Oh No! Am I on the Industry Blacklist?

I have heard many Experiential Marketing agencies and field staff refer to an industry-wide blacklist. For those of you who don’t know what a blacklist is, it’s a document shared among agencies to prevent unprofessional EXPs from obtaining future opportunities. As a field staff member, you can be placed on a blacklist for numerous reasons including:

  • Poor work ethic
  • Unprofessionalism
  • Unethical practices
  • Not adhering to contractual obligations
  • A malicious account manager

EXP BlacklistMany field staff professionals believe that if they are placed on a blacklist, their career is over. Often times, this is not the case. While I have only seen this list for a few seconds after an account manager allowed me to glance at it, I often question the validity of the list and wonder how many agencies actually work together to use it? With the number of Experiential Marketing agencies increasing daily, I can’t believe it’s used by all of them.

Conversely, what if field staff started a blacklist which included all of the Experiential Marketing agencies that engaged in the same poor practices? How many field staff professionals would continue to work for unethical agencies.

The Experiential Marketing industry cannot function without field staff. As Experiential Marketing professionals, we cannot allow the fear of a blacklist to determine how we allow agencies to treat us as professionals. I have worked for agencies where they have threatened to place field staff on the blacklist if they did not adhere to the rules and regulations of the agency.

How are threats ethical?

This blacklist has allowed agencies to label individuals based on their perceptions. For some, this results in loss of livelihood and income based on the arbitrary judgment of an individual. Sometimes this individual is a malicious account manager who is actually the unethical one.

Now, let’s be honest, there are some field staff members who deserve to have opportunities blocked, if only temporarily. They have engaged in acts that justify being banned from events.

I understand the need for the list – it protects agencies from hiring field staff who could potentially jeopardize the client-agency relationship or even the safety of others.

However, as an Experiential Marketing agency, it is important to use the blacklist with caution and not as a bargaining tool.

Make sure that you have proof and a good reason for placing someone on this list. Ask yourself, did I do everything in my power to prevent this from occurring? As an agency, you are responsible for hiring individuals to execute your campaigns who are qualified and professional. It is unfair to place someone on a blacklist if you, as an agency, saw signs that this individual was not qualified. In a profession where the workforce is self-choosing and freelance, it’s in all of our best interests to train new EXPs to meet the standards of the industry, not to ban them for ignorance.

Using coercion instead of training and support will result in mistrust, an us-against-them mentality, high turnover, and in the worse case, the loss of contracts. Instead of worrying about the blacklist, focus on following the three P’s – Presentation, Professionalism and Personality. Follow the three P’s, and you can’t go wrong.