When bad press really is bad press

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There’s this saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Although I do agree that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about (Oscar Wilde), this does not really apply [IMHO] to bad press in a commercial environment. And we had a text-book example of that this week in the Datacenter Infrastructure market; StorageReview, a well-respected publishing company, released a blogpost why they would/could NOT publish a review on a specific Nutanix solution.

Is the truth out there?

I will not go into the specifics of the article and I’m not even that interested in whether all the facts are true or not. For me the interesting part is on the business side of things. Here are a couple of questions to ask:

  • Did StorageReview have the right to publish this?
  • How does this affect business?
  • Did Nutanix make a mistake in the whole process?
  • What’s next?

1. Did StorageReview have the right to publish this article?

The opinions on this go different ways. First up is Vaughn Stewart (who’s never afraid of throwing some punches himself) and took it from the business ethical side; “I believe that whatever occurred between StorageReview and Nutanix should have been remained confidential.” I initially agreed with his statement for two reasons;

  • Ethically it really does look like throwing punches and kicking someone that is lying on the ground.
  • It could harm StorageReview’s own business into new accounts that would be afraid of being exposed like that.

Bu then came along my other friend Howard Marks, of whom I know he has pulled reviews in the past due to not agreeing on the end-results, and had a more balanced view looking at the viewpoint of StorageReview; “The StorageReview team wears the journalist hat … when things look bad on a product I’m reviewing as a journalist I would write a bad review … as a private test lab we would just not publish or say anything” and he leaves us with a brilliant quote about the essence of being a good analyst:

You can trust every word a good analyst tells you, however there might be much value in the fact we’re not saying something.

So in the end I have to agree with Howard; if this was not a paid review and SR is acting as journalists, they have an obligation to their readers to give their objective story about their experiences with any product/company. There may be a couple of things I would have written differently or left away but simply saying “we didn’t come to an agreement on the test results” was indeed not sufficient.

2. How does this affect business?

BIG TIME! I’m sure the entire Nutanix field sales team and their resellers are pretty pissed off now. Every single customer in every single deal for the next couple of months will get this article in a PDF from at least one of the competitors. I’m not saying they will lose the deal over it, but an article like this increases the mistrust customers have anyhow facing a new vendor.

Why is this article different? It’s the first time as far as I can tell that an independent organisation publicly addresses performance issues on a Nutanix platform. So far this has only been rumours and FUD from competitors. They probably can get around with it in the hands of a PoC (Proof of Concept) but it will add a lot of extra effort from the sales team to demystify these rumours.

3. Did Nutanix make a mistake in the whole process?

Hell yeah! Again; whether or not the rumours will prove to be true or false in the end, the people in charge of this project failed to understand the true impact of influencers and public relations. You simply cannot get away anymore with bullying a journalist. If it takes a journalist 6 months to be that patient with you and you still fail to understand that the writer usually wants you succeed, you have failed at your job.

Apparently the story is not unique as fellow writer Trevor Pott already pointed out on twitter; “Opinion of @Nutanix bottoming out, as I’m seeing similar crap from them on my end”. This adds belief to the story of StorageReview not being a hoax from the writer. More examples over the last couple of years on Nutanix’s general behaviour tend to lean that way too.

4. What’s .next?

There are 2 general ways to handle bad press: first there is the possibility of ignoring it and over time this will go away, hoping not a lot of people have seen it. This is what you do when a smaller competitor punches up for example. Because they don’t really have a big following it sometimes can be contained by ignoring. This is IMPOSSIBLE here. Within less than 24hrs the article had over 500 shares, a couple hours later 700 and by the time I woke up this morning it was shared over 1300 times. It is safe to assume that by now everyone has read or copied the story that it will never really go away.

[edit: I just had note from the StorageReview team that they are already over 19.000 reads within 36 hours, eyeballing 500 reads per hour growth since the story is going viral through other platforms like The Register]

Secondly there is the option to write your answer. This what you usually do when a competitor tells blatent lies in public about your product or company. We’ve seen the latest battles between Nutanix and VMware on that as examples. However: in this case any answer written by Nutanix representatives will be read as propaganda and will work the opposite way of the intention.

In my opinion the ONLY way out here is through StorageReview. Be humble, own it, talk to them and leave nothing on the table for them to review your products on their terms! It would be nice of StorageReview if they altered the post with a new short intro that issues are being discussed if Nutanix chooses to do so. After all, as I mentioned a couple of times; this is NOT good for sales!

As a newly appointed Head of Marketing this one going in my books as a text book example 😉

Related articles:

StorageReview: Why we don’t have a Nutanix NX-8150 review
The Lone Sysadmin: Three thoughts on the Nutanix & StorageReview Situation
The Register: Nutanix digs itself into a hole … and refuses to drop the shovel.

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2 comments

  1. Thanks for the shout out Hans.

    To clarify, when a magazine was paying me for a review that meant there were 3-6 pages that would be blank if I didn’t write something. Plus the editorial calendar said “Bake off of VTLs – Sept 2009” and it better be there. That meant we set expectations with the vendor that they could get a bad review, and no they wouldn’t be notified before the magazine was printed.

    Those vendors that didn’t want to play by those rules wouldn’t send gear. Eventually EMC and Cisco stopped letting us review their kit. they figured the harm a bad review could do was more than the benefit of a good review.

    Brian tweeted they had Nutanix kit in the lab for testing, that’s like the editorial calendar entry. People expected it and therefore they could run a bad review, say “we had disagreements with Nutanix about the contents and therefore are not continuing” or the more detailed and informative entry they did post.

    As a reader I’m best served by the latter. As a journalist I should be serving the reader, not the vendor. So if the vendor couldn’t convince me there was a good reason, other than annoying them, to withhold information from the public I would do just about what Brian did.

    It appears that either Storage Review and Nutanix didn’t settle on the rules at the beginning, or that someone tried to change the rules. My opinion is if you send something to me for review without rules that’s implied permission to write any review I want. I’ll agree to other rules but we have to agree on the rules upfront.

    As analysts we define the rules in our proposal, If vendor X isn’t happy with the JetStress or DEDISbench results of their system in our labs it’s because they weren’t smart enough to run the test in their labs first.

    – Howard

    1. Thx for the extended comment. As usual it’s hard to disagree with you ans I see no reason why I should. Spot on!

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