Analysts who blog versus Bloggers who analyze

icon-social-media-blue.jpgBy Carter Lusher, Strategist

Last week’s Forrester Analyst Relations Council Panel on “Analyst Relations 2.0″ was fun and interesting. There was quite a bit of diversity of opinion on the panel with KCG’s Bill Hopkins playing the self-described anti-blog/anti-Web 2.0 curmudgeon and Dana Gardner from Interarbor Solutions way on the other side playing the pro-social media fan. That left plenty of room in the middle for Jonathan Eunice from Illuminata, Forrester Senior Analyst James Kobielus and me to take a balanced approach. The moderator was Forrester VP Laura Ramos, who I count as a blog skeptic when it comes to blogging by analysts and vendors.

There was a fair amount of angst in the audience, with many AR professionals clearly wishing blogs would just go away, while others were open minded. Very few AR pros in attendence had embraced blogs personally or professionally. Many were clearly overwhelmed because of the sheer number and types of bloggers who could touch their companies.

While fun, there some something unsatisfying about the panel. One attendee e-mailed: “What struck me about the panel was it asked more questions than offering answers.” Hmm, good point. I tried to provide very specific advice (see Steps for AR teams for starting with analyst blogs), but I admit there was a lot of philosophical ramblings during the 100+ minutes of the panel. Upon reflection, I think the problem was that the panel was not asked to focus on a specific issue, rather we were given a topic that provoked entertaining discussion, but was too broad and fuzzy for hard recommendations.

Bowl of Spaghetti

Because “AR 2.0″ was clearly too broad, the organizer and moderator decided to narrow the discussion to “analyst blogs.” However, ever this re-definition of the panel topic was too broad because it encompassed the entire blogosphere. This led to panel discussion, audience questions and comments that touched on traditional analysts and bloggers without distinguishing between the type of influencer. In addition, the discussion occasionally drifted into whether AR teams and their companies should blog and how to handle/manage/control colleagues who blog. No wonder many AR teams want to ignore blogs, because to take on all the permutations of blogs and blogging would require “boiling the ocean,” a task that any sane person would find daunting.

Obviously, the solution is to break the mega-issue of blogs into smaller components that are much more manageable. This post will look at segmenting influencers who use blogs into distinct groups so that AR can prioritize its efforts.

Traditional Analysts blogging under Firm Brand – This group consists of analysts at traditional firms that blog under the firm’s brand (e.g., Gartner Media Blog, JupiterResearch Analyst Weblogs, The Forrester Blog For IT Infrastructure & Operations Professionals and Accendor Ideaspace). This is the most clear-cut situation because of the official affiliation with the firm means that tech buyers will be more likely to read these blogs. First, AR teams need to actively track the firm-branded blogs of their top ranked analysts by incorporating them into the analyst opinion monitoring program. A key difference is that blogs need to be monitored daily because something could be posted at any time of day and get noticed by tech buyers and the press. Second, AR needs to join the conversation by leaving thoughtful comments on individual posts. Yes, this is more work for AR. However, because there are still relatively few firm-branded blogs on any particular market this should not impose an undue workload on AR.

Traditional Analysts blogging under Personal Brand – For a variety of reasons, there are some analysts who have blogs under their personal brand instead of being affiliated with their employers (e.g., AMR analyst Phil Fersht’s Horses for Sources and IDC analyst Rachel Happe’s The Social Organization). Many AR teams hope they can ignore such blogs – mainly to reduce workload – because they are not explicitly affiliated with a major firm. This attitude is a mistake. These personally branded blogs are still relevant because analysts use them as idea and research development tools whose content will show up later in official firm research. By ignoring these blogs, AR misses opportunities to understand the analysts’ research agendas and mindset and influence the direction the analyst is going. Bottom line is that AR teams should treat personally-brand blogs by traditional analysts the same as firm-branded blogs. Again, because there are not that many traditional analysts with personally-branded blogs this should not add a lot of work to the AR team.

Bloggers independent of Analyst Firms - This is the segment of the blogosphere that causes AR pros the most heartburn because this is clearly where the “boil the ocean” aspect comes into play. Part of the problem is that many communications and IT vendors have not established an overall policy and communications strategy concerning blogs. This leads to a situation where various “R” groups inside of the vendor (e.g., AR, IR and PR) play the children’s game “hot potato” with who deals with bloggers – tossing responsibility from one team to another. In many cases, nobody wants the responsibility because they know that the team will not receive additional resources to do the added work, which could be considerable. The solution in this situation is not for AR to ignore the situation, but to take leadership in pushing for an official company policy, strategy and resource investment for dealing with bloggers. Maybe this blog strategy will result in an existing “R” picking up responsibility for blogs, different “R” teams assuming responsibility for different blogger segments, the creation of a new “R” (e.g., Blogger Relations) or the dramatic re-organization of all “R”s into an Influencer Relations group (e.g., Don Bulmer, SAP VP of Influencer Relations).

SageCircle Technique

  • Create an AR policy addressing analyst bloggers that includes segmentation, analyst list management implications, service levels, opinion monitoring, responsibility for responding
  • Incorporate commenting on relevant blogs into the mix of interactions section of the AR plan
  • Review the AR policy on analyst blogs periodically to ensure alignment with company strategy and the evolving influencer landscape
  • Work with colleagues in other communications groups to develop a formal company strategy on blogs in general

Question: AR teams – Does your team have a formal policy concerning analysts who blog? Does your company have a formal blog policy and strategy?

Bottom Line: Blogs are too important to be ignored, but the blogosphere is too large for any “R” team to just haphazardly take on as a task. AR teams need to break the issue of the blogosphere into manageable sized pieces and tackle each one individually. By taking a prioritized approach to individual aspects of blogging, AR can ensure that important influencers relevant to AR’s mission are not ignored, while not taking on more work that would dilute AR’s ability to carry out its core objectives.

Do you need to create an AR strategic and tactical plan that incorporates social media? Are you thinking about experimenting with social media? Social media represents new opportunities and challenges to AR teams. SageCircle can help AR teams by:

  • Briefing AR teams and executives on how social media is impacting the influencer landscape, how the tech industry analysts are responding and how it might be adopted by AR
  • Acting as a sounding board as you brainstorm how to add social media to the AR tool box
  • Advising on how to develop a pilot program to experiment with social media
  • Playing the role of analyst in social media experiments and providing critiques of how the experiment went
  • Through our AR Plan Builder workshop, strategists can help create AR plans that incorporate social media  

Call 650-274-8309 or e-mail carter (at) sagecircle dot com for more information.

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4 Responses

  1. Interesting discussion Carter – see here for a bit of Devil’s advocacy :-)

  2. Way frosty! I love devil advocacy. >>grin<< Will check it out.

  3. It seems there should be a two way street. AR reps that just stumble upon blogs may (first instinct) be less likely to want to contribute than if they were first approached by analyst/firm letting them know, “hey, this is what we are doing, you in?” However, those that do stumble upon should take time to contact the author and understand what they are doing.

  4. [...] to get overwhelmed by too… much… stuff. This certainly came out in discussions at the US Forrester AR Council panel I was on and in blog posts like When do we get work done? I certainly have felt that way in the [...]

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