Yesterday, I read this blog post from Leland Meitzler. In it he shared how he was notified that his business no longer fits the vendor parameters for RootsTech 2012. It set off a series of distinct thoughts in my head. Here are those thoughts:
RootsTech can choose whoever they want for their vendor hall.
Genealogy is a business and this is their product. We as consumers can speak with our voices and wallets. It doesn't matter if I want books in the vendor hall, it's RootsTech's choice to make. However, the manner in which they made the decision was unfortunate.
Dumping certain vendors 8 weeks before the conference is bad form.
If you read the comments on Leland's post, it sounds like vendors have been waiting for approval from RootsTech / FamilySearch for weeks, yet still moving forth with conference plans (including increasing inventory) in good faith that their applications would be approved just like last year. If RootsTech wants to change directions in terms of vendors, the time to initiate that is the day after RootsTech 2012 ends, in preparation for 2013.
The RootsTech response to this outcry was a total PR disaster.
I held off on commenting yesterday, because I wanted to wait for a RootsTech statement. Hour after hour it never came. Finally, at about midnight Central Time, they released a statement (on Facebook only as far as I can tell) saying they are going to "revisit the issue."
Genealogy vendors, did you learn anything from this experience?
Behold the power of social media. Genealogy businesses need to actively use social media tools and have full control of their brands. This RootsTech issue grew so quickly because Leland used social media to share his experience. Genealogists reacted immediately via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and their own blogs. RootsTech did not respond in a timely manner and they learned a tough lesson: business social media is 24/7/365.
I will see you in Salt Lake City in February, 2012.
Ironically, it was my status as an official RootsTech blogger that pushed me to comment on these latest developments. It is my job to bring my blog readers (the genealogy consumers) news of RootsTech. Whatever happens after RootsTech "revisits the issue," I will still attend the conference and report my experiences and observations, warts and all. I am very excited to go to RootsTech, see my friends and attend tech-centered sessions.
The genealogy playground is changing before our eyes, and we are so lucky to have front-row seats for the show. Let your voice be heard, but don't forget to stop and listen as well.
Update: RootsTech had a change of heart for the 2012 event. See Leland's post for details.