For the second straight post, I’m mixing the general and the personal. Sorry!
I jumped into an #ARchat on Twitter Tuesday, and set off a discussion about the subject of analyst quotes in press releases. Since that chat has been blogged, starting with a partly accurate* paraphrase of my views, I figure I may as well state those myself. Read more
This was and is meant to be a generally-applicable post. It just turns out to be laced with examples from my own experiences. I hope those aren’t too distracting from the broader points.
It is widely believed among analyst relations professionals that one should engage the services of the analysts most influential in one’s industry, in the hope that the analysts one pays will speak well of one’s company, publicly or privately as the case may be. Thus, the best way for an analyst to make money is:
- Become influential in the industry s/he covers.
- Say nice things about the companies in it, especially the ones with larger budgets.
It’s been quite a weekend for discussion of analysts and ethics. A few more thoughts:
1. The terms “ethics” and “ethical” are used somewhat inconsistently, along a spectrum from:
There are procedural rules of good behavior, and if you violate them that’s bad. That’s the essence of ethics.
Unless the motive was impure, an act was not unethical.
Either extreme, in my opinion, quickly leads to nonsense.
2. Actually, I think calling that a spectrum is a bit misleading. I’d prefer to say an act is unethical if:
- It is (too) likely to have bad effect AND
- The perpetrator was guilty of bad behavior in not acting differently.
Thus, somebody can make an error in the area of ethics and still be fully ethical if, upon realizing it, they straightforwardly correct it. On the other hand, a pattern of such “errors” can suffice to convict them of unethical behavior.
3. In particular, I stand by the following views from the post and comment thread that set this all off:
- Oracle behaves unethically by repeatedly foisting off sponsored analyst content as independent research.
- Merv Adrian is a fine, ethical guy.
- One reason I believe Merv is an ethical guy is because when I pointed out a screw-up to him, he characterized it as an oversight (I believe him) and said he’d move quickly to correct it.
- Commenters in that thread who suggested I shouldn’t even have mentioned Merv’s error were out of line. When you make an innocent mistake, you may suffer some embarrassment as a result.
4. Merv’s analysis of white paper ethical issues was excellent, and supersedes mine. Continuing the oneupsmanship , I’ll now try to synthesize by saying: Read more
|Categories: Analyst relations, Ethics, Marketing communications, Oracle, Technology marketing||3 Comments|
In a recent post, I made certain assumptions about what is or isn’t ethical in vendor-sponsored analyst research. I’d already discussed the triggering incident briefly (i.e., in Twitter direct messages and the like) with a couple of analysts I respect, namely Merv Adrian (the one most directly involved) and Ray Wang. It’s safe to say we’re in at least rough agreement.
However, a couple of comments on that post took me strongly to task. Perhaps not coincidentally, one came from a vendor, and another from somebody whose main role in the “analyst” community is to produce and publish – you guessed it! – vendor-sponsored content. One option was to just blow those comments off as nonsensical, since they weren’t really responsive to the actual post. But I think those rather surprising remarks also suggest it is time to reopen the subject of vendor-sponsored analyst research.
Vendors typically pay for white papers, webinars, podcasts, in-person speeches, etc. for some combination of five reasons:
- They want to connect with sales prospects. If Merv or Claudia Imhoff or I speak on a webinar, registration will be higher than if only company execs spoke. Similarly, you can capture more registration information from prospects who want to download a white paper if it was written by a third-party analyst.
- They want general endorsement from the analyst. If a well-regarded analyst is associated with a firm, that’s good for the firm’s image.
- They specifically want endorsement from the analyst for their marketing claims. Many of the ethical challenges with vendor-sponsored research or other content lie in this area.
- They want the analyst to do a better job of explaining something than they think they could do themselves. This is the ethically purer version of the prior point. Realistically, they often can’t be separated. E.g., most vendor-sponsored white papers will involve a combination of the two. The same could be said for webinars such as the ones I did for Aster Data last year.
- They want to give the analyst some money to enhance the relationship, and this way they get something other than advice in return. Personally, I won’t do content-creation business with a vendor unless they first buy actual consulting services (via the Monash Advantage), but I’m in the minority, and in fact didn’t always have that policy myself.
Continuing the discussion about IT analyst business models:
In the traditional model of IT analysis, vendors and users alike buy subscriptions to published research that are bundled with a certain level of retainer-like consulting. You can also buy additional consulting from analysts on an ala-carte basis. Indeed, analyst relations gurus suggest it’s a best practice to do so, both because you might learn something and because the process of your doing so might strengthen your relationship with them, in reality and euphemism alike.
In the 1990s I subverted that model somewhat. Anybody could buy my subscription newsletter for $347/copy/year. Only two vendors that I recall (Oracle and Informix) ever bought > 10 subscriptions at once. In addition, I had some faxed published product that frankly didn’t add all that much to the newsletter. But it was part of a $15,000/year service – almost always sold to vendors only — that also included a day of consulting and related prep and follow-up, a price point I stumbled into and later in various ways validated.* Read more
Recently, there have been several high-profile (at least within the independent analyst community) posts and initiatives relating to analyst business models. Each at least implicitly suggests a definition of what an “analyst” is. Interestingly, no two of the definitions seem exactly the same – even though similar people are involved in several of the efforts. Notwithstanding my well-documented skepticism about category definitions, I think it might be interesting to pull some of these ideas together in one place.
I comment about public relations from two different standpoints:
- As a consultant to the technology industry
- As a target of public relations myself
Sometimes these discussions are very fruitful. But other times they are “Head, meet brick wall.” Perhaps this post will help.
This post actually started as a set of specific tips, the biggest of which is uncouple your PR from your press releases. I’ll put the others below — but first, I’d like to cover a little theory.
There are (at least) five different things you can try to do via public relations:
- “Sell” to the press (and bloggers and so on), by which I mean that you try to induce stories, and you probably measure success by a count of stories written (presumably weighted by the quality of the publication, the favorableness of the mention, and so on), and your activities are focused on contacting the press in pursuit of that goal.
- “Market” to the press, by which I mean that you try to create a favorable disposition toward having them say what you’d want them to. This can be measured in the same ways as “selling” success, but usually on a more long-term basis.
- Market through influencers to your end customers and prospects. Here I’m saying “influencers” rather than “press”, because social media, pure word of mouth, and so on can also contribute to success.
- Market through influencers to other influencers. It is now a regular consulting exercise for me to walk clients through the whole chain of which influencers listen to which other influencers. (If you want to work that kind of thing out for yourself, social media observation is a good way to start.)
- Market to potential buyers directly. This has become increasingly realistic as the internet has matured.
|Categories: Analyst relations, Marketing communications, Marketing theory, Public relations, Technology marketing||8 Comments|
Merv Adrian offers two well-commented posts on analyst blogging. I think the whole thing was (probably not intentionally) framed in terms of large-firm analysts, leading to a lot of Golly gee whiz! Blogs aren’t the same as subscription analyst reports. Harm can occur when people forget this! And that led to various calls for things like industry-wide codes of how analysts should and shouldn’t write, etc. (Merv himself was the lead offender on that one.)
Grrr!! Any suggestion that there’s one right way to communicate rubs me the wrong way. Indeed, I’ve been arguing that there’s an evolving information ecosystem that will ever more depend upon there being healthy occupants of many different niches. Most particularly — and few vendors have yet wrapped their minds about this — it will increasingly be the case that primary news sources are analysts with NDA obligations. And yes — every once in a while it is important to be the one who breaks the story. Read more
|Categories: Analyst relations, Marketing communications, Marketing theory, Technology marketing||2 Comments|
I’m not clear on who wrote it, but there’s a hilarious send-up of the analyst business. See in particular the “Magic Kingdom” graph, whose four quadrants are Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and Fantasyland, and similar spoofs of the Forrester Wave and Geoffrey Moore’s Chasm graph.