Bullying Your Message Never Works

I love covering technology. I love meeting new people. I love learning new things. So for me it has been an amazing ride to cover the M2M or what many are calling the IoT (Internet of Things) market. With all this emerging technology, it is changing the world of journalism. In some cases it has been for the better and in others not so much. What many people today consider to be news is purely what they hear on talk shows or have read social media. Opinions generated on these shows or in social media are thought of as “news” when in fact they are just opinion.

The lines of what is opinion and what is news or “real reporting” have been heavily blurred. What’s more, the way the message is presented is being manipulated by those powerful enough to do so. Controlling the message has been a big part of what politicians and businesses do. These companies have a real desire to come across in a very favorable light. But, this is where the rubber meets the road. Many of these corporate giants have a hard time understanding there is no reason why respectful questioning of the comments they make can’t be undertaken. That’s the job of any good journalist. We question things. We dig deeper into the statements made and we challenge the status quo.

We look at different angles to find out more information to get to the truth. However, it’s that questioning of what’s said that seems to be getting some technology firms all riled up. A perfect example is politicians and athletes. They certainly do not take too kindly to reporters who publish negative comments, and in most cases, they attempt to bar these reporters from further interviews, regardless of how true those statements may be.

Being objective and respectful are the traits any good reporter should possess. Personally, I take pride and due diligence and in all the content I produce prior to publication. So, it came as a shock to me once again that an editorial I wrote would cause a carrier to get all lathered up. This carrier was fired up about a recent editorial I wrote in our April/May edition of Connected World regarding the connected car and its efforts involving 4G.

In it, I had questions about its role and motivations behind what it was doing. I pointed out specific things the company has done which created curiosity on my part about what was going on. As a journalist, curiosity is the fuel that inspires our dogged desire to uncover truths to questions needing answers. This is the industry I write about and cover with a tremendous passion.

I pride myself on learning something about this field every day. And I like to think I’ve studied it enough to be somewhat of an expert on the subjects I report. I can hold conversations with everyone in the industry from analysts, to innovators, to CEOs. And in fact, it’s like I am watching a Shakespearean play. Some of the carriers’ partners fear that if they don’t act accordingly they too will be shunned and won’t get the deals they need to keep their business going. While I never publish the rumors or gossip, I hear it all. People call me on a daily basis. As they say, companies “talk.” Ironically, it’s not my job to publish the hearsay. As a respected journalist, I only care about putting out well researched and informative pieces. That is why I immerse myself in reading up on the field, studying trends, and talking to lots of people.

It’s about gaining more insight and knowledge to do my job well. I am very tenuous about wanting to get to the bottom of every story and I give every company a chance to answer my questions. Whether they choose to do that is up to them. So, you could imagine my surprise when I received word from this powerhouse that a request my radio producer made to have a particular guest on the program was being rejected.

The rejection read, “Chip, we are still evaluating our participation given the recent editorial about AT&T in the print issue. I understand if you need to move ahead with other guests in the meantime. Thanks.” I could read between the lines.

The show wasn’t being rejected because of a scheduling conflict. Rather, I was rejected because this network provider took offense to my editorial.

After the article appeared and Chip received the email, I received a call from AT&T’s PR person asking me to explain myself. Much like I am doing in this blog, I explained to him I wasn’t trying to pick on any vendor. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am not about attacking people for the sake of attacking them. I question actions and behaviors because I am trying to seek out the truth. As I stated earlier I had questions and I was raising them. This behemoth’s PR person scolded me as if I was 10-years-old. He insisted he would get me whatever I needed in the future emphasizing management was very disappointed and essentially let me know in no uncertain terms that I need to get my act together or his company wasn’t going to work with us anymore.

Let’s be clear, disagreeing with me is fine…that’s what happens when people express an opinion. But to have an attitude of “I’m taking my ball and going home” seems a bit over the top. In this case, we have a large imposing vendor taking the posture that someone from their own company would not be a guest on the program was a bit childish, considering all I was doing was recognizing one of its own executives who had been named a Women of M2M and then to imply they wouldn’t work with me.

We have written pieces that have complimented this carrier on a job well done, and have honored people within its company. However, even the best of companies may do something that makes you scratch your head from time to time. And that’s when you have to ask certain questions.

When I hung up I knew I was being patronized. And as the saying goes actions speak louder than words. Our radio segment was scheduled earlier this week and AT&T never delivered their executive as promised. So I guess you could say AT&T evaluated the editorial opportunity and still didn’t want to work with us. So at the end of the day actions speak volumes.

So this vendor’s actions caused me to question how often do large corporations bully the media to get what they want? I pulled out an issue dating back to 2005. And one of our readers was quoted as saying, “They (the carriers) are today, and continue to be an obstruction to (the) M2M market…” How ironic that was published almost 10 years ago.

Businesses, especially large ones, are always on the lookout for the next big thing. They want that leg up on the competition and create significant revenue for the company and shareholders. That’s what business is. We understand it. They are in it to make money…there is no secret to that. However, for some companies, it’s all about controlling the message and, unfortunately, some news outlets and publications fall prey to it and don’t question things as they should.

Whether it’s out of fear of not being able to have access to certain people, I don’t know. But, what I do know is that I’m doing a disservice to my readers when I don’t look at things with a more critical eye.

Sure, I could become a mouthpiece for whoever wants to come in and give me money. I could just rewrite press releases all day and make companies happy. However, I wouldn’t be doing my job the way it needs to be done.

And as readers of the magazine I think you would be able to tell if I wasn’t being straightforward. And you know what you would be getting: the message only AT&T wants you to hear, be it good or bad.

So I would rather work to continue to provide you with the best information and commentary in the industry. I pride myself on doing my due diligence when writing an article, blog, or editorial. Along the way, some people might not like what’s written.

For the record, AT&T is not alone is wanting to take its bat and ball and go home. We have had GM, Vodafone, Tridium, and the list goes on telling me they will not work with me or my team if I don’t “quote” fall into line.

Maybe they should be less focused on threatening hard-working journalists and put more effort into working with us. In the end, perhaps they will respect the way my team and I go about doing our jobs and reporting the facts the way you need them.

Unless customers tell these companies this isn’t what you want they will continue to bully anyone they want, including media companies like mine. With your help maybe we can help them open their eyes that no one wins when they act like school yard bullies. Help corporate America see that by challenging what they do, we are serving the greater good of you and the industry and this is really just part of what comes with our job. Thus, as readers of our magazine we can work together to help them see they need to stop being bullies and intimidating the media industry. In the end, it will allow us to do a better job to serve all of you—our readers—and perhaps get a better technology message out to you as well.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #carriers AT&T #M2M, #data, #connectedcars, #journalism #smartphone, #IoT #Tridium #Vodafone #GM #bully

By | 2014-07-01T19:44:09+00:00 5/22/2014|


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