Pressure tactics don't always work

Pressure tactics used to stop publication of research seldom work.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

Although a very rare, on occasion I've had suppliers of systems, software or services tell me that they'll sue if I publish an unfavorable analysis of their products or service, unfavorable survey results or unfavorable opinions about their go to market strategies, products or services. I've also seen major suppliers threaten to cancel their subscriptions, stop speaking with analysts and the like.

One supplier of systems and commercial products "fired" me, telling me that they wouldn't speak with me again because I published an opinion, based upon a long series of annual research reports, that indicated that they were likely to be passed by another product showing strong year-over-year growth. Since they continued to speak with one of my staff, I really didn't mind.  In fact, that allowed me to publish ever more pointed things about their product announcements. Had they spoken with me first, I might have understood their product strategy and have treated product deficiencies differently.

A more common approach, thank goodness, is an executive of the company will call and try to pressure the analyst or journalist in the hopes of preventing publication of a post or a report. On several occasions, companies have published their own rebuttal.  The industry, as a whole, seldom takes those rebuttals seriously.

A very gentle, and I think much better, approach is for a company representative to call an analyst or journalist to say something like "it appears that we haven't spoken with you in quite some time, we'd like to bring you up to date on what we're doing now." This, of course, implies, but doesn't come out and actually say, that they think the analyst or journalist is about to publish something that will cause them to embarrass themselves. By using this approach, the company is really saying "we know you wouldn't publish something like that if you knew what our current product, go to market or technology strategy. It also implies that the current opinions, analysis and such are based upon out-of-date information.

In almost all cases, I'm happy to listen to their comments.  If the supplier can show that there are factual errors or improper analysis of those facts, I'll change my opinions.  On some occasions, I've updated previously published materials because I was wrong.

If the company can't dispute the facts and just doesn't like my analysis and opinions, the piece stands. In the end, the analyst, journalist and the editors have final control of what goes out.

I've also seen this combative approach backfire on a company.  Reports in question were rushed to publication because the analyst or journalist became convinced that the supplier was trying to hide something, that the piece had struck a nerve somewhere.

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