Kudos again to HfS’s Phil Fersht for surfacing the details and numbers behind the Forbes BrandVoice scheme in a recent post on his blog and how SAP, Oracle and others are influencing an audience with the Forbes brand without disclosing the fact that they’re paying for the opportunity. I agree with Phil, and I’m disappointed by the fact that “while less credible or renowned brands (or some lower-tier analysts) might be pressured to take vendor handouts for rose-tinted articles, you expect more from a world famous brand like Forbes.”
But what’s the solution you ask? If you’re a technology vendor that wants exposure at the highest levels with the most details, it’s about providing reporters and analysts with unprecedented access to customers and products. For example, one vendor in the procurement sector is about to allow us to shadow an implementation at one of the world’s largest companies, documenting a deployment and usage experience.
As part of this effort, we’re enabling the provider in question and the company to sign off on disclosures they don’t want to make it into the public eye. We don’t have an issue with this since we’re getting a level of access we would usually not get and the provider is not paying for the coverage (something else we don’t allow under any circumstance). But the end result (provided we’re allowed to publish as much of the details as possible) promises to be a truly useful and detailed set of posts. By way of reference, check out a recent series we did on Walmart in Africa to see what’s possible when companies and journalists/analysts/bloggers align (click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4).
And as for guest contributions, we welcome them without accepting payment for them. This requires work on behalf of the provider. None of this is easy, as it requires thought and deep consideration at higher levels than most PR organizations are willing to do – not to mention aligning with the right set of media, analyst and writing partners and personalities.
Yet as Phil concludes with Forbes BrandVoice, “it’s almost as if the vendors want to cut corners these days and simply buy opinion – and even write it themselves, and some of these media platforms are (apparently) giving up the ghost on quality reporting and journalism.” Fortunately, at least we have daylight in the form of new blogs and research services like HfS to expose the practices of old media voices that have become co-enablers of a pay-for-play journalism that places the emphasis on the reader to see through the advertorials.