When NOT to Pitch Your Vendor As a Source to a Reporter
Updated: Mar 1
Spoiler alert: “When the reporter specifically asks you not to!
Why is this news? Because, despite making it clear when and why I need customers, not vendors, far too many PR pros insist on pitching vendors, consultants or other “thought leaders.”
Why should you, as a PR or marketing professional, care? After all, if even one out of ten reporters accepts your vendor as a source, isn’t the effort worthwhile? I’d argue no, because you’re showing the reporter you don’t know or don’t care about their needs, and thus trashing your credibility for future pitches.
This is a perennial issue, but jumped out in dramatic fashion since I began using Qwoted, an online clearinghouse where reporters can find sources for their stories, and PR pro can find edit opportunities for their clients. Despite what is (for me) a somewhat kludgy interface, it’s actually a useful way to broaden my net for sources for stories.
However, when I posted a request on Qwoted for senior IT or security executives – customers, in other words, for a recent story, 810 out of 19 pitches I received offered up vendors, consultants or others who have something to sell the readership for my story (those selfsame IT or security executives. This is although my request specifically said “Please note I CANNOT quote vendors, consultants or anyone looking to promote a product or service, even indirectly."
Even more maddening, many of the pitches said something to the effect of “I know you said you can’t quote vendors, but MY consultant/entrepreneur/product manager has been in the industry for over 20 years, is the author of five security textbooks and is a recognized industry leader.”
All Very Nice, But It Doesn’t Matter
However experienced, insightful and eloquent the vendor is, their place in the industry disqualifies them.
My story was for a publication that speaks to and for CIOs and other technology executives. Customers, in other words. It was about how these customers make the tough choices about where to spend scarce dollars for their employers. My questions were all about the internal budgeting, prioritization and approval process when businesses are hunkering down for a possible recession.
The job of a consultant or vendor is to develop and sell products and services that meet these needs. By virtue of what a vendor is, then, they do not have the up to date, real-world experience in the trenches that I need to describe for my story.
You can argue a vendor has a wider perspective on industry trends by virtue of talking to many customers about their spending plans. But that’s not the same as owning responsibility for a security budget, and there’s always the danger a vendor is cooking their responses (even unconsciously) to tour their own offerings. For a reporter, it also opens a can of worms in deciding which vendors to quote out of the thousands serving the security space, and defending their choice of vendors after the fact.
Finally, if the reporter submits a story based on quotes from vendors, not customers, the editor will bounce it back to them for more interviews and a rewrite, and be less likely to hand them other assignments.
So What’s a PR Pro To Do?
Ask your vendor clients for customers who can speak to the issues I’m covering in my story, and I’ll give the client a courtesy mention. (“CIO Jill Adams of Gluttonous Enterprises, who uses the Silver Bullet Magic AI proxy server, says her board of directors has become much more involved in security budgets…”)
Yes, finding customers is a huge hassle and you never know whether, or if, their story will reflect well on you. But your client will at least be reflected in whatever glory the customer gets from being quoted online – and get that precious mention on line.