The Beef With Trusted Herd (Part 6)

Trusted Herd came on the scene in January 2017 with the promise of “event industry transparency” and for quite a while they delivered. Workers having the ability to rate agencies and vice versa allowed the industry to stay competitive on all sides, from pay and additional benefits to having consistent, professional staff that deliver the best experience for the client. It is the reason that the company was able to take off the way that it did because this was something that everyone who has ever worked an event realized was necessary.

But slowly, TH started to pull a bait and switch in the industry that has major repercussions for everyone. While they may have started with good intentions, the business moves have been more “good vibes only” as time has gone on, with much of the criticisms of TH's feature changes being either ignored or outright deleted. As a result, while many have credible concerns about the platform and the way that it is run, founder Brian A. Fox uses his connections within the industry to keep those from surfacing and avoid any accountability. This has major ripple effect in the industry in a number of ways:

  1. Agencies. The platform being tailored to agencies may have to do with Fox’s experience as the owner of Xocial Marketing. Many of the first agencies to sign on to TH's Premium membership had no option but to retain the old platforms they had been using in conjunction with TH. But many of those agencies that signed up in the early stages were looking for vetted industry professionals. Yet as more and more professionals sent those just starting out in the live events industry to TH's platform and then TH adding the 240+ BA of FB groups with over 700'000 members, the number of applicants started to outweigh the number of available positions. Agencies also started having more issues with the BAs from the platform, whether it was no call, no show (which might be possibly be dead internet theory at work) or people that were just looking to make some quick money but not understanding how the process works. This caused agencies to lose clients and started affecting their bottom line. Agencies started circumventing TH's platform in order to ensure quality and many started leaving the platform after being able to build a personal database with fake job postings. As a result of that, TH started working towards features that were more agency friendly in order to keep the agencies on the platform at the expense of the worker.
  2. Workers. As a result of agencies having to find creative ways to ensure that they were hiring actual people to keep clients happy, those working events suddenly found themselves in competition for rates that were either stagnant or actively decreasing. As some of the applications on the platform started getting longer and agencies started going around TH in order to build their own databases, people stopped using the app to book jobs. This results in TH running continuous ad campaigns in major markets on Craigslist and then making those that wanted to join the BA of FB groups sign up on the site first. Despite having to pay for the ad campaigns in those markets, the moderators of TH are volunteers that do not receive any compensation. They are also members of BA advocacy sites, which is how the “Blacklist” myth started to become a reality. This causes people to stop speaking out against Trusted Herd for fear that agency owners would see it and refuse to hire them, therefore losing their livelihood.
  3. Safety. Very few agencies run a background check on their workers prior to hiring them and the ones that do only do it because they want to protect THEIR assets. It can also be extremely hard to research certain staffing and marketing agencies to determine if they are truly legit and safe. Staffing agencies have been used as business fronts for everything from sex trafficking to money laundering and because of the ambiguity of the industry, there is no clear way to investigate it. Trusted Herd, while choosing to centralize itself within the industry, has actively shut down any and all attempts to bring attention to the number of safety concerns on their platform. Despite being the lead reputation site, there are absolutely no resources available through Trusted Herd about how they ensure the agency posting jobs on their platform is legit.
  4. Clients. Agencies had to go from looking for the best event professional to successfully execute an activation to just needing a person on site all day to maintain contract numbers. As much as everyone wants to believe that working events is “easy money”, the reality of the skills that it takes to get to “easy” can be mindboggling. There is no training or courses on how to obtain these skills as traditionally it has always been about gaining the skills through experience. But with less and less workers coming from TH have real experience in working events, clients are becoming more and more dissatisfied with the results of their activations. This gets amplified post-pandemic, when many people that are laid off turning to working independent contractor gigs to make ends meet. Brands began to reduce their marketing budgets and started looking at ways to still deliver experiential with less on site support but a heavier emphasis on social media.
  5. Social media. COVID-19 changed the way that the world interacted with social media. Suddenly the term “brand ambassador”, which was already a somewhat broad term that a few companies conflated with “salesperson”, began to become synonymous with “social media influencer”. A person's social media presence started to become much more important than the actual skills of the person for the sake of publicity and numbers. But it also meant that agencies started using social media to determine whether or not a worker would be a “problem”, with those who chose to use their platform to highlight any injustices finding themselves suddenly not able to be hired by agencies they had worked with in the past. This has led to people not using their platforms to speak out for fear of losing money. But it also means that bad practices and bad behaviors are allowed to persist without being exposed.

 

The Trusted Herd of today is far from the ideal that it was heralded to be in the beginning. Yet, TH is built upon a premise that is too big to fail. How could that contribute to the downfall of the company?

Read the conclusion of series: The Beef With Trusted Herd (Part 7).

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