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Why do we treat AR as an afterthought?

Posted by Chris King on 5th December 2017

For many brands, effective technology analyst relations (AR) can be a powerful contributor to the success of marketing and PR initiatives, particularly given the huge influence analysts wield over media, customers and investors.

It’s a discipline that’s been around for decades but particularly in the last 12 months we’ve really seen AR growing in importance. I can’t find any third-party stats to back this up but it’s a genuine trend we’re experiencing here at Wildfire, and a real untapped opportunity for many brands in 2018.

Journalists frequently rely on inputs from analysts to confirm trends, deliver insights, and add quotes and credibility to their articles. And through vendor lists, market maps, reports and advice, analysts regularly affect purchasing decisions, drive investor behaviour, impact the status of emerging industries, and play a leading role in defining and shaping industry trends. This couldn’t be truer in industries like telecoms, enterprise IT and electronics, and in emerging areas of technology such as AI and the IoT.

Yet despite this huge influence, AR is so often treated as an afterthought rather than a critical part of the overall comms strategy. But why? Maybe it’s because of a perceived need to invest in expensive analyst subscriptions; maybe it’s a symptom of our obsession with media coverage; maybe it’s a lack of appreciation for the differences between analysts and journalists; or maybe it’s something entirely different?

Before I go any further, let me be clear, I’m not speaking from some enlightened position of AR awesomeness — I’ve certainly been guilty of all the mistakes I’m about to highlight.

In my experience, the primary problem is that even where vendors and their agencies are practising AR, many don’t do so as part of a strategic analyst relations campaign. They will usually try to meet a few analysts at events, perhaps include a few obvious ones on press release distribution lists, and if they’re monitoring the landscape really well, possibly pitch to be included in a report. What’s unlikely is that they have a really clear picture of exactly who is and isn’t important to their product or sector, have audited these people to get a clear picture of how they are perceived, and have in place a clear strategic programme to move this perception in whatever direction is desired or needed. Many brands practising AR are simply shooting in the dark and failing to regularly update the right key analysts on the company strategy and progress against it.

Below I’ve curated seven top tips for good analyst engagement, with special thanks to our PROI network partner Crenshaw Communications over in the US whose own blog on the topic provided a lot of the inspiration:

Get in early

You really don’t have to wait until the day of a product launch to brief an analyst. A top analyst can be a source of feedback on how you plan to position your offering so you can hone your message for other audiences.

Show respect

The typical industry analyst is a true expert in their field with a sophisticated understanding of the landscape. Avoid patronising them with unnecessary background and introductions.

Prepare properly for meetings

We’ve all been there… We’ve arranged a briefing with a journalist; the client’s spokesperson joins the call late, clearly having not read the briefing document we prepared (he did a briefing last month on the topic after all), but it’s fine — the journalist is fairly new to the sector and the spokesperson manages to answer the fairly generic questions posed by the journalist. However, this level of preparation simply won’t cut it for a meaningful analyst briefing. As above, they’re deep experts in their field and will want to have a really in-depth discussion. Do your homework. Undertake thorough preparation and involve as many internal subject experts as you need to make the experience as valuable as possible for the analyst.

Don’t treat analysts as you would journalists

Analyst aren’t out for news. They require different information, operate to very different timescales and have business-focused interests. While analysts do want to know about your new product or service update, they’re more interested in your depth of knowledge about the industry. They want to identify trends, and are trying to place an entire competitive set into context for their reports. By offering considered insights you’ll become a valuable contact to them.

Think beyond the likes of Gartner

Yes Forrester, IDC and Gartner have huge influence but there may also be much smaller analyst firms that have a specific expertise in your area of tech. These analysts will have a huge depth of specialist expertise that makes them highly influential within their niche network in a way that compensates for their lack of size.

Try to meet in person

Top analysts come from all over the world so naturally a call or video conference is the path of least resistance for undertaking an analyst briefing. While it’s not always possible to meet face to face, if you can find opportunities, particularly around industry conferences, you’ll find it easier to get into a really detailed conversation and build the strongest relationships.

Stay in touch

AR is best approached as a long-term strategy with clear mutual benefits for both parties. It’s not a case of brief an analyst and job done. Maintain the relationship by sharing useful industry insights, important news, or observations about shifts or competitive moves. And don’t be afraid to ask for opinions and insights in return. A close relationship with a top analyst can be a terrific resource.

Chris King

Chris’s extensive experience of agency PR, ‘can-do’ attitude and track record for achieving outstanding results time after time make him a firm favourite amongst clients. His natural teaching skills make him an expert mentor and respected MD.