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5 Things You Must Ask Before Partnering with an Event Staffing Agency

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By Kelly Springs-Kelley from EventPro Strategies

Experiential marketing has become an increasingly common marketing strategy for the largest and most successful companies in the world. Time and time again, physically getting in front of consumers and engaging them face-to-face has shown to increase brand loyalty while driving immediate and long-term purchase.

When planning and executing a marketing event, most brands and agencies rely on a staffing partner to supply the brand ambassadors. Unfortunately, often times these organizations are not able to find a partner that can recruit, hire and manage the right talent to best represent their brand. Marketing events are high-impact situations that give consumers the chance to quite literally speak to and interact with your brand in person. In an environment where brand opinions and purchasing decisions are being made in real time, having a staffing agency that provides you with the best of the best brand ambassadors and event staff is non-negotiable.

In addition, hiring an event staffing agency that can successfully navigate issues such as employment law and compliance (since many times audits and litigation will also extend to the company that hired the staffing agency), use of technology, talent training methods, data collection capabilities, and more, is just as important in finding the right people to represent you.

Below are the top 5 things you must ask before partnering with an event staffing agency. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you best determine which agency is equipped to provide you with the best event staffing and execution services; a decision that, in large part, will allow your event marketing campaign the opportunity to truly flourish.

Employment Practices

Believe it or not, how an event staffing agency hires the talent that will be representing your brand matters – a lot. Currently the topic of 1099 employee misclassification is being debated and investigated everywhere, from the way Uber classifies its drivers to the way the event industry hires your brand ambassadors. If the event staffing agency that you hire is found to have improperly classified the talent working your event as 1099s (read here to see why in almost all cases, event staff should be classified as W-2 employees), the department of labor and other government entities could hold your brand liable as a “co-employer”, resulting in your company paying back taxes, damages, fines, legal fees and more.

Joshua Woodard, labor and employment partner with Snell & Wilmer, provided the following practical advice for companies looking to engage talent agencies. “Companies may want to ask how (the staffing agency) classifies the talent being provided on a job – namely, whether the talent are independent contractors or employees. To the extent talent are (hired) as employees for withholdings, unemployment taxes, worker’s compensation, overtime, and benefits purposes, companies would reduce their own risk of being held responsible for such matters.“

 

Another major issue as it relates to employee classification is insurance and injury liability. Many brands and agencies assume that 1099 independent contractors are covered under most Worker’s Compensation policies, or that because they are independent contractors they are required to purchase their own insurance and the employer is not liable. The problem is that, many times, these are misperceptions. If a staffing agency chooses to hire 1099 independent contractors and that agency’s policy does not cover those workers, Denise Barbarito, Assistant Manager and Senior Account Executive for CBS Insurance, warns “if the staffing firm (or brand) is directing and controlling their job duties, that independent contractor does have the right to sue the staffing firm and/or (brand) client to cover their on-the-job injury.”

Use of Technology

Like most industries, technology has dramatically changed the way experiential marketing events are executed. Your event staffing partner should be using technology to better engage with you (the client), the staff and event attendees. Your event staffing partner should offer, at minimum:

  • An on-line staff and event management platform
  • Digital signatures and timesheets for talent
  • On-line reporting tools and data collection
  • Mobile technology that can be used during execution, such as mobile attendee check-in systems, digital forms for lead generation, online surveys for use on tablets or mobile devices, etc.

 

All this being said, not all interactions should be virtual. You should also have an account manager who understands your event goals and acts as a partner to help you reach them. Technology provides us with amazing tools, but it cannot replace human interaction and collaboration.

Staff Training Methodology

How your staff are trained determines whether or not they absorb and internalize your program goals, talking points and event requirements. Your event staffing partner should offer you a variety of training options, from conference calls and webinars to self-paced learning management systems (LMS), which best suit the needs of your talent and your program. Proof of retention, such as on-line quizzes, should always be offered.

Event Data: Gathering and Assimilation

As your partner, your event staffing agency should not allow you to execute an event without insisting you gather as much data from the field as possible. The agency should offer you tools with which to do so, such as on-line forms that the staff members can access from any mobile device. The agency should also offer a data repository that is available to you in real time, as well as offer the option to present the data to you in both a raw format as well as assimilated in a way that is easy to view and understand at a glance.

Transparency and Consultation

An event staffing agency should not just be a “people vendor” that simply takes your order – they should be a partner who shows thoughtful expertise in the event marketing field. They should provide you with a consultation and be completely invested in locking arms with you to achieve your event objectives and elevate performance.

In addition, as a partner, a certain level of transparency and philosophy of proactive communication should be established in the beginning. You should be able to view (ideally from a client dashboard on-line) details such as your potential candidates, the agency’s hiring progress, your field team’s training results, and the event team’s check-in status on event day. Invoicing and billing should not be a mystery. If you have questions or concerns they should be addressed in a timely, honest and constructive manner.

Choosing the right staffing partner makes a dramatic difference in your ability to achieve, and then demonstrate, event ROI. Assessing a potential staffing agency using these key points will help bring you closer to reaching your event marketing goals.

[author image=”http://eventspeak.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/kelly-cropped.jpg” ]Kelly Springs-Kelley is the Director of Marketing at EventPro Strategies and Needle Movers. She can be reached at kkelley@eventprostrategies.com or kkelley@movetheneedle.com. [/author]

 

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