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Why IT managers should learn to love the media

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Every now and then I get a shocking reminder of how spineless some IT managers really are. Some are nothing more than vendor patsies too scared rock the boat for fear of losing ‘face’ with a supplier or experiencing ‘reprisal’ from the board of their own organization – and I’m not joking.

That said, I have come across a number of IT managers who know they are the boss, can fend off sharks better than Valerie Tailor, exercise their right of competition, aggressively drive down TCO, and in doing so give justice to the profession. But let me deal with the chumps.

While attending an unnamed IT vendor’s conference some time back I was wandering the conference floor seeking end-users the way a teenage boy seeks the best-looking girls at a dance party. After finding an IT manager – by sneaking close enough to read his name tag – I introduced myself and told him I was a journalist covering the event and was interested in interviewing end-users to gather some objective opinions on the focal technology.

I think I got about half-way through that sentence when the IT ‘manager’ interrupted me to say that he would like to confirm with the VENDOR to see if it was alright to speak with me. He looked like a little boy running to ask his mother if he was allowed out to play after school – without the enthusiasm.

As any journalist will tell you, that kind of repulsion is only too common so we are used to it, but due to wanting permission from a vendor? If only I received a dollar every time someone said “don’t quote me” to me I’d be well into retirement. Every person has the right – depending on how public their actions are, of course – to decline media exposure but I fail to see the reasoning behind seeking a vendor’s permission to comment in a market where competition thrives.

If you were treated in hospital would you seek the hospital’s permission to partake in an interview with a journalist wanting to report on the level treatment it provides? No. There may be many valid reasons not to talk but caring what the hospital thinks shouldn’t be one.

If the role of an industry (not consumer or tabloid) journalist is to provide the most relevant information to the professionals who read the publication, then writing about what works and what doesn’t is a good place to start.

And what’s the result of generating publicity with your experience? Influence, it’s that simple. Both positive and negative *UNBIASED* publicity about vendors is good for the industry, here’s why.

If you received a poor product or service from a vendor your first reaction might be too contact the vendor directly. Then, if the vendor values your business it will listen to you and work to repair any bad will. If the vendor doesn’t care about your business, or situation, it may choose to ignore you. That’s where we come in.

You now have two options. You can contact the media and go public about your situation. In which case you are much, much more likely to be listed to (and your situation acted upon). Would you be happy if potential customers were put off by a bad appraisal? Or even better, you could find an alternative and THEN spill your guts to the media on why you took that course of action. That way the public will witness not only why a vendor has failed to provide a customer the best possible solution, but also what a viable alternative could be. The term “viable alternative” is key here because, as mentioned, both positive and negative publicity about vendors is useful. Exposing vendor shortcomings warns users while promoting vendor strengths notifies them of alternatives.

While trying to sweet-talk one IT manager into being interviewed about his company’s enterprise software project, the arrogant sod said: “why should we”. We should for all the aforementioned reasons. Yes, end-users do have a vested interest in communicating their IT war stories. It may not be a direct interest like an IT vendor has, but there is most certainly an indirect interest.

I am aware of the fact that company ‘policy’ may dictate that only a blessed few may speak with the media, and anyone else who dares will face a wrath that would make the Queen of Hearts proud. It really be shouldn’t be like that.

If you have any doubts about why you “should” bother with any media exposure, consider how it may well elevate your reputation within the organization from a perceived liability to a company strategist. Even the plebs of the IT department appreciate the value that the media provides but there’s no way they would ever be seen as strategic as an IT manager or CIO who went on the record with their multimillion dollar projects. If you’re worried about what the board might think then why not be proactive and explain the benefits. There’s a good chance boards will see the value in a little publicity for their organization as a whole, and see it as not just a tool for driving IT market competition.

That’s why IT managers should embrace, not shun, the media. I’m certain we’re on your side. Please adore us for that.

Rodney

3 Comments

  1. Rod…you’ve obviously been talking to the wrong IT Managers…actually IT Manager would be a loose term if they were worried about vendor reprisal.

    Often a good way to keep our beloved vendors honest is to have the media in close proximity…as long as the media isn’t in the pocket of the vendor of course!! Something that I believe happens all to often in automotive media reporting…try giving an honest road test appraisal (warts & all) and see if the vendor (manufacturer) invites you to test the product again.

    Come talk to me sometime!

  2. Mark,

    I’m not sure what you mean by “wrong” IT managers. I speak with hundreds of IT managers across all industries and unfortunately some put the vendor’s interests above their own company’s interests. Sad but true.

    Other than that you seem to be in agreement with me.

    Cheers

    Rod

  3. I wonder if its not such a case of them putting the vendor’s interests above their own company’s interests, but one of IT managers without business skills/experience letting personal relationships with vendor reps getting the better of them? I know its only slightly different from what you said, but I suspect that some of them at least aren’t thinking about the vendor as such but the people they deal with.

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