The post-SD Times 100 week

The awards are over, and now it’s time to deal with the post-award clean-up.

We began disclosing the 2009 SD Times 100 last Thursday, June 11, via Twitter; that was good fun. The official announcement was on Monday, June 15. You can read the story, Such the Drama, and complete list of winners, on

What comes next? Vendor conversations. These fall into four categories:

1. Chats with winners, who are seeking resources to help them publicize their recognition in the SD Times 100. Those queries, like all others, are generally funneled to me. We have stock messages to share with them, including a press release quote, boilerplate about BZ Media and SD Times, a permanent link to the story, and a link to the award logos. Easy.

2. Chats with winners, who are seeking more information about why they won. Those conversations are generally brief, since as a rule, we don’t provide a list of reasons why the judges chose a particular company for recognition, beyond our belief that the company demonstrated clear leadership (as defined by “buzz” about them in the broader industry), or demonstrated stand-out innovation (as defined by what they did in the previous calendar year), or both. Easy.

3. Chats with non-winners, who seek specifics about why they didn’t win. Those conversations take the longest time, because generally the company representative wants details, details, details (which we don’t have and won’t provide). In most cases, they want to know what to do to “ensure” that they win next year. We don’t have a recipe for them. Sometimes easy, sometimes hard.

4. Chats with non-winners, who try to muscle us into changing the results by threatening to cancel their advertising contracts to “punish” SD Times, or who cite their past advertising history as a reason why they should be given the award, or who talk about the lavish advertising plans that were about to go to SD Times, but are now regretfully being placed on hold while they “reevaluate” the suitability of our publication, our audience, etc. Always hard.

The Category 4 conversations, often steered to me by our ad-sales team (who received the initial attempt at strong-arming by the vendor) are nearly always unpleasant, and are ultimately frustrating for all parties, because the tactic doesn’t work.

Yes, we have lost advertising contracts because we didn’t give big-spenders a juicy thank-you gift, or give potential advertisers a bribe. No, I’m not happy about the threats. But that’s just how it works. Fortunately, there haven’t been any Category 4 conversations this year.

Here’s an example of an easy Category 3 conversation from a public-relations agency executive.

Hi Alan,

I had a quick question about the SD Times 100 and in particular about (client). For full disclosure, I’m a PR guy for (client). I have read all I could find about the 100 and the vetting process, but I was hoping to get a bit more insight about why (client) wasn’t included among the list of its peers (lists some competitors) in the (client’s) category. Any feedback would be much appreciated.

My response:

Thanks for your note, and I’m sure that your client is disappointed — as is every company that wasn’t named to the list.

I’m sorry, but I can’t get into a discussion of why a certain company wasn’t named to the SD Times 100. It’s like asking, “Why didn’t my actor win the Oscar?” In the extensive discussions about the companies in the (client’s category) industry, we don’t create an enumerated list of reasons why each non-winning company isn’t chosen for the list. There’s no, “If only (client) had done such-and-such they’d have won, but they didn’t do that so cross ’em off” that I can share with you.

The only criteria I can share with you is what we wrote in, and in the FAQ in

The PR guy’s reply indicated that my message got through:

Hi Alan,

I appreciate the reply. I was indeed hoping for some silver bullet reason why (client) didn’t make the list. I’d love the opportunity to put forth my argument for why I think (client) should be included, but I realize it’s too late. Thanks very much for your time today. We’ll focus on impressing you in the coming year.

The thread closed with my response,

Thanks. As you can imagine, if every vendor can turn around and “appeal the ruling,” trying to do an annual awards program would be a complete nightmare. 🙂

And now, we wait for next year.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick