was blocked from commenting or liking things on their page. So there is your confirmation. If you need a screen I”ll happily send one. What asses. They just ignore their mistake, and they’ll likely get away with it.
@ArtemusRex At first they were just renaming it so anyone new couldn’t find it. But existing followers would stay attached, so they could tell what the new name was. Anyone who said anything to them was blocked. So we can’t know that it was deleted, we can just know that their account is not where it used to be.
@blogworld BTW, Leo mentioned that Pepcom asked for two bylined articles as credentials. Only problem is that Leo doesn’t write articles!
@blogworld Even funnier is that I HAVE two bylined articles on The Mark News Web site! Does that mean I’m more important than Leo? LOL!
@Milnoc haha well maybe. You should apply to attend next year
“Leo doesn’t act like a diva.”
I direct you to his Palm Pre conversation with Mike Arrington in 2009, after which he apologized for being an ass in front of his other hosts and live audience.
@ranhalt “after which he apologized…”
We all make mistakes. Even I act like an ass sometimes. It’s a sense of entitlement and the self-opinion that you can do no wrong that makes someone a diva, in my opinion.
@ojezap it appears that Pepcom – like most PR companies – is out to prove it’s irrelevant. What dummies!
@ojezap glad you liked it. @allison_boyer wrote it. Was gonna say your avatar reminded me of @chrispirillo ‘s
@ojezap Thanks so much for reading. I tried to be fair, even gave them a chance to make a statement, but got no reply.
Just FYI… TechPodcasts Network and Revision3 is there too… but, anyway, I agree, they should really know TWiT!
@DrBillBailey Do they have booths this year? I know they cover the show. I’m not there yet until tomorrow but I don’t recall them having space at the front of the show like TWit and CNET.
@blogworld@DrBillBailey I know TPN is there, as I am a TPN podcaster, and I am carrying their live feed at drbill.cc – they are broadcasting from their booth… Rev3 is covering CES, but I don’t know if they have a booth.
I find it ironic that a PR firm commits the ultimate PR blunder AND tries to do a cover up via deleting social networking accounts and comments.
Would anybody want to ever hire a PR firm that does not appear to know a thing about PR???
@mac62398 you are right, but even more surprising is this isn’t just any PR company or any old PR event. This is one of the premier PR events at CES.
@mac62398 I think it will be interesting to see how the company survives this. We might all lose interest, but their clients certainly won’t.
@davidrisley Can see how it happens, but shouldn’t. Strong indicator that New Media is still…new. 🙂
@kragit Step One to eFame: Start saying, “Don’t you know who I am???” all the time. (Thanks for taking those screens, btw. Good stuff man)
Be happy @n3rd00! Leo can now be seen on http://t.co/oow5OHRD nearly each and every day, more often than during his TechTv days!
First off there’s nothing wrong with firmly noting the truth that publicists are absolute incompetent BIXCHES when they don’t recognize anyone is this small world of journalism. 2: Machiavellian tactics belong in the Meideivel ages
3: Pepcom is to journalism as Hitler was to the Jews Chris & Jon take note DON’T FI@% with us!!!!!!!