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by Padraic Gilligan | March 24, 2014

Padraic GilliganDestination management executives, how often do you receive a request for proposal from a global firm planning a big meeting or incentive program in your destination, spend half a day in creative meditation, emerge with a killer idea that goes into your brilliant RFP response and then find out the client awarded the business to one of your competitors? On top of that, they end up using what you regard to be your idea. Sound familiar?

Though destination management firms have been grappling with this topic since our profession took off, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is a battle that I don’t think we should fight. Or, at least, it’s a battle that we could fight, and maybe win, but in the process we’d  lose the war. Let me explain.

In our own time, we have experienced an information revolution akin to what happened back in 1450, when Gutenberg invented the printing press in Germany. The printing press allowed information and ideas to take flight and assume a life of their own, independent of their originator. The Internet does precisely the same thing, but at significantly faster speeds. I can post a thought on Twitter and, nanoseconds after I press send, this thought can be accessed, acted upon, replicated and plagiarized in Berlin, Buenos Aires and Beijing. In this brave new "information age,"  ideas are as difficult to control as mice at a crossroads. And I’m unaware of any cast-iron legal protection you can place over them: What DMC in any destination is able to prove definitively and conclusively that he was the only one to come up with the bright idea of using the Fire Station as a venue and to employ a Bridget Jones lookalike to slide down the fireman’s pole at 30 minute intervals throughout the night?

Very few confidential RFP responses from DMCs can justifiably be labeled as “intellectual property” as, say, a graphic designer might refer to an original logo he created or a medical scientist to primary research she conducted. We’re playing with destination assets that, for the most part, are in the public domain and don't specifically belonging to us. I do think we are within our rights to mark our RFPs as “confidential” and highlight our expectation that our ideas will not be used outside of the context of their creation; by so doing we’re at least expressing a hope that courtesy and respect might be extended to us and to the efforts we have made to provide a creative response.

However, when we don’t get the business and when it appears that our ideas have been stolen, we should be stoic and calm. Take it on the chin and move on. If you’re really annoyed and convinced that your ideas were robbed, then don’t compete for that client's business the next time they come to town. But lose the righteous indignation, stop moaning and don’t waste time, energy and money winning a battle and losing the war. The Internet has democratized information, and many of your customers are savvy searchers who can find just about any piece of information, idea or insight within a couple of mouse clicks.

Padraic Gilligan is managing partner at SoolElla, a boutique consultancy offering marketing and training services for the meetings and events industry. See more here.