I'm going to go back in time to when we were planning our own post-wedding party (we had our ceremony in Vegas. Vegas baby!) at a popular New England wedding venue. During my meeting I was given a beautifully printed brochure full of "preferred professionals". The word "preferred" seemed like a pretty strong endorsement and so I assumed that these were vendors who had worked at my venue/were trusted by the venue staff/liked by past couples etc etc.
Fast forward to now, I got an email from a venue I photographed a beautiful wedding at, it said "Are we able to get a CD of those pictures to use for wedding marketing collateral? These are some of the best pictures I've seen!" Of course I was happy to share my images. I love the venue, the team are wonderful, amazing service, happy couples and I'd love to photograph more images there. I am always happy to provide images to venues as long as they have a small watermark/link to my site (so people can find me!).
Then sadly I got a note back saying that the company that produce the marketing publication were unable to use the images with credit. They only use images from paid advertisers or images without credit (obviously there is zero value in giving my images away).
Let me just clarify a few things before I state my concern about this practice:
1. Advertising is fine! I don't personally do it (I'm lucky enough to be fully booked each year on word-of-mouth) but I guess I might consider advertising if I needed to
2. It makes sense to only use images of people who have paid to be in a brochure. If I did advertise and then I saw someone else's images being used I might be a little disgruntled
3. Most importantly, not all venues/preferred lists operate like this. For example I am listed as a preferred vendor at The Colonnade Hotel in Boston and that's based on image quality/feedback from the couple on my services/being generally easy to work with :)
So here's my issue - and I don't think I'm the only one concerned about this - I posted about this on facebook yesterday and I had 14 shares and over 40 likes on the topic with quite a few brides commenting that they had no idea about this practice.
Describing vendors as "PREFERRED PROFESSIONALS" when they must pay for this "privilege" is misleading to couples.
It implies they have worked at the venue/have been selected on merit/are known to the staff and meet a certain quality criteria.
A more accurate term would be "PAID PROFESSIONALS" or even "ADVERTISERS".
As it is, this is the wording used in many of these brochures: "[Venue] strongly encourages utilization of the following professionals for your upcoming event. Superior in their field, these industry experts have been hand-selected to complement and enhance your occasion."
And my questions would be:
- Who is doing the "hand-selecting"?
- What criteria is used to denote a vendor as an "industry-expert" or "superior in their field"?
- What % of advertisers are rejected? If no one is rejected then it's not really appropriate to call them "industry-experts" or "superior in their field"
A clear disclaimer stating "Preferred professionals have paid to be listed in this publication and may/may not have any experience at your venue" would be fair. The only mention of anything along these lines is "Paid advertisements within this brochure have contributed in part or whole to the production of the publication." If for example I receive a product free of charge and I write about it on my blog recommending it. I am legally required to notify readers that I have been paid/received free goods. It seems a little shady that couples are misled into thinking that "preferred" vendors are anything other than paid advertisers.
Again, advertising isn't wrong! Just the implication that paying for advertising makes you an "industry expert". There are even some venues in Boston that actually charge couples an additional fee to use a vendor not on their paid. I should share that I was invited to become a "preferred vendor" for the costs of ~$300 for a listing and over $2500 for a full page ad. That's money I can spend on education or equipment to get better images for my clients!
So here's my advice. If your venue or your planner gives you a
1. What is the criteria for vendors being included on this list?
2. Do they pay you/the publication company a fee to be included on this list?
3. Do you have experience of working with this vendor?
and of course do your usual homework (meet with them, look at online reviews, ask for references) before selecting any vendor.
That's it for my little