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By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
Buried in the fourth paragraph of a four-paragraph press release today, news that the RV Industry Association (RVIA) has cancelled its planned RVX: The Experience events scheduled for 2020 and 2021 shows what happens when even big organizations succumb to “groupthink.”
According to Psychology Today, in a groupthink situation, group members refrain from expressing doubts and judgments or disagreeing with the consensus in the interest of making a decision
If anything, RVIA is well known for two things:
- Talking about critical issues over and over and over again without taking formal action to resolve them.
- Diligently working to preserve “unity” within the industry, even if means ignoring the elephants, rhinoceroses and gorillas in the room.
RVX was a good event. It was a nice opportunity for industry professionals to connect with each other to maintain relationships, forge new partnerships and see what others were doing that was new and exciting.
However, I have personally talked with people who did everything but set up a tent to “occupy” the RVIA office in order to get their voices heard regarding some of the fallacies associated with the RVX event.
How many people told the RVIA staff that it was sheer idiocy to schedule a major trade show during the height of RV dealers’ spring shows? But, the “experts” knew the industry needed a “kickoff to the camping season.”
How many people told the staff that traveling to Salt Lake City in winter was a bad idea?
It took me two days to get out of Salt Lake City after a big snowstorm in Denver forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights that had cascading impact on airline schedules across the nation.
Still, the Salt Palace Convention Center is where the Outdoor Industry Association — which at one time employed both the RVIA president and vice president of meetings and shows — hosted its annual Outdoor Retailer show in SUMMER.
Did anyone stop to ask why people would board a plane to fly across the country to attend an event that was being livestreamed to the computer they carry in their pockets?
But livestreaming is hip and cool. Using that technology shows how “woke” the association really is.
Who was the show’s primary constituency? The exhibitors foolishly assumed the event was designed to attract the attention of people who build or sell recreation vehicles and component products.
In reality, the show was designed to bring in scads of bloggers, YouTubers, social media stars, and traditional reporters. The whole idea behind RVX: The Experience was the EXPERIENCE. The event was all about creating a buzz, not selling products.
It’s obvious that it was always more about creating a showcase event for the industry than it was about actually helping the industry. Did RVIA feel it needed to be like all the other industries with big trade associations and elaborate showcase events?
Personally, I rather enjoyed the intimacy that RVX offered. Everyone was located within an easy walking area, not scattered through 1.25 miles of horse barns, arenas and hallways like it was in Louisville.
I was unsure how successful it would be to have supplier displays sprinkled around the show floor along with manufacturing displays, but it turned out well and exhibitors indicated they enjoyed good traffic from among the people who did show up. They reported making quality contacts in the process.
Yet, RVX was the poorest attended good intention the RV industry every produced. RVX also exposed another flaw in the way RVIA conducts business.
The company hires exceptionally talented professionals and pays them above average salaries to do their jobs. But, then, the organization spends a small fortune every year hiring a bevy of “consultants” to plan and carry out the work.
There were at least four public relations and advertising agencies involved in promoting RVX, and there were still more journalists and bloggers in attendance than there were RV dealers.
Duh! Who do public relations consultants hang out with most? It’s the journalists and bloggers for whom they are trying to entice to carry a specific message.
It just goes to prove that regardless of how much money PR firms will bill an organization for lipstick, shoes and fashion accessories, it doesn’t make a pig look any better.
In fact, one could argue that all the consultants, experts, public relations firms, and advertising agencies employed by RVIA could be represented by the image of piglets feeding off its mother. Only the “mother” represents the hundreds of firms that pour money into funding RVIA each year.
For an industry association, it would be practical if the group listened more to its members and people involved in the industry itself and less to the outside “visionaries” hired to tell the industry what it should do.
In fact, it would be a really smart idea to intentionally replace a few bobbleheads within the RVIA organization with some genuine disruptors who make the organization and its staff feel a bit uncomfortable.
Moving RVIA out of its comfort zone is the only way change will ever take place.
Yes, there is a price associated with change. It probably means fewer kum-bah-ya and back-slapping moments of unity, but RVIA will be in a better position long term to lead the industry without requiring the help of outside “experts.”