Are High-Profile Projects Good For Small Businesses?
If you are a small business owner, you may have experienced being presented with an opportunity for high-profile work. Maybe your work has been selected by a famous blogger, or you have been approached to participate in a TV show or high profile event with the promise of fortune and fame in exchange for your efforts. In our 25 years of business, we have been presented with a variety of these "opportunities," and while our experiences were unique to our company, there may be some broader lessons we can share from them.
The Pay-to-Play TV Show – Over the years we have been contacted by multiple firms asking us to participate in some sort of informational TV program. In one case, a TV show offered us the use of video experts and production specialists, who would "partner" with us to create high quality footage of our work, asking for a 6 week commitment of our time to be on location for the filming. We were in the first 5 years running our business, and green to these kinds of offers, so while we felt quite honored initially, we learned at the time of contract signing that this "opportunity" would cost us $26,000. Luckily we never signed a contract and we avoided this terrible mistake. So, our caution to small business owners on this one - read ALL the fine print before signing anything.
Blogger Love – Who doesn't love some blogger love, especially when the blogger works with high-profile clients? Our experience on this one is from about seven years ago, when celebrity wedding planner Sasha V. Souza selected our work as one of her 2011"Sasha's Favorite Things," and featured our work on her wildly popular blog: http://sashasouzaevents.com/blog. Our experience with this opportunity was nothing but positive. We ended up participating in a big event industry trade show called The Special Event, and were featured in front of hundreds of aspiring event planners during Sasha's exclusive luncheon at the event. After receiving this acknowledgement from Sasha, we saw a dramatic increase in inquiries from couples all over the country seeking our preservation services. Sasha is a gracious and formidable business owner and planner, so she certainly played a huge role in making this experience so positive for us, but in general, our feeling is that blogger love is a win win win.
Working with High Profile Clients – Over the years we have been asked to do a variety of projects for high-profile clients, and our experience overall is that this work is worth doing, but does not necessarily add up to additional acclaim or additional business. As long as you charge full price for your work (and possibly some extra if you will be expected to add customized options), you will probably not have any regrets about working with high profile clients. While one might expect that these clients would be overly particular or demanding, we have found in all cases that they were completely cooperative and lovely as clients.
This is a piece we completed several years ago for San Francisco Giants outfielder Andrew McCutcheon and his new wife Maria Hansolvan (Andrew played for the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time). This was a wonderful project and an absolute treat for our team to complete.
Another high profile client or ours was Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback, and his wife Ashley Harlan. Our personal experience with this order was completely positive. We worked through their event planner, The Event Group Productions (https://eventgroupproductions.com) out of Pittsburgh, and we were able to solidify the selections and outcome successfully, without ever speaking directly to the clients. In this particular case, we were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement until after the work was completed. This did not create a problem specifically, but it did limit our ability to use the work for any sort of additional publicity. So, our caution regarding non-disclosures – have your lawyer review before signing, and consider the consequences of not getting to publicize the high profile project before quoting the work.
Product Placement - This leads us to the final noteworthy high-profile project that we have completed, for Ryan Buckley, one of the contestants on Season 6 of Married At First Sight. We were approached by the producers in late Fall of 2017 to create a meaningful piece of jewelry from petals of roses that Ryan gave to his new wife, Jackie Schwartzberg, in the episode immediately preceding their decision day. If you don't watch the show, strangers are matched by relationship professionals with another person, and they meet for the first time on their wedding day. The show then follows their eight week marriage, and at the end of the eight weeks, they decide whether or not to stay married.
Since we were approached by the producers of the show, we were not equipped with any contract or language to negotiate the terms of the opportunity. The show needed a super-fast turnaround, so we made a gut instinct choice to create a piece for them. The producers sent us the petals, and because they were already dried, we were able to rush the completion of the piece. At the time, we had no idea which participant would be presenting the jewelry, or if the piece would even make it into the show. We completed this work and rush shipped it, no charge, in the hopes of some product placement love on the show.
We then tuned in starting January 2nd, and joined with the participants and other viewers on this roller coaster of emotions. We discovered real value in elements of the show along the way (see our previous blog post HERE: www.bloombeads.com/blog/latest-news/what-dayton-ohio-company-will-be-featured-on-national-tv-this-week, but when we finally learned that is was Ryan who would be giving our Bloombeads pendant to Jackie, we realized that our brand would be associated with the general feelings viewers have toward him, something over which we had no control. We were further disappointed when the show blurred out our company name on the packaging during the episode. We had no idea that would happen, and we were left with very little value in exchange for the custom piece of jewelry we created for the show.
We lobbied the producers to at least do a Facebook post acknowledging our work, and when they did, we were blown away by the amount of disgust that ended up being associated with our work because of the generally negative feelings viewers had about Ryan. Luckily we were tagged in the post and able to jump on and defend our company, which immediately turned nay-sayers into supporters once they read our backstory. (If you loved the pendant and want one of your own, here is pricing info: www.bloombeads.com/category/pendants/simple-square-pendant-large)
So, MANY lessons were learned with this particular experience, and ones worth sharing:
- If you are offered a product placement opportunity, ask for at least an email confirming the specifics of the agreement so that you have a paper trail.
- Consider presenting a short contract that outlines the terms, if you feel that won't blow your chances of getting this potentially high-profile work.
- Prepare for the risk that your work might be associated with someone unsavory or disliked. In our case, this was a negative, but by joining the online dialogues we were able to win new supporters and customers who without the show might not have ever heard of our company.
Our conclusions from 25 years of high profile opportunities? While high-profile work offers glimmers and promises that are seductive, they are only worth pursuing if you don't have to sacrifice time and energy that should otherwise be focused on your loyal local clientele. We have welcomed and truly enjoyed each of these high profile projects, even with their sometimes negative baggage, but none of these experiences has generated more support for our business than the daily effort we make to treat each of our local customers like family.