When Analyst Relations Get Social

I had an interesting conversation with the head of marketing of a vendor here at Forrester’s marketing conference. She told me about the changing role of AR. Now, the role of AR must evolve, as analysts have direct connections to employees of their company, and have the ability to circumnavigate that traditional relationship. For example, I can easily tweet out “anyone in the sharepoint team have have a moment for some questions” and I’d suspect they’d quickly respond in seconds, whether or not the AR person was involved.

To respond to these times, I’ve found that the best AR folks do the following things: 1) Listen to analysts and synthesize. Now, AR folks can listen directly to the thoughts and insights of analysts that share online. Most AR folks I talk to know what I’ve been up to, where I’m going, and what I care about. As more analysts start to create more content online, the AR role becomes more critical 2) Prepare internal stakeholders. This isn’t anything new, but I’ve noticed that the top AR folks are prepping the interviewers I speak with my blog posts and reports, helping them save time. I’ll be honest, it’s difficult to keep track of my output, fortunately the AR person can do this. 3) Reconnect me with stakeholders. The best AR folks are building a long term relationship with me, leave comments on my blog, send me emails, and setup formal briefings.

What’s the theme here? The role hasn’t changed that much in the traditional sense, but the AR professional isn’t a gatekeeper, instead they facilitate.

Leave a comment, how else can AR folks evolve when it comes to social?

  • We AR people really appreciate Analysts like yourself who blog and allow us to get more insights on what interests you. This is very valuable information that we can provide our clients.

  • How else can AR folks evolve when it comes to social? Some thoughts:

    1. Become Research Librarians.

    Peruse, monitor, track, and measure analyst conversations, blogs, interactions, behaviors on social networking platforms, Twitter, Digg, Facebook, etc. Develop/maintain the research on “social networked libraries” and share with your team and throughout the organization.

    If content is king and Research Librarians study content, then your content are your analysts.

    2. Become PR 2.0 professionals.

    Develop/maintain lists of targeted analysts with their points of contact and engage proactively via SMS, mobile, email, phone, and on social networked destination. Manage analyst expectations, promote the brand, and engage analysts along customized communication strategies suited to analyst preferred destinations and mode of interaction.

    3. Become Brand Influencers and Brand Content Publishers

    Know the social media habits of your targeted analysts, know their favorite destinations and communities across the Social Web, and create and distribute your own targeted conversations and content to promote your brand.

    Develop a marketing mix of brand alerts, industry highlights, product comparisons, brand position/share/results and brand competitive positioning and mix & match the influence with your analysts’ preferred socialized conversation platforms with a Just-in-Time Delivered mentality — SMS, mobile, email, Twitter, and on other social networked communities. If Analysts are influencers, then Influence the Influencers.

    4. Become an Analyst Lobbyst

    Connect your targeted analysts to other members of your team and with brand managers and influencers across your organization and the industry itself. Broker conversations and interactions with analysts and your brand’s “raving fans” across Social Web destinations and communities; their preferred modes of conversation (Twitter, Linkedin, FB, etc., SMS, mobile, email, phone, …) and in Real World meet-ups. Marinate Analyst favor with the right seasonings of relationship building on and off the Social Web.

    Running long again…but I have some thinking on ARs as: “Fishermen” of Analysts; “Venture Capitalists” for the Brand; AND Brand “Pollution Control Environmentalists.” (monitor and repair *customer service* issues across the Social Web places)

  • Nancy, it’s a partnership really. I need AR folks to help me stay connected and up to date. Building a relationship can certainly help AR folks to connect beyond the many emails we receive every day.

    Juan, these are excellent points, you’ve an analytical mind.

  • Sandra Welfeld

    I definitely see the value of social media with those analysts with whom I have the most contact and interaction, and it’s really a two way street. I am more reluctant to engage in social media with those analyst with whom I have a more formal relationship – I definitely don’t want to make more “noise”. Great post!

  • You’re right. It’s not just analyst relations, either. ANY employee at ANY company in ANY industry could be listening with Google Alerts, Twitter/TweetBeeps, and other tools.

    Companies that don’t have policies regarding employee interaction with bloggers and traditional news media put themselves at risk. Your policy doesn’t need to be draconian — indeed, one built around education, open communication and employee accessibility has many benefits. Whatever approach you take, make it clear to employees what their expectations, rights and responsibilities are.

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  • Sandra

    You may want to consider creating two handles then, one for work (analyst relations and corporate) and a second for personal use. If you do decide to create a handle just for AR, please still make it personal, I won’t be responding or listening to a machine that just spits out press releases.

    AR folks must develop conversational marketing techniques online.

    By the way, this whole thread is a complete rehash of what happened to your PR brothers and sisters 3 years ago.

  • Also, I recently got an email from Microsoft saying they’re building a “new analyst relations microsite”

    I assure you, I’m not going to be active in visiting it. Given the amount of content, pitches, emails, comments, tweets, and phone calls I get, I know I sound like a primadonna when I say I want the MS AR folks to come to me –as I’m not going to their microsite.

    AR folks need to “Fish where the fish are” before building new AR microsites.

    Handy slideshow can help. I guess I’m the fish this time.

    http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/03/24/social-media-marketing-storyboard-1-fish-where-the-fish-are/

    *glub glub*

  • There is an interesting line to walk in creating and sustaining a personal relationship, while still being businesslike. People find their own boundaries – some (analysts especially) seem to blurt out anything on twitter, even on an ID that they use for professional mattters, and that’s almost always a mistake.
    Others are always “on message,” and mostly doing marketing. I think that’s a turnoff too. As an independent analyst, I do need to do some self-promotion, but I prefer to let the content talk for me – except for using twitter to alert people when I post a blog entry. And I can see the impact on hits I get there. I like to get the dialogue, the exchange of ideas – and I’m always learning.
    In my mind, AR needs to do two things:
    1. Track people, especially the ones they want to sustain a relationship with, because you can really get to know a surprising amount about them here.
    2. Track topics – it might be product types,. platforms, issues or brands – or all of the above.
    Sometimes, the two intersect. But all the information adds value.
    Now, if we could just find a way to get more time…..

  • Merv

    I spoke to an analyst relations professional and she told me many analysts don’t know how to use the social tools, and mainly use it to promote their own work.

    I agree with you, demonstrating thought leadership is the way to go –as it spreads to other blogs and websites, it can help send links back to the analyst furthering their mission.

    BTW: I noticed a trend, some analysts that leave firms suddenly become more vocal, share more, and join the conversation.

  • Scott Schaufele

    What is your recommendation to a mid-career professional; who has devoted thousands of hours of self-study; in the area of financials, and would like to enter your industry?

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  • AR has always been social, we’ve just been waiting for the technology and everyone else to catch up!

    Let’s be clear for those who feel pumped up on machismo by “going around AR:” Many firms have policies that say, just like PR and IR, personnel cannot interact with industry analysts without AR facilitating the interaction. You see, industry analysts can impact share price, right? So the laws of selective disclosure come into play. Hey analyst firms did it to themselves by selling their research to investment house and starting units called IRS and Invest. So going around AR is not acceptable at many vendors from a legal standpoint.

    It doesn’t matter what the communications channel is – email, phone, tweet, FB, face-to-face, or two-tin-cans-attached-by-a-string though. The “I can go around AR” bit is nothing new, and frankly indicates a lack of understanding. You always could go around AR. But you put the people you contact directly at the vendor in an uncomfortable position. I also know of an analyst who was fired for pulling an end-run. Regardless, going through AR is a business courtesy, and AR extends several business courtesies to analysts which some analysts appreciate, such as facilitating of sharing of vendor information (who do you think organizes the responses to your RFIs and chases down your references), fact-checks, acting as navigators toward the right people at vendors, etc. Done properly it is a symbiotic relationship.

    Yes, now and then you might go around AR to a direct meeting, but only because the exec or PM forgot the process. What does it gain you? It will get back to AR anyway. And you will have lost trust at the vendor. There are internal emails like, “Can you believe this analyst, who has been doing his job for 15 years now, is still pulling end-runs?!” Yes, there are Forrester analysts who do this and still like to do it, and to put a Boston accent twist on the whole thing, I guess they think they are wicked SMAAHT. They aren’t.

    Since we have analysts telling AR how to do our jobs, let me turn it around: Analysts who exhibit business manners, and I am not talking advocacy here, just maturity and professionalism, get better and faster access to information and information sources than those who try end-runs by whatever means. Analysts who intentionally manage the relationship of AR in a positive manner end up ahead. Similarly, decent AR types work through your account management teams so they aren’t blindsided. Analysts who treat AR and vendors (AR is a proxy for the vendor, just like analysts are proxies for customers and the market-at-large) with disdain simply get the minimum back from the vendor. You then make factual mistakes, and author lousy analyses because you have the facts wrong, and you lose credibility – a nasty spiral.

    This is a two-way street. It is a relationship. Doesn’t matter if you Tweet it or drink it. I hate the term “influencer relations” or the concept of “influencing the influencers.” This should be thought of as a business partnership. AR and Account Management are the “relationship managers” of the partnership, but as in any good partnership all the parties understand the protocols and follow them.

    In terms of all the advice about AR paying attention to microblogging et. al. hey, it isn’t rocket science. Comparatively speaking, writing good Java code, or mastering chip design are, or designing and implementing a digital marketing campaign are. Whatever medium analysts choose to express their views through AR better be there to catch the info, to understand it, to probe it, to communicate the essence of it back to decision-makers, to foster useful interactions about it – again regardless of medium or forum.

    Ah, but some will think that this social media CHANGES EVERYTHING. Yeah, maybe, but somebody at the vendor will still be responsible for what the analysts think and say and hear about, and if they don’t call it AR or influencer relations, the function and role will remain the same. Okay yes, AR has been replaced it is now called: Communicating with Analysts on Behalf of the Vendor, and Now More Often via Tweets! Sorry, can’t find a cute word that this somehow equates to. Hopefully you all saw the brilliant April Fool’s Day bit that introduced AaaS – Analyst-as-a-Service. Maybe we should call the Tweet-saavy team “Analyst Relations as a Service” or ARaaS. Hopefully some UK types are twittering at the reference.

    Enough already, there has to a subject more interesting and important than this to Blog about. How about social media and the Swine Flu, or social media’s place in enterprise applications even. C’mon Jeremiah, stretch it out a little. AR and Social Media? Zzzz.

    Evan

  • Evan thank you, it’s helpful to hear a perspective from inside a vendor, even one as colorful as yours. I’m not sure if I think it changes everything, but it may make things faster.

    I got a chuckle out of your second to last paragraph, but not sure if I’m going to put ‘AaaS’ on my business card anytime soon, heh.

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  • We AR people really appreciate Analysts like yourself who blog and allow us to get more insights on what interests you. This is very valuable information that we can provide our clients.

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