I‘m pleased to have published the Palolo Festival website today. I think that it’s a great idea, one that has been just waiting to happen for yonks.
However as I mentioned in a previous post, it wasn’t my idea. I just had the “balls” to do it and the brains to make it happen in a way that will be sustainable, hopefully touching many lives as it develops and grows over the years ahead.
I’ve done with the Palolo Festival what I did with another slightly similar idea years ago, Light Party, a Halloween alternative. I’m not short on ideas, but today I’ve used someone else’s idea, then developed it into something I think is really good.
Over a decade ago I met a lady who had what I thought was a really great idea. I worked with Wendy Reid to take her idea and “make it happen”. I developed a website and established a system whereby organisations the world over could participate in something bigger than themselves. Primarily churches, our members will use the Light Party logo, conduct their event on the night of Halloween and liaise with each other as it suits them – helping newbies, comparing notes and sharing resources.
It has done well in New Zealand, but in the UK it has grown enormously and I consider it to be a real success story with many hundreds of events, who knows, probably guessing now touching on well over 100,000 people around the world in various ways.
The point for me of all this is not that I was clever enough to think of the original idea, but that I had the smarts to recognise the potential of Wendy’s idea and the “balls” to run with it, developing it into something sustainable that has given everybody a win-win.
With the Palolo Festival, I’ve structured a simple idea into a hopefully, sustainable, people-powered Festival that will do the same as Light Party – over time, grow into something worthy of our efforts!
It’s a long story, but I have taken the PM’s words:
“I’ve always wondered why nobody has done anything [around the Palolo rising]. It’s a unique Samoan event”
and developed it into a people-powered festival that will span 5 weeks in October to November. This is Samoa’s fringe tourism season.
We invite people who want to run an event to list on the website – free if it is a non-commercial or no-charge event or for a small fee to us if it is a commercial event. Then we invite everyone to join in the fun, so-to-speak.
I expect our people to make good use of Social Media to get others involved. I will help as I can, and will probably try to get out and about to enjoy parts of the Festival myself, but my primary work is done – conceptualising, structuring the business and then spearheading the work. I will of course encourage others to get involved and I will help in whatever way I can from the sidelines.
Using the Internet and letting people do what people want to do (using your brand and systems) is the modern way. I call this “web thought leadership” – being a leader in a particular space online – and I’ve been teaching this since 2009. Google did it most spectacularly first, and others have followed. A people-powered internet-based business is fundamentally different to a traditional “top-down” pyramid business structure. Whereas a corporate or government or any organisation usually has a head, and others underneath, good businesses nowadays are better built around a brand and a system. A Brand & System business (like Google, Facebook and Groupon) is totally different to an Own & Control business (like Panasonic, Pepsi, Red Cross or any government agency you might choose).
Essentially any government department just takes money from the people (by way of taxes and in STA’s case from the commission on products they sell) and then redistributes that to themselves to do what they have to do – for their staff, international travel to trade shows, TV and print advertising and so on. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but the idea of taking money from people who basically don’t have it and giving it to bureaucrats doesn’t grab me as particularly creative or indeed likely to be very effective. In the case of STA, I know more about their operation than many do. I’d love to be proved wrong, but until I see measured tangible results of the millions of dollars of marketing expenditure from the STA, I’ll keep to my current opinion – it’s grossly inefficient and the people of Samoa are being hoodwinked.
I was watching some of the Teuila Festival on TV last night (it’s nice to have power now!) – and cringed badly when I heard the words from one of the MC’s encouraging everyone to “stay in Apia” for the next week so that they don’t miss the festival. OMG, the country is hurting badly and itching to share itself with visitors and they want the few people there* to stay in Apia to watch just a stage for a week? “Push the visitors out into the countryside, the villages, the resorts, bush and beaches because that is what THEY want, for goodness sake!” is what I said to the only guy within earshot!
So if the structure of the Tourism Authority operation is naturally to Own & Control, I’ve set up the Palolo Festival to Brand & Influence. On the PF website we put it like this:
There is no “one big event” in the Palolo Festival. There are no expensive “big ticket names” unless of course they come incognito! There is no marketing budget; no marketing department; no bureaucracy, no government funding nor any “Authority” to authorise, manage or control others how they deem best. There are no limits to Festival events – from one year to the next there may be just a handful or maybe dozens of events. No one “owns” the Palolo Festival, nor is there just one promoter who tries to sell a gazillion tickets and make heaps of profit (that is usually taken offshore).
No . . . the Palolo Festival is a truly “people powered” festival with individual people in Samoa all doing what they want to do for their guests. Thus attendees at each event can enjoy true local Samoan hospitality at its absolute natural best!
Big words and big dreams maybe, but the potential does exist for one idea to take hold and grow well, if people like it and want what is on offer. This is basic business. The lovely thing for me with a structure like this is that failure simply cannot be an option, because the future is open. If we set a goal and say that we want x number of people or x number of events this year, or even next year, then we may fail or succeed. The way things are set up here however, is that the instant we have an event, we have a success. The instant we have one person at that event and that one person gets value for money, we have another success. Things will surely only grow from there.
In 2006, when I set up the Web Developers Association of New Zealand, I was counselled many times – “You’ll never be able to do it”, “It will be impossible to get web developers to agree or work together!” and “It will be like herding cats – better you than me!” It was quite challenging dealing with the negativity, I can tall you!
Well . . . we did it. It certainly wasn’t easy, but the day that we launched, we had a success. Our brand was out there and (just like you can get cats to stop fighting and cooperate when it is time for food) people actually joined once we were under way and we had “fun”. The ones who came got value from being members and attending events. Sure, there were heaps of others who sat on the sidelines but our business existed and gave a service. A success in many regards from day one.
The same thing is happening with the Palolo Festival. We already have two events confirmed as we’ve taken the website live. Our first ever Palolo Festival hosts are Pelasio & Onosai Tapusoa from Safotu who now run their Village Stay under the Savaii’s Secret brand. He is a Joint Venture Village Stay partner who was the man who “started it all”. The other one is a friend who loves to sing with his guitar.
I am certain that these people have no idea what they have probably started, but Praise The Lord if things go well for them. Their faith might be rewarded! If there’s more people that join in the fun this year then I’ll be delighted, but this is now up to others to get active, and as I say elsewhere I want people to “engage”. It’s certainly not all about me.
Just as long as Pelasio and the second event has at least someone show up and enjoy it, and they all get value for money, then my efforts will have been worth it. I’m just the one who has set up the programme and of course like the referee in a rugby game I am certainly the one to call:
“. . . touch, pause, engage!”
So, the Palolo Festival is now all “go!”
Power to the people . . .
Now why didn’t I think of that phrase?
Thanks for stopping by again, it’s been good sharing with you.
P.S. Please make sure that you slip the Palolo Festival link (www.palolofestival.com) out to your mates and friends. Thanks!
* “The few people there” . . . One of our Ambassadors was at the Teuila Festival opening ceremony. On returning to SWAP HQ, he chatted about the event. “How many Palagi [tourists] were there?” I asked. “Oh quite a few!” he said. “Oh cool!” I replied. “How many is that?” “Oh about 20!” was his reply! I cracked up and we laughed together about what he had just said. The next night after he attended another Teuila Festival event he was clearly delighted to be able to answer the question more positively this time. “Oh there were a lot more people there today!” he said. “Oh cool!” I replied again. “How many is that?” “Oh about 15!” I coughed and laughed at him because to me that was LESS then the day before. “But … but … but they were different Palagi this time!” he said. English is his second language and we burst out laughing again at the whole thing. The next day he attended the Village Cricket contest and the number of Palagi was down to “Ah, maybe six?” Oh dear! But it got worse. Today was “Surely there were more Palagi there today?” I prompted. “Ah . . . no. I think I was the only Palagi at the markets today!” Oops!
The point here is not that I do not approve of the Teuila Festival – I do. I always have. I think if people want to do something like this then good on them! It’s all great for Samoa, but as I mentioned last year, no matter how much spin you put on it, the Teuila Festival is just not an event for tourists, and it never will be. Please let’s be honest about it – it’s an event by Samoans for Samoans.