In my previous post I discussed why, from a client and agency perspective, an analyst relations (AR) programme would be a good thing to add to your marketing mix.

This time I wanted to let the analysts take centre stage and, in their own words, tell you why they think you should engage with them. I spoke to some of the leading analysts in the technology sector to ask them their views on analyst relations.

Why AR?

The first question I asked was, quite simply: “Why should firms talk to analysts at all?”

The answers I received were overwhelmingly about the expertise that analysts have. That’s why you really need to engage with them. They already know your market, your competitors and the requirements and challenges faced by your target customers, so an ongoing relationship with analysts, through an analyst relations programme, can help you learn from their expertise.

“To assist and guide analysts, helping them gain a deeper understanding of the company so they can better assess the company’s performance, benchmark it against competitors and make more valuable tactical and strategic recommendations for improvements.”

Emma Mohr-McClune, Global Data

…analysts are influential and are the best bet for getting an independent view of how your business fits into its market.”

Matt Hatton, Transforma Insights

If the primary reason to engage with analysts is a two-way exchange of knowledge, then you shouldn’t look for short-term gains from your AR programme. It can’t be measured in terms of coverage and column inches in the same way that your media relations will. Instead, you should be striving for influence – which is harder to measure, but more powerful in the long-run.

“[When asked what outcome they want] they usually say ‘coverage in a report’. This is when I gently laugh. ‘No,’ I say, ‘What you want is to get is in here,’ pointing at my head… in B2B it’s the stuff you don’t see that’s often the most valuable.”

Teresa Cottam, Omnisperience

Who to target?

If the goal of AR is to influence the influencer. How do you know who they are and who to target, especially if you’re new to analyst relations?

This is where a good agency will help you, and you should lean on the experience and expertise of your marketing team. However, when it comes to establishing an analyst relations programme there is a simple rule that you can follow – size is not important.

Even if you’ve never worked in analyst relations before, you’ve probably heard of some of the biggest analyst firms, companies such as Gartner, Forrester or IDC. It would be understandable to think that you should therefore speak to these household names first. Matt Hatton, Founding Partner at Transforma Insights, a leading research firm focused on the world of digital transformation, would disagree, “Far from it. There is a stack of us boutique firms focused on specific areas, living and breathing them every day.”

A great place to start any AR programme is with the specialist analyst firms that focus directly on your sector.

“One analyst who knows a space inside-out will provide substantially better insights than twenty analysts who never get out of the office to get face-to-face with the industry,” continued Hatton.

But now that we know which analysts to talk to, who from your organisation should do the talking? Ideally it would be someone from your senior management team. Or as Telecom Chief Analyst and Practice Lead Emma Mohr-McClune puts it, “Analysts need to understand the context and strategic direction of executive decisions, and that understanding can only be gained by exposure to the decision-makers.”

When should you brief analysts?

The simple answer is – whenever you have something substantive to say.

As I was told by an analyst who preferred to remain anonymous:

“Using industry analysts well ought to involve periodic input from the analyst on the state of the market and what that means for the supplier in question. To do this effectively, the two parties need to know each other pretty well and trust each other fully, which mainly requires spending time together.”

One of the best ways to work out how often you should speak to an analyst is to ask them. The relationship with an analyst should be two-way, it “is fundamentally one of trust and mutual benefits, and that all requires careful management,” says Mohr-McClune.

However, the most important answer to the question of when you should brief an analyst is – whenever they ask. Matt Hatton sums it up as:

“There are really two ways that companies interact with analysts: proactive and reactive. Proactive involves pushing messages, briefings and updates. Reactive is fielding enquiries from analysts and providing subject matter experts to speak on a topic. Of the two, reactive is far more important.”

When an analyst needs to speak to you it will be because they are producing a report, or maybe because they are producing bespoke research for a high-profile client. In either case, if you are asked, you definitely want to be involved.

Final advice

The final pieces of advice offered by the analysts focussed mainly on the importance of getting to know them, their areas of specialism and assessing their level of understanding, then using that knowledge to tailor your briefings to them.

Omnisperience analyst Teresa Cottam said that neglecting to do that research, “Is the biggest mistake firms who brief me make”. She said they should, “…figure out my level of knowledge and adjust your presentation. I still get people explaining basic concepts who won’t be hurried through their presentation and end up wasting both my time and their opportunity”.

Matt Hatton was more succinct, “If you want to brief me, you should understand my coverage area”, which for Matt is the Internet of Things.

There was one other piece of advice from Emma Mohr-McClune, who outlined the difference between how analysts and journalists should be briefed. She asserts that, ultimately, analysts want and need to hear some of the things that you can’t tell a journalist because, bringing us right back to the start, they need it for information and education, not to break your news.

“It’s important … to understand that analysts have no interest whatsoever in leaking information, or scoring a PR ‘scoop’. Should an analyst ever break an NDA, that would be, quite simply, the end of their career.”