Public policy wonk and Fortune Magazine columnist Matt Miller’s new book The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity got us at SageCircle thinking “Hmm, are there dead ideas holding back analyst relations?” Of course there are! This is one in an occasional series of posts that will address the dead ideas that impact AR programs and their ability to delivery strategic value to their companies. These posts are meant to be provocative and not necessarily definitive in their new ideas and suggestions.
Dead Idea: Industry analysts are irredeemably cynical
Back Story: It is common for many vendor executives to think of industry analysts as cynical. And at first glance, Gartner analyst Ray Valdes (bio, blog, Twitter) would seem to confirm this perception by characterizing his reaction to a vendor’s announcement as cynicism in his blog post The Secret Sauce Behind Google Wave.
“…My initial reaction was colored by instinctive reflex of cynicism, and basically amounted to: Yes, it’s very cool and innovative, but what has Google done for the enterprise lately?
After a healthy debate with Gartner colleagues, spanning a range of views pro and con, I reviewed the Wave video and the documentation, and felt greater excitement than I did during the keynote (where I was one of the few sitting down during the standing ovation). I won’t use this post to make one of those forecasts, such as “Google Wave will kill X”, where X can be any number of well-known vendors or products. That kind of statement is overly glib, because we are just a few days into a scenario that will take 5 years or more to play out, with many twists and turns along the way…”
Although he uses the word SageCircle would not characterize Ray’s reaction as cynicism (def. “An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others”) but as healthy skepticism (def. “A methodology based on an assumption of doubt with the aim of acquiring approximate or relative certainty”). Why this different characterization? Clearly Ray had his doubts after the Google announcement, but after conversations with colleagues and further research he moderated his point of view to at least neutral if not slightly positive.
This is an important lesson for analyst relations (AR) managers to convey to their “cynical” executives – and maybe even themselves. While some analysts are truly cynics and thus a problem (see There are many types of problem analysts), for the most part industry analysts want vendors to succeed, but are legitimately skeptical due to all the grandiose marketing claims they have heard over the years. As a consequence, AR needs to collaborate with spokespeople to moderate claims and work hard to provide solid proof for any claims made. A negative but open-minded analyst can change their opinion if presented with sufficient proof.
- AR teams should ascertain which of their executives perceive the analysts as cynical
- AR teams should ascertain which of their analysts are truly cynical and not just skeptical
- AR teams should educate executives and other stakeholders as to the difference between skepticism and cynicism and carefully characterize which of the most relevant analysts are which type
- AR should always be pressing colleagues in advance of announcements for proof that can be used with analysts
- AR should always be probing negative analysts as to why they are negative and what proof will be required to support the vendor’s message
- If necessary, AR should incorporate into the AR plan the steps needed over a period of time to gather and present proof points to skeptical analysts
Bottom Line: Taking the attitude that analysts are cynical could cause vendors not to make the effort needed to develop and effectively present proof to support their marketing messages. Vendors – especially AR teams – need to start with the attitude that analyst are skeptics until proven guilty of cynicism. This will permit AR to devote the energy and political capital needed to tone down overly sensational claims and generate the needed proof points.
Question: AR – Do you have executives who think analysts are cynical? Are they right? Analysts – Do you consider yourself cynical or skeptical? Do you clearly and proactively articulate what proof vendors need to present in order to support their messages? Or do you assume that if proof is available then it is up to the vendor to be the proactive party?