I post from time to time about stupid PR tricks, but last night I had an experience that was a whole different level of appalling, for reasons of ethics and general incompetence alike. Within hours, the vendor’s CEO had emailed me that the offending PR person would be terminated this morning.*
*By the way, that means an intriguing New England startup needs a new PR firm. By tomorrow it should be obvious who I mean.
It started as an ordinary kind of bad pitch. The PR rep emailed offering a briefing with a mystery company. I immediately deduced that the company was one I was in fact set up to talk with today, and had indeed been writing about since 2009. Besides being annoyed that I’d had to scramble to set up my own last-moment briefing with a company I’d led the way in writing about, I also bristled at the fact that the pitch included quotes from a couple of my competitors, whom I shall unimaginatively refer to as Dave and Merv.* So far, no big deal.
*Both personally and professionally, they’re two of my favorites. Even so, I dislike being told that I should use them as authority figures to be copied in my own view formation.
But then it occurred to me that those quotes probably weren’t approved, but instead were just lifted in an unauthorized manner from conversations, and indeed probably didn’t reflect the analysts’ precise views. So I messaged Dave and Merv. Shortly thereafter, the PR rep emailed me:
Neither David or Merv have authorized the quote for publication. It was sent in error to you, as I had believed you had agreed to the sharing of confidential information.
The bulk of my response to that — and the essence of this post — was: Read more
For the second straight post, I’m mixing the general and the personal. Sorry!
I jumped into an #ARchat on Twitter Tuesday, and set off a discussion about the subject of analyst quotes in press releases. Since that chat has been blogged, starting with a partly accurate* paraphrase of my views, I figure I may as well state those myself. Read more
This was and is meant to be a generally-applicable post. It just turns out to be laced with examples from my own experiences. I hope those aren’t too distracting from the broader points.
It is widely believed among analyst relations professionals that one should engage the services of the analysts most influential in one’s industry, in the hope that the analysts one pays will speak well of one’s company, publicly or privately as the case may be. Thus, the best way for an analyst to make money is:
- Become influential in the industry s/he covers.
- Say nice things about the companies in it, especially the ones with larger budgets.
It’s been quite a weekend for discussion of analysts and ethics. A few more thoughts:
1. The terms “ethics” and “ethical” are used somewhat inconsistently, along a spectrum from:
There are procedural rules of good behavior, and if you violate them that’s bad. That’s the essence of ethics.
Unless the motive was impure, an act was not unethical.
Either extreme, in my opinion, quickly leads to nonsense.
2. Actually, I think calling that a spectrum is a bit misleading. I’d prefer to say an act is unethical if:
- It is (too) likely to have bad effect AND
- The perpetrator was guilty of bad behavior in not acting differently.
Thus, somebody can make an error in the area of ethics and still be fully ethical if, upon realizing it, they straightforwardly correct it. On the other hand, a pattern of such “errors” can suffice to convict them of unethical behavior.
3. In particular, I stand by the following views from the post and comment thread that set this all off:
- Oracle behaves unethically by repeatedly foisting off sponsored analyst content as independent research.
- Merv Adrian is a fine, ethical guy.
- One reason I believe Merv is an ethical guy is because when I pointed out a screw-up to him, he characterized it as an oversight (I believe him) and said he’d move quickly to correct it.
- Commenters in that thread who suggested I shouldn’t even have mentioned Merv’s error were out of line. When you make an innocent mistake, you may suffer some embarrassment as a result.
4. Merv’s analysis of white paper ethical issues was excellent, and supersedes mine. Continuing the oneupsmanship , I’ll now try to synthesize by saying: Read more
|Categories: Analyst relations, Ethics, Marketing communications, Oracle, Technology marketing||3 Comments|
In a recent post, I made certain assumptions about what is or isn’t ethical in vendor-sponsored analyst research. I’d already discussed the triggering incident briefly (i.e., in Twitter direct messages and the like) with a couple of analysts I respect, namely Merv Adrian (the one most directly involved) and Ray Wang. It’s safe to say we’re in at least rough agreement.
However, a couple of comments on that post took me strongly to task. Perhaps not coincidentally, one came from a vendor, and another from somebody whose main role in the “analyst” community is to produce and publish – you guessed it! – vendor-sponsored content. One option was to just blow those comments off as nonsensical, since they weren’t really responsive to the actual post. But I think those rather surprising remarks also suggest it is time to reopen the subject of vendor-sponsored analyst research.
Vendors typically pay for white papers, webinars, podcasts, in-person speeches, etc. for some combination of five reasons:
- They want to connect with sales prospects. If Merv or Claudia Imhoff or I speak on a webinar, registration will be higher than if only company execs spoke. Similarly, you can capture more registration information from prospects who want to download a white paper if it was written by a third-party analyst.
- They want general endorsement from the analyst. If a well-regarded analyst is associated with a firm, that’s good for the firm’s image.
- They specifically want endorsement from the analyst for their marketing claims. Many of the ethical challenges with vendor-sponsored research or other content lie in this area.
- They want the analyst to do a better job of explaining something than they think they could do themselves. This is the ethically purer version of the prior point. Realistically, they often can’t be separated. E.g., most vendor-sponsored white papers will involve a combination of the two. The same could be said for webinars such as the ones I did for Aster Data last year.
- They want to give the analyst some money to enhance the relationship, and this way they get something other than advice in return. Personally, I won’t do content-creation business with a vendor unless they first buy actual consulting services (via the Monash Advantage), but I’m in the minority, and in fact didn’t always have that policy myself.