[UPDATE: I’ve posted an Addendum to this Open Letter. After you read this, be sure to check that out, too.]
I love being invited to your technical briefings. I can’t emphasize this enough. They’re awesome. They’re filled with useful and interesting information that I’m more than happy to spend my own personal time writing blog posts about, adding my personal analysis and thoughts. With 30 years’ experience in the IT industry, I think that analysis and those thoughts have some value.
Plus, it means a lot to have you trust me with NDA and/or embargoed information. Again, I can’t emphasize this enough. It makes me feel like you truly consider me a valued partner in your success, and that you respect the value of what I can provide.
However, I’ve noticed a bothersome trend recently. More “influencer briefings” are actually more like advertisements or commercials for products or solutions and less like an actual technical briefing — even though the invitation described it as a technical briefing. Being misled — regardless of whether it was intentional or not — does NOT make me feel like a valued partner.
In addition, there seems to be a trend of what I’ll call “pre-announcements”. This is an announcement of something that isn’t available now, and won’t be for some time. In fact, it won’t be available until so far out that anyone who has the least bit of familiarity with release cycles knows that what you describe now will be different than what is actually released. So much different that hearing about it, and especially writing about it, now is likely not only a waste of my time, but also potentially my reputation as well, since any post I write would be so far off from what actually happens.
Don’t get me wrong — roadmap briefings are a completely different animal. A roadmap is where you’re planning to go and is always presented with the disclaimer that roadmaps often change and that any resemblance between what’s on the roadmap and what actually ends up being released is purely coincidental. Pre-announcements, on the other hand, present a view of the future as if it has already been proven true — even though you and I both know that is not the case.
To summarize that last bit:
- Roadmaps are useful. Your sharing them reinforces our partnership, and gives useful context and background information that allows my writing to be better informed.
- Pre-announcements are useless. They waste your time and mine, and also insult my intelligence.
So what am I actually asking? Two things.
If you intend to have Influencer Marketing be about having independent influencers as partners, then please actually treat me that way. Respect me. Respect my time. Respect the value I can provide. Do those things, and I promise you that you’ll have my respect in return.
If, however, you’re just looking for folks to parrot your message, then please stop calling it Influencer Marketing, and please, leave me out of it. If I’m seen as a corporate parrot, I lose any value I might have as an independent influencer. But, if more marketing people is what you actually want, I’m not in a position to do that for free. Either hire me, or ask me about my hourly or per-job rates.
An aside to the Influence Marketers who are struggling to do this right, but are stuck with what corporate marketing gives you, or are otherwise meeting with internal resistance, I know and understand. If you’d like, I’d be happy to put together a “How to Do Influencer Marketing Right — According to the Influencers You Want in Your Corner” workshop. I promise you that my rates for that would be very reasonable when compared to the value your marketing organization stands to gain from it.
And to those of you who ARE doing things right already, trust me, the influencers notice and appreciate it. We probably even tell you that directly and often.
For the rest of you, until such time as my requests above are met, consider yourselves on notice. If you invite me to briefings where the invitation is misleading and would be a waste of my time, I will find a way to make good use of that time anyway. For example:
- The next time I’m invited to a “technical briefing” that actually turns out to be a pre-announcement (and not a roadmap), I will happily write a blog post on the topic of:
Vendor X Announces Vague Plans to Make Some Sort of an Actual Announcement at Some Unspecified Point in the Future
- The next time I’m invited to a “technical briefing” that actually turns out to be about how an analyst report has validated your product, I will happily write a blog post on the topic of:
Vendor X Pays Analyst Firm Y to Write a Report — In a Surprise Twist, the Report Says Nothing But Good Things About the Product the Analysts Were Paid to Write About
- The next time I’m invited to a “technical briefing” that actually turns out to be an advertisement for your product with no new information of any technical value, I will happily write a blog post on the topic of:
Vendor X Doesn’t Seem to Understand Several Important Concepts Related to Their Own Product Area — Actual Specific Examples Included Within
Vendor Marketers, if you’re still reading at this point, it’s my sincere hope that you’ll take what I have to say here in the spirit in which it is intended. Specifically, I want us to work together in a partnership that provides clear and measurable value to both of us. I really do.
I know it’s possible to read this post and assume that I’m being arrogant. Perhaps I am. It’s hard to be objective about oneself. However, I don’t think I am. I think I’m standing up for what I know will work for me and for you — and, I assume, for other influencers as well.
I realize that some marketing organizations may decide they don’t want to work with me because of this open letter. That saddens me, but I’m willing to accept it. If we can’t build a workable partnership together, there’s no point in wasting both of our time and effort.
I’m hopeful, however, that some marketing organizations will be more interested in working with me because of this open letter. If we’re to work together, I want it to be in a partnership that provides clear value to both you and to me. I’m even hopeful that some marketing organization I’ve never worked with before might choose to work with me because of this open letter and the concepts expressed within.
If any Influencer Marketers (or any influencers) wish to discuss ANY of this in more detail, please contact me. I love this stuff and enjoy discourse about it.
However, for marketers, if you’re looking to have more than just a couple clarifications, or to have a couple quick questions answered (for example, if you want help re-working your Influence Marketing program), we’ll be entering a discussion of either rates or job opportunities.
I welcome any and all thoughts, feedback, and discussion either in the comment section below, or through private channels.
Author and Sole Writer for the GeekFluent Blog
[Don’t forget to follow this up by reading the Addendum to this letter that I wrote. Thanks!]