Threatening analysts with canceled business if they don’t change draft research is rarely effective, often backfires

I saw this tweet in response to Best practice for responding to analyst draft research:

Good grief, threatening to cancel business or syndicated research contracts if an analyst does not change their opinion is not a smart approach to “influencing the influencers.” In fact, it may even backfire.

First, it does not make business sense for an analyst at a major firm to change research that displeases a vendor, even one that is a client. If an analyst developed a reputation for being that malleable they would soon have no clients as what they sell in part is objectivity and independence.

Second, often at major firms, analysts are not responsible for contract value so they don’t care if a vendor client cancels. Yes, the sales rep whose year just went down the drain will care, but the analyst just shrugs.

Third, how a threat might backfire is subtle.  It is not likely that analysts would change their opinions or research to be more negative. However, the analyst might not provide the vendor AR team with any flexibility for future deadlines. The vendor’s overall credibility might take a hit: “Hmm, if they are that dumb, what other stupid things are they doing?”

Fourth, even if the threat is only directed at a single analyst, word will get around to other analysts in the firm and outside.

Lastly, some savvy analysts use threats as marketing fodder with end users, press and other vendors. It becomes a badge of honor to brag how the analyst firm lost $1m in business from a vendor because the analyst would not change their commentary.  This reinforces their objectivity in the eyes of the other clients.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Train spokespeople that threatening analysts is counterproductive
  • Work to ensure that review processes and expectations are published to the AR team, executives, and spokespeople

Bottom Line: Resorting to threats when trying to get analysts to change their commentary does not work with major firms because incentives are in place for the analyst to prefer losing business than buckling to pressure. If executives are so angry that AR cannot control them, then AR needs to tactically keep the executives away from the analysts.

Question: Analysts – Have you ever been threatened by vendors over draft research? How did you react?

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6 Responses

  1. This is the same vendor exec mentality that dictates that a firm pull its advertising (or refuses to grant future interviews) after an unfavorable story appears.

    In terms of analyst contracts being cancelled, I’ve certainly heard of threats to do this in the past.

    Can anyone actually, definitively, say they know first-hand of this having happened, at least in recent years?

  2. Gerry, Great point that this is not just limited to AR, but is something that other functions (e.g., PR) has to deal with as well. Human nature.

    What were you referring to by “Can anyone actually, definitively, say they know first-hand of this having happened, at least in recent years?” Were you asking if threats were still being made? Or are you asking whether there are situations where threats worked?

  3. Thanks for retweeting :-)

    I’ll add that the practice is RARE, but I’ve seen it enough. One side effect of knowing the threat exists is self editorializing “oh this is about a client or a potential client, what should I do.”

    Also, though, thought provoking or otherwise good pieces on companies often get them to sign up! We must be careful there, too…

  4. trust me…it happens and in fact I know of one instance of that happening right now. One vendor’s shortsighted actions are other vendor’s gains in terms of opportunity to relationship build.

  5. There are a few analysts out there (mainly in boutique firms) who blatantly favor vendors who pay for their services, and there are some clear recent examples of this. If vendors get this treatment from an analyst firm, then they are entitled to respond accordingly. It’s a quid-pro-quo game, and analysts need to be impartial, just as vendors should expect impartiality. The “pay-for-play” analyst is far worse than the “pay-for-play” vendor marketing exec in my opinion, as the analyst’s entire job integrity is flawed, wheresas the vendor exec is just focusing on good marketing for themselves.

  6. [...] I read a SageCircle post about threatening analysts by cancelling business, which seems like a variety of bullying and [...]

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