As someone who spends a great deal of time writing and speaking about technology, I am regularly asked by technology companies to write or speak about their products. Over the years, I have established a number of relationships with companies as a result. While I have generally had good relationships with these companies, I am finding more frequently that the relationship between companies and myself with regards to my role as a “technology communicator” is becoming strained. In some cases, the relationships are strained to the proverbial “breaking point”. This is why I have decided to write what follows.
In the spirit of openness and communication, I think it only fair that I write an Open Letter to all the companies that I currently do work with, as well as though that might wish to work with me. I do this in the hope that we can establish better and more positive interactions that benefit each other as well as (and perhaps more importantly) those in the public who both read and listen to my words about your products.
If you are a current or potential “partner” with me and find yourself taking offense in any way by what follows, please take a sincere moment of pause and honestly ask yourself why you feel this way. I hope that my writing may in some way cause you reflect and react in a positive way for yourselves, your other partners in the community and ultimately those in the general public whose acceptance you hope to gain.
I write to you today with regards to your desire to have me write and/or speak about your product(s). I thank you for your consideration in this manner. In order to affect a more positive and effective relationship with your company, I ask that you take a moment to review the following information regarding our current and potential future business relationship into account before we proceed any further in the process.
- Please get to know me before seriously engaging me. I hope that the reason that you have chosen to engage with me is because of my reputation and the belief that I can be an effective partner. If you are considering me as someone to work with you, please perform due diligence in advance of establishing contact. I have always been an “open book” with regards to who I am, what I do and what I can provide to your company. I have always made my life around technology writing and speaking very transparent. Google me. Ask me questions. Ask yourself if I am a “fit” for your goals. Those few minutes of research will prevent yourself from trying to persuade me to look at, work with or review something that simply makes no sense based upon my interests. I expect that you value your time greatly; please respect the fact that I value my time as well.
- Please honor (in legality and sprit) any agreements we undertake. I am often asked to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (“NDAs”) as part of your processes. I have yet to encounter an NDA that does not have some stipulations for the company I am working with. I have and always will treat NDAs with the greatest level of respect; it is something that makes up my “professional integrity”. While you may perceive me as something less, please remember that by requiring a contractual agreement such as an NDA, you are treating me as a business partner. Not only are you legally bound to the contract, your own integrity is at stake in this agreement.
- Please do not expect me to work with you on “blind faith”. I take the greatest pride in being able to communicate with the public based upon real and tangible knowledge based upon first-hand experience. I consider any sentence that includes “trust us” to be an affront to my professionalism. If you cannot explain why something is or provide me with information, do not expect me to accept that and then pass it along as personally-acquired fact. Furthermore – if we are under an NDA and you feel that you still cannot trust me to honor our agreements, I question whether we should have a relationship in the first place. Furthermore, I find such an attitude professionally and personally insulting and fear that it will introduce emotions into my perceptions of your products that would be unfair to you and (more importantly) those who read and listen to my words expecting an unbiased assessment.
- Please do not ask me to speak to something when you will not provide the information I need to speak properly. In relation to item #3, please do not ask me to speak or write about something about your product based solely on your word. I am more than happy to post press releases at my web site, but to ask me to advocate or endorse any product without first having experience with the product is a waste of time. Also – please do not ask me to appear at a product launch with your product without first having access to your product. I take my role as a speaker and writer very seriously; the word “credible” means everything to me. There is other form of communication where credibility is more at stake than when in a face-to-face scenario. I will not put my reputation on the line as “knowledgeable”, an “expert” or anything else without being personally comfortable in knowing that I am speaking from direct knowledge and experience.
- Please refrain from double-standards or “levels of confidentiality” with regards to talking about your product. I respect all legalities surrounding NDAs. I also understand and respect the need for such things as “press embargoes” until specific dates and times. However, please do not put me in a position where others considered as peers are allowed to talk about your product, but not myself. This jeopardizes my relationship with the community-at-large and therefore hurts you as much as me with regards to credibility and effective communication regarding your product. I consider this type of activity to be hypocritical with regards to you as a business partner and will question any further relationship when it happens.
- Please acknowledge my input/feedback regarding your product. I am intelligent enough to understand that I am but one person of many who may be providing input or feedback regarding your product. Please understand that, after years of being a product tester, I only provide such input in the context of making of improving your product (from my perspective). While I do not expect this input or feedback to necessarily be incorporated, I *do* expect that some acknowledgement of your company at least looking at or considering my input. Non-responsiveness to my communication (which involved taking the time and effort to test/research) delivers a message that the effort is not worthwhile and diminishes our relationship.
Also – please do not ask for input for a specific release of your product under the guise that the input could be incorporated into your product when this is not the case in reality. I am intelligent enough to figure out when this is the case (and I do quite regularly) and consider this to be disingenuous at best. Once again, this diminishes my trust in your company. If you would like input on a product release but know it cannot be incorporated into the product before release, simply state that fact. I will respect your honesty and be glad to oblige you in any way that I can.
- Please respect my time. My goal is to always speak to any product or technology based upon real experience. This takes time, often at the expense of other items (personal or professional). Please do not ask me to review or speak to your product in an unreasonable amount of time.
- Please refrain from asking for “editorial review”. I have not and never will sign any legal agreement that allows you to have editorial review of my written or spoken content. I expect that our relationship (both professional and legal) would allow for us to work in an environment where we can work without the need for censorship. I regularly have offered companies the opportunity to read or hear what I will deliver to the community in advance of the delivery itself. I do so with the hope that anything that is truly inaccurate is caught, as well as providing the professional courtesy of a “heads-up”. While I am a partner, I am not an employee. My credibility is based in large part on my ability to speak freely on subjects. As an side – I will never speak negatively of any product issues in public without first communicating with the company responsible for the product. I believe it is my obligation to first address issues like bugs, features or defects with the company to understand if these items have been already identified and, if so, are they being addressed.
In conclusion, please note that I consider all of the items listed above as proper professional courtesy for any successful business relationship of this nature. I have always taken pride in addressing these types of relationships with the greatest amount of professionalism. All I am asking in return is to be treated with that same level of respect. If you feel that our relationship is anything less than a professional one because of the nature of what I do, I kindly ask you to refrain from any future engagement as such a relationship will never be beneficial to either one of us.