Jo Rhett (jorhett) wrote,
Jo Rhett

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The lessons you can learn by losing an election.

In this I am condensing and clarifying some of my thoughts about what happened to cause the Granzella Hoax Bid to win the Westercon 66 Site Selection popular vote.

I have heard a lot of statements about bid committees not bothering to vote when a hoax bid could come ruin all your hard work, and similar statements which are pretty hard not to dismiss as nonsense. But just in case you are concerned about this, let's talk about what really happened, and why it happened, and how you can avoid this. With your convention bid, with your writer's group, or really with just about anything you want to promote. I'm going to make some statements, and then I'm going to back them up with why I feel these things are true.

I do not say this to attack the members of the Portland Westercon 66 bid, and I hope they will bid again. I am simply documenting what I saw and how it affected the outcome.

You have to respect the electorate. When the electorate steps up to tell you that they perceive a problem, you have to take them seriously.

You have to engage the electorate. Not only was the Portland bid not visible to me or others at any previous conventions, but their website had only a few dozen words and 3 status updates, the most recent of which was 82 days before the election. You couldn't get any information about the bid if you wanted to.

You have to pay attention. Portland found themselves facing a large group of people trying to make a very loud point to them... and didn't get it. They attended the site selection meeting in which they were roundly criticized for failing to market their bid and... didn't get it. Nor did they in any form step up their promotional efforts that day to change people's minds.

Let's be very clear: Portland lost their bid by failing to convince a single person that their complaint was heard, and that Portland would do a better job going forward. Not ten, not twenty, but a single switched vote would have won them the election.

It is my belief that through ignorance or assurance that they would be anointed, they frustrated the electorate so much that the electorate decided to deliver a harsh lesson to the committee.

The lesson here is not that a hoax bid can destroy a real bid. There have always been hoax bids, and there will always be hoax bids. No hoax bid can threaten any real bid who is paying attention to their market. But a real bid has to respect and engage their electorate - and most of all, they have to pay attention.

Portland wasn't reading any news about Westercon or they would have noticed the complaints raised by the hoax bid. They could have drained a lot of steam out of the hoax bid by responding to the issues raised during the 3 week window before the convention.

When they reached Westercon on Friday it was impossible for them to miss the large, much more successful party who owed its entire existence to frustrations about Portland's nonexistent marketing. Did they step up their marketing? Did they respond to the hoax at all? Not that I could see.

Taking myself as a consumer, ZellaCon had already won my vote by the time the convention started. The completely unknown Portland bid had yet to do so. I stopped by their party and their promotional table down near registration. I asked for information about the convention, and was told about the hotel. No other details were available, and nobody at the party or the table seemed very engaged.

I went to the Site Selection business meeting and raised my concerns about the lack of marketing there, as did a great many other people. At which time we were informed that Westercon 66 was in capable hands, and that they knew what they were doing. That's not really an answer.

So I watched throughout the day to see how Portland would respond. Did they update their website? Did they start tweeting about their convention? Did they step up engagement with potential voters in the hallways? I watched throughout the day, and I waited until nearly the last minute to vote.

From what I could tell, Portland did exactly NOTHING to change the perceptions about their convention. They had been told in great detail that people found their lack of engagement insufficient, but no action was taken to change that perception. Which is why when I went to vote just a few minutes before closing, I voted for Granzella first and None of the Above second.

Given the veracity and intensity of the frustration expressed by the 100-plus attendees who came to the Westercon Business Meeting, many others felt the same way. (which is by far the largest business meeting for Westercon in over 25 years)

All that being said, I'd like to make one really strong point here. I did not do this to burn Portland. I really don't think a single person at that meeting wanted to burn or dismiss or any of the other verbs I heard today, Portland. I personally would love to see Portland try again for 2014 or any other year. In fact, I will sit tables and throw parties to support their bid. I will provide technical assistance to make their online systems fantastic. As long as they convince me that they can do marketing.

The Granzella hoax bid won for the sole reason that it did exactly what Portland had failed to do. They engaged the electorate. They paid attention. They convinced us that they would do a good job promoting Westercon. Straight and simple, Westercon members are looking for future convention sites that will build and grow Westercon again. And that is what we voted for.
Tags: conventions, westercon

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