Wedding Marketing Propaganda and Disinformation

Update, 1/21/13 – In recent days, and going forward, the Wedding Industry is dealing with public relations black eye, courtesy of ABC’s 20/20. Friday, the show aired a segment called, Wedding Confidential. As well as the series of blog post I’m writing on 20/20, I thought it would be good to share a flashback of this blog, featuring a video from Fox 5 Chicago. It, too, presents a skewed view of ‘saving money for the bride.’ It demonstrates how a single credible interview can do a lot of damage.

Update 1/28/11 – The Assets of Bella Pictures were to CPI, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart and Sears.

wedding marketing propaganda
Pinocchio Syndrome

NEWS ANALYSIS AND OPINION of The Wedding Marketing Blog

This interview starts calmly enough, with Wedding Channel Co-Founder and Bella Pictures Co-Founder and VP of Business Development, Jenny Lefcourt being interviewed by Fox 5 Chicago TV Personality, Jan Jeffcoat.

The segment is purportedly about ‘saving money on your wedding in today’s economy.‘ It quickly devolves into a badly conceived infomercial for Bella Pictures, accompanied by a hodgepodge of mostly bad advice and misinformation about a whole range of choices facing the bride.

Fox’s Jeffcoat overly credits Lefcourt’s association with the Wedding Channel. That is a past incarnation, no longer current at the time of the interview. Lefcourt never corrects her, leaving some uncertainty as to whether she is a neutral expert or representing Bella Pictures.

After this interview aired, the Wedding Channel had to issue a firm disclaimer, stating clearly that Lefcourt was no longer associated with their firm, and they were in no way endorsing her on-air comments.

After a few days and a fair amount of heat from various directions Lefcourt wrote a very soft apology letter (PDF) (Dear Wedding Industry). The retraction is never as helpful as the original sin, however. It is clear (at least to me) that the interview (like most interviews) is prepped with talking-points and planned questions by the show’s producer. That’s common practice, but it does not serve the viewer well, in this instance.

There is nothing spontaneous about the questions or answers. To suddenly have wedding industry professionals believe that, in retrospect, mistakes or misstatements were made accidentally, is pure bunk. It was not until industry forces applied pressure that Lefcourt and Bella took a small step in retreat.

Please view the video two to three times to get the full effect of it. Please share this with every wedding professional you know. It is the worst kind of propaganda and disinformation. Things like this should never go unchallenged.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Former Bella Pictures Photographer Slams Company In His Blog

Bella Pictures photographer,
Not Michael James Slattery

News, Analysis & Opinion from The Wedding Marketing Blog

In the last month, industry ethical and business industry issues have been front and center on The Wedding Marketing Blog. There have have been a number of posts related to Bella Pictures, and its overall business model: changing personnel at the top level of the company, questionable public relations, bad bridal advice, and philosophical differences in its leadership ranks.

Today, former Bella Pictures photographer, Michael James Slattery, launched a blog lambasting the company. Slattery did not just arrive on the scene. He has shot over 500 wedding events for Bella Pictures; first as a contracted freelancer, then as an employee.

The change in his relationship with Bella Pictures begin in April 2008 when George White, co-founder, VP Photography was replaced by Tahra Makinson-Sanders. Suffice it to say, the relationship between Makinson-Sanders and Slattery became frosty, over time, resulting in his termination about a week ago.

Comment: The curious issue for me is how a veteran of 500 wedding events could suddenly become so easily discarded. You’ll find his emails to be both angry and aggressive. His tone reached this level in emails, essentially because he could find no satisfaction in phone calls. It is his belief that he was not getting straight answers or explanations, and. well….. he went off.

Why I’m still interested in this issue:

  • Because I don’t feel we know the entire story, yet.
  • There was an incredible surge in reader interest in these stories.
  • I am always concerned about the welfare of the freelancer or micro-business.
  • New business models are interesting; whether they succeed or fail. The jury is still out.
  • Client satisfaction (or lack thereof).

UPDATE: Slattery’s blog was later shut down, without notice.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Why The Wedding Marketing Authority Is Ready For A Fight

A Special Comment from Andy Ebon, The Wedding Marketing Authority

ready-to-fight.jpgJudging by the page and video views, as well as comments, my most recent post, The Worst Kind Of Wedding Marketing Disinformation and Propaganda – Part 1 has struck a raw nerve in the wedding industry.

The video, shown, was telecast almost one year ago. I held back from bringing a focus to it for several months. The full-fledged retraction from Bella Pictures never developed, as promised to the American Disc jockey Association. This, despite the extremely hard work and follow up of ADJA’s President, Dr. Drax.

What’s worse is that the original interview still resides on the Fox 5 Chicago website. So, the disinformation still is there for the taking by unsuspecting engaged couples. (NOTE: AS of 1/4/11, the video had been taken down).

Weddings and receptions are rarely complete without important contributions from small and micro-businesses. All too often, their important participation is overlooked by larger businesses and minimized the bride herself.

Primarily, I believe this situation exists due to the ‘near impossible’ job for the bride of processing and assimilating an incredible volume of information, and the making hundreds of correct choices.

It’s bad enough that in any industry, one finds inexperienced, unethical and incompetent vendors. However, when alleged professionals intentionally or unintentionally mislead the bride and groom, it sends me over the edge.

Whether the bad information stems from ignorance, or a planned, self-serving agenda, the result is the same. The chance of major failure on the wedding day increases dramatically.

ENOUGH!! I’ve had it with businesses that help create scenarios for failure.

Every bride and groom should have realistic expectations and high quality information to develop a winning formula.

I’m ready or a fight. If you have information on unethical or simply incredibly stupid business conduct, please be in touch. You have a voice, your trade associations have a voice. And i will leverage your voice, too.

Rant over! Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to spread the word.

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority.

Ersatz Awards Do Not Reflect Well On Anyone

I love a good inside joke. The kind where you can have a quiet chuckle because only YOU get it.

My dad, a fulltime freelance writer. would often work on anthologies. Occasionally, he might be one writer short to contribute a chapter. In those cases, he might write that piece under a pen name. A perfectly acceptable practice in the field. My favorite pen name dad used was “Chester Butterworth.” It gives you a visual that “Martin Ebon,” his real name, does not provide. The joke for me was that reviewers or other writers would occasionally quote Butterworth. Very funny stuff.

Having a quiet chuckle is fine. Believing your own B.S., and promoting it, is another thing, entirely.

Recently, there has been growth in the number of phony awards recognition. These ersatz awards don’t pass the smell test. They are fraudulent in multiple ways.

During my 2-year tenure as NACE National Membership VP, we completely transformed the application and judging process for industry awards. The first challenge was to completely renovate the submission process, making certain subjectivity in judging would be minimized. Documentation was defined, clearly. It now takes time and effort to submit for an award, but the end result is fair, even-handed judging, and industry awards that truly mean something.

Sample award format
Sample award format

The other day, I received a solicitation from the selection committee of the U.S. Local Business Association acknowledging me for an award. Part of the verbiage read, as follows:

The USLBA “Best of Local Business” Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USLBA identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

This is unadulterated nonsense. For the price of $80 or $100, I can buy business a plaque touting non-existent achievement, judged by a non-existent selection committee. It’s quite a scam. I’m sure they sell a lot of plaques, though.

The only weaker move would be to actually buy one of these plaques and promote them as reality.  It would be the phoniest of all self-promotion. Yet, I see companies hanging these in their office, and placing plaque images on their websites.

So, I’m calling SHENANIGANS on these companies. If you see a wedding industry business promoting phony award recognition on their website, I’m deputizing you to needle them, directly.

This is bogus and any other similar hype should be called out for what it is: PROPAGANDA.

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Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog