Since our earliest roundtables, PPI has been a leader in promoting programs to members and others in a marketing-free environment. Today, we incorporate this as a key feature in the description of PPI Programs on our website and brochure: "The Pacific Pension & Investment Institute (PPI) has held forums for over two decades that inform the investment decisions of the world’s major institutional investors as they relate to Asia, the Pacific Rim, and the world. These forums, exclusively for members, are conducted in a collegial, trusted and marketing-free environment, which allows in-depth and off-the-record dialogue. This tradition of thought leadership and candid conversation are coveted aspects of the PPI experience."
Through a survey of PPI members in early 2015, our branding consultants found that:
The No Marketing Policy and Chatham House Rule for programs are highly valued by all members and are cited as top differentiators from other competing organizations or events.
Marketing outside of PPI programs should be more clearly defined for all members.
Newer asset manager and advisor members would benefit from a more clarified No Marketing Policy and/or a more solid understanding of the PPI culture.
In recent years, PPI management has taken steps to preserve PPI’s traditions and to enforce the current No Marketing Policy:
PPI works hard to create an environment that is conducive to learning. For many members, our learning environment is a key reason for choosing to attend a PPI program over another event. It is critically important for PPI to maintain the practices that encourage openness and a deeper sharing of information and experiences: Participation in our programs is by invitation only. We cap the number of attendees. We require all participants to observe the Chatham House Rule and our strict No Marketing Policy.
There are many ways one might market financial products and services, from subtle to overt. Any list of prohibited marketing behaviors would be incomplete. Simply put, if a participant reports that his/her experience of the program was diminished by the marketing behavior of another participant, PPI will act swiftly to ban the offending individual from the remainder of the program, and the individual will not be invited to future PPI programs.
In order to register for a PPI program, each registrant is required to check a box to affirm that they are aware of our zero-tolerance stance with regard to marketing behavior. In addition, the co-chairs of the program remind the audience of the No Marketing Policy at the start of the program, and the policy also appears in the program materials.
If you are an attendee of a PPI program and another participant’s marketing behavior is distracting you from a full experience of the program, we invite you to remind the offending participant of the No Marketing Policy. If the problem persists, please notify anyone on the PPI management team, who will then inform PPI’s president for swift action.
We have learned from some members that the policy's lack of specificity is troublesome. "Any list of prohibited marketing behaviors would be incomplete" does not define undesirable marketing activity. This article attempts to shed some light on the policy, with the purpose being not to end the conversation with a definitive list of undesirable marketing behaviors but to open a member-wide conversation on creating an environment that members look forward to and are proud to co-create.
While the number of complaints we receive is very low—perhaps one or two per year—the most frequent complaints we receive involve individuals who seemingly missed the message about no marketing. They missed it in the registration process. They missed it in the pre-program emails. They missed it in the PPI App. They missed it in the announcement from the co-chairs. So other attendees complained:
"He was obviously just going around collecting business cards."
"He rudely cut right into my conversation with another participant to introduce himself and give me his card."
"She was blatantly trying to talk to me about their products, as if she were not even aware of the No Marketing Policy."
Marketing is defined as the promoting and selling of products or services, including market research and advertising. For PPI members, like every other business professional, talking about business interests and goals, or the industry in general, is everyday conversation. The line between this everyday conversation and marketing can be blurry.
PPI is different from other industry conferences. At most other conferences, there is often a networking frenzy in the hallways during the breaks. PPI programs are about the content and the connection. We are all-in on networking in ways that are consistent with PPI's culture. PPI members make deals with one another all the time...outside of the program. Our best recommendation for avoiding breaches of the No Marketing Policy is to initiate your conversations with thoughts or questions related to the program topics and speakers. Lead with your curiosity about the other participants' perspectives, and genuinely get to know the other attendees as your peers and fellow learners. Forming good relationships during the program increases the likelihood of reconnecting outside of PPI's programs.
Our No Marketing Policy applies to everyone in attendance. Even longtime members cross the line and slip into marketing mode. Best practice is to be aware of your marketing agenda and hold it until after the program.
Please take the Is It Marketing? quiz. We have created some scenarios and ask, Could this be perceived as a breach of the No Marketing Policy? Again, these examples will not define a complete set of undesirable marketing behaviors, but we hope they will invite deeper thinking about the No Marketing Policy and inspire conversations about it among PPI members, board, and management team.