In the past three months or so, I have had several readers write to me about bending the rules. Some asked, “When is it OK to bend the rules?” while others have questioned not so much “when” but rather “is it OK to bend the rules?” I thought long and hard about this and then consulted several industry leaders for their feedback and thoughts. We all agreed that it is OK to bend the rules. There was one condition, though, that all of them identified. In order to bend the rules, it needs to benefit all, or at least not harm anyone. If it benefits you and harms the audience, the partner, or whomever, or if it gives you an unfair advantage over a partner, then bending the rules is not OK. With that said, we came up with the “Top Four Reasons when it is OK to Bend the Rules.”
- If bending the rule allows you to close a piece of business that will benefit your organization in the long run, it is OK. Perhaps exclusivity (sound familiar from a recent TMC?) is only offered at a certain investment level. You know this sponsor cannot make that threshold, but can come close. You know none of their competitors have shown interest in the exclusivity level, or for that matter, in your property at all. The “rule” says that a sponsor must spend X dollars to get exclusivity. In this case, if you bend the rules, no one is harmed, no one gets “pushed out,” they get their exclusivity, and you close the deal. The rule bends and all benefit.
- Giving someone a break! Perhaps the brand does not have the budget to pay the full fee this year based on existing expenditures, but they are signing a multi-year deal. Then break the rule, have them pay less this year, more next year, and the year after that.
- As long as it does not harm anyone else, provide a freebie to someone. Perhaps it is extra tickets to an event at no charge, or additional content and support to your property partner beyond what you are contracted for. I have always said that such bending of the rules enhances the relationship over the long term.
- The final one of the Top Four was unanimous among those I chatted with. Everyone pointed out that the “bend in the rules” has to be an exception—not the “rule.” If you are constantly bending the rules for partners, it will become an expectation. You will be recognized as the “go-to person” if you need the rules bent in your favour. And if that is the case, your organization is not benefitting over the long term. Bending the rule must not be a regular occurrence.
Let me know if there are other reasons you can think of that should be on this Top Four list!
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