August 1, 2010

The ethics of white papers

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

In my opinion, #1, 2, and 4 cause relatively little in the way of ethical problems. #5 is an unavoidable fact of life. But #3 raises problems that can and should be addressed head-on.  Read more

July 28, 2010

The ever-blurring analyst/consultant line

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

July 25, 2010

So who is an analyst anyway?

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.

Read more

February 28, 2010

Five kinds of public relations

I comment about public relations from two different standpoints:

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:

Read more

April 4, 2009

Merv Adrian’s threads on analyst blogging

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

April 4, 2009

Paul Gillin on influencer marketing

Paul Gillin offers a pair of posts that in my opinion are spot-on about influencer marketing.  Highlights include: Read more

April 3, 2009

Hilarious April Fool’s send-up of the analyst business

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.

September 8, 2008

Do influencers think along the lines of the layered messaging model?

I originally came up with the more techie version of the layered messaging model

Enterprise IT product (sustainable-lead messaging stack)

because it’s a pretty good representation of how I think. But what about other influencers? Do they view things in somewhat the same way? Read more

September 8, 2008

Enterprise IT marketing — a layered messaging model

Two things matter about marketing messages:

It’s easy to meet one or the other of those criteria. What’s tricky is satisfying both at once.

Many marketing consultants, me included, would phrase the core messaging challenge in terms such as:

What’s the most compelling claim you can make that people will actually find credible?

Read more

August 6, 2008

I’m not the only one who thinks vendors underdisclose

Here’s a real-life example of something I talk about all the time — the need to not just tell a story, but to give simple and persuasive reasons why it is true. David Raab is a huge fan of QlikTech’s QlikView, as both a reseller and blogger. Precisely because he is such a great advocate, he is frustrated by the company’s lack of technical specificity and disclosure. To wit (emphasis mine): Read more

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