2010 planning tips – assessments

Analyst Relations PlanningAs we get closer to 2010 more analyst relations (AR) teams are engaging in the annual planning exercise. One of the ways to enhance the power of planning is to systematically and honestly assess the program and its accomplishments. 

Below is a quick check list of assessment techniques. You can listen to a discussion of some of these techniques on the November 3rd SageCircle AR Community podcast which you can listen to by clicking here.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Conduct an audit of how AR has performed in the last year
  • Conduct an audit of what AR has accomplished in the last year
  • Ruthlessly evaluate how AR is allocating its time
  • Do a zero-based rethink of all spending, especially Forrester and Gartner expenditures
  • Poll AR’s internal stakeholders on perceptions about AR’s role and business value
  • Survey analysts on AR’s Continue reading

Value for Effort

Analyst Relations PlanningOne of the slides we consistently include in any of SageCircle’s training content, private or public, covers value for effort. Basically this is our discussion about implementing only those activities or best practices where the analyst relations program receives more value back than the effort put into it.

For example, SageCircle consistently encourages AR professionals to pay attention analyst usage of social media. However, we also consistently say that AR needs to limit the number of analysts that they monitor on social media so as not to use too much time. This recommendation then dovetails into a discussion of the need for a good analyst list ranking and tiering framework to make sure that the AR team is focusing on the most relevant analysts.

SageCircle Technique:

  • AR teams need to careful vet any new programs or best practices for relevance and practicality

Bottom Line: The most precious resource that AR has is its time. While there are many Continue reading

Stop playing Whac-a-mole by moving from firefighting and reactive to proactive and preemptive

Analyst Relations PlanningToo many analyst relations (AR) professionals spend too much of their time seemingly playing Whac-A-Mole. They rush from one emergency to another, respond to one request after another (from colleagues and analysts), and always seem to be in catch-up mode. The problem with this state is that AR gets in the rut of being tactical and does not have time to be strategic. Thus, the image of AR merely being meeting schedulers gets ingrained in the company. 

To get out of the firefighting/reactive rut, AR should focus on becoming proactive and eventually preemptive. Firefighting-Reactive-Proactive-Preemptive are what SageCircle calls styles of AR. A quick set of definitions are:

Firefighting: The firefighting style of AR is one where a vendor deals with the impact of analysts as opposed to dealing directly with the analysts. Typically, the vendor’s sales force is trying to do damage control because analysts’ research either ignores the vendor or gives the vendor a very negative description or rating. A vendor with a firefighting approach, because they do not interact with the analysts themselves, is doomed to be defined by the uninformed analyst. This allows the vendor to be characterized by the disgruntled customers, competitors, prospects, and partners who do interact with the analysts. Often a vendor in permanent firefighting style is there because it really does not have an AR program and maybe not even a real PR organization.

Reactive: The reactive style of AR is one where a vendor answers questions initiated by the IT analysts, but does not actively reach out to IT analysts. Because the IT analysts do not necessarily contact every vendor for every piece of research they publish, vendors are constantly fighting ratings and recommendations based on old information. In addition, AR is reacting to Continue reading

Is it time to incorporate risk analysis into analyst list rankings?

Analyst Relations PlanningEvery AR team needs to manage their analyst list(s) to ensure they are focused on providing the right attention to the right analysts.  SageCircle stands on the “analyst list management” soapbox a lot because it such an important aspect of an effective and efficient AR program.  Creating a ranked list based on impact and then tiering based on available resources is the way to manage your service levels for analysts and ultimately manage your stress. There are many data points that go into an analyst ranking frameworks like visibility, research coverage, reputation, firm, geography and so on. This post is the opener for a discussion on whether risk should be added to the ranking criteria.

In this context, the risk being discussed is the potential damage to sales deals, market perception, internal politics, and such that can be caused by an analyst with a negative opinion. How much effort should you put into negative analysts?

So, should risk be incorporated into the analyst ranking framework as either a primary or secondary criterion? For instance, two analysts that are pretty much equal in all other criteria could see a negative analyst getting ranked higher than a positive analyst because there is more risk associated with the negative analyst and AR wants to invest more time to move that analyst’s opinion. If the two analysts are on the border between Tier 1 and Tier 2 Continue reading

It’s in the AR plan – social media should not be considered “special,” but just a regular activity

icon-social-media-blue.jpgWe have written on a number of occasions that social media is not some big special deal, but rather just another tool in the analyst and analyst relations (AR) tool box. For that reason, there should not be some special plan for social plan with all sorts of meetings and review sessions set up. Rather social media should just be incorporated into daily activities and your AR Strategic and Tactical Plan.

You do have an AR plan, don’t you?

Your strategic AR plan, the one with the charter and objectives, lists of all interactions types to be used for each purpose, service levels by analyst tier, calendar and priorities? Ok, unfair question. Many AR teams are so under the gun that a well-done AR plan is often considered a luxury. The main point is that social media (e.g., blogs, Twitter, communities, LinkedIn and so on) should not be considered something big and special – which means they won’t be embraced until the “plan is ready” – but merely just additional forms of interactions to add to the mix.

Obviously, the various types of social media are still new to many individuals and AR teams. As a consequence, there is a learning curve to climb and a process you will need to go through to adopt these new forms of interactions. However, social media are not “special,” just like e-mail is not special. Oh, those folks that have been around for awhile will no doubt remember when there was heated debate whether e-mail was an appropriate form of interaction with analysts.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Educate yourself about social media, including setting up accounts and playing with various types
  • Review which of your analysts are currently using Continue reading

Ideas for your 2010 AR Plan

Analyst Relations PlanningIt’s that time of the year when many AR programs are working on their 2010 AR Strategic and Tactical Plan. This is a popular topic that we have touched on in a number of blog posts (see a small sampler below). This post looks at a few items you should consider thinking about that are not normally part of the typical AR plan.

Handling an expanding product line – If your company is planning on launching new products or major releases of existing products in 2010, how are you going to leverage your resources to cover these new responsibilities without depriving existing products of needed support?

Reaching out to new groups of analysts – There are going to be major changes in analyst landscape in 2010 so how are you going to reach out to new groups of analysts while maintaining high service levels to your most relevant analysts?

Measuring efficiency in working with internal stakeholders – While the analysts are AR’s primary focus, AR teams are often working with a number of internal groups such as product marketing and product management. The questions for 2010 planning are how are you going to measure your effectiveness in working with these groups and how are you going to improve your efficiency?

Participating in analyst-sponsored online communities – The IDC Insights Community and The BPO and Offshoring Best Practices Forum are just two examples of the trend toward analysts and firms creating and managing online communities that Continue reading

Developing Strong and Active Executive Sponsorships is a Planning Priority

Analyst Relations PlanningIf AR teams truly have the sponsorship of senior executives, why do they struggle for resources, organizational cooperation, executive participation in AR initiatives, and other critical issues? The reality is that AR teams probably have a tepid endorsement from their management rather than true executive sponsorship.

 SageCircle defines executive sponsorship as taking an active part in establishing AR goals and priorities, providing the resources necessary to achieving the agreed upon goals, explicitly communicating the importance of AR to the company, providing timely support when an internal organizational hurdle prevents the achievement of goals, and making themselves available as spokespeople with analysts. The key theme is active participation.

An important element of a sponsorship program is status reporting, because it helps to maintain the active participation of the executive. The purpose of status reporting is to:

  • Maintain AR’s top-of-mind presence with executives
  • Eliminate surprises about operational or strategic issues that could prevent the achievement of the agreed upon goals
  • Alert executives to issues requiring attention and support

Topics covered by status reporting cover both results and issues. Status reporting balances consistent touches without impinging on the executives’ time. Components of status reporting include:

  • Monthly one to two page e-mails
  • Quarterly 30-minute updates
  • Semi-annual 90-minute reviews

Working for active executive sponsorship should become a part of creating the AR strategic & tactical plan. Having an executive sponsorship program does require some effort on AR’s part and the scheduling of regular meetings, which need to be incorporated into the AR plan.  However, the payback of real executive endorsement is Continue reading

AR belongs in Marketing – a dead idea

Analyst Relations PlanningPublic 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: AR belongs in Marketing

Back Story: In the time before there was a dedicated AR position, industry analysts calling vendors asking for a briefing were often bounced around from one department to another. More often than not, the analyst would end up on the public relations doorstep because what the analyst did sort of sounded like a reporter. Because PR usually reported to Marketing, AR became a de facto marketing function even if it became an independent department.

Problem: Putting AR in Marketing has multiple problems, but a big one is consistency. One of AR’s critical success factors is consistently interacting with analysts because influencing the analysts is a process that takes a long time. AR cannot turn on and turn off interactions and be successful. Unfortunately, Marketing programs in most vendors are the model of inconsistency with resources being changed frequently.  If resources and programs are cut during recessions and restored during good times the damage for AR has been done in terms of:

  • Institutional memory is lost as AR staff gets cut or moves to other companies 
  • Relationships with analysts go stale due to lack of interactions or the inability to work with the same people
  • Sales and revenues are impacted by analysts with outdated or incomplete information providing inappropriate advice to customers and prospects
  • Intelligence dries up about analyst opinions and intentions because analyst contracts get cut reducing inquiry access to analysts

New Idea: Move AR out of Marketing and into Strategy. While there are several different options for a new home for AR (e.g., sales, product management and investor relations) each have their own issues. Strategy on the other hand has a number of advantages Continue reading

Planning can increase your effectiveness and efficiency by dovetailing activities

Analyst Relations Planning 

“So how am I supposed to make time for this wonderful idea?”

 

This is a common question we get from AR professionals and managers, and it comes from both novices and experienced pros. It is typically asked within the context of a discussion about best practices training or a discrete activity (e.g., “moving the dot,” influencing an analyst conference, doing more client inquiries or experimenting with social media). Granted, if you added up all work associated with the “wonderful ideas” that SageCircle recommends for AR programs, then it would seem pretty daunting. 

However, it is wrong to consider each of these techniques as a standalone activity. Rather one must put each of them into the broader context of other activities. Frankly there should be a lot of overlap among all you do so AR needs to think about how activity A contributes to activity B. For example, working on a response to a Forrester Wave update is also a:

  • Regular “top of mind” touch
  • Opportunity to influence the agenda and content for a future conference
  • Relationship building exercise
  • Chance to influence the analyst’s research priority list for the next year
  • Intelligence gathering about number and type of sales deals the analyst influences
  • And others

What makes this dovetailing of seemingly disparate activities easier is to have an AR strategic and tactical plan that acts as an umbrella for all activities. A good plan will map out many of the activities for the year and that will permit AR to determine what is redundant and can be eliminated. It will also highlight potential Continue reading

“There are only so many briefing hours in the year” so AR professionals better make sure their briefings are focused and valuable for the analyst

Analyst Relations PlanningDuring the January 27, 2009 Gartner Quarterly AR Call, GVP Jenni Lehman, research operations, made a useful point that we think that vendors do not focus on enough:

      “There are only so many briefing hours in a year.”

This point is important because many vendors rely too much on briefings, and have ill-planned and poorly executed briefings. Calling on analysts too often and conducting low value briefings can lead to the situation where analysts cut back on the number of briefing slots allocated to the vendor. This outcome has nothing to do with the size of the vendor’s contract and everything to do with the typical value the analyst is getting from his or her investment of time with the vendor. Why should an analyst invest an hour with a vendor if they know they will get little useful information or strategic insights from the vendor?

AR programs need to carefully review all their planned briefings – you do plan your briefing schedule months in advance, right? – to ensure Continue reading

Creating an Analyst Editorial Calendar

Analyst Relations PlanningAnalyst relations (AR) teams that are building their AR Strategic & Tactical Plan need to have insights into what critical analysts are planning to publish over the next few months. Knowing what an analyst is going to publish is an important planning trigger that helps AR teams be analyst centric, not company centric.

In other posts (see Responding to Analysts’ Published Comments – Speed is Essential), we have discussed responding to analyst research or rebutting their positions. An unfortunate fact is that once analysts have publicly taken a stand on a subject, getting them to change is much more difficult. On the other hand, if you start working with the analysts early in their research process, before anything has been published, it is much easier to influence the outcome and perhaps eliminate the need to rebut something that already has been printed.

An important tool for knowing what the analysts are working on is the Analyst Editorial Calendar.

An Analyst Editorial Calendar is a listing of anticipated analyst research report publication dates. Because analyst firms typically do not publish formal and complete editorial calendars, comprehensive Analyst Editorial Calendars have to be built by the core AR team. To create an Analyst Editorial Calendar, AR teams attempt to map out all Continue reading

Knowledge about the industry analysts can be a competitive advantage so create a training plan that includes all constituencies

Depth of detail depends on the audienceBest-in-class AR programs do not take training for granted.  They understand that communications and IT industry analysts can touch or be touched by many parts of the company and that a good training program is key for ensuring that all interactions with analysts are positive for the company. In addition to outbound activities a training program that includes inbound activites such as research use and effective inquiries can help you get more value from your analyst firm contracts.  This breadth of training will cover all aspects of communication with analysts and involve each constituency within the company (click on the graphic to enlarge).

It is important to note that training is not just for large Communications and IT Vendors, but should be addressed as part of any company, regardless of size, that deals with Continue reading

Transitioning to leading-edge AR: It’s in the plan

Analyst Relations PlanningWe have always received requests from directors of top analyst relations (AR) programs to define “World-Class AR.” These directors want to take their programs to the next level and they want to know the elements that characterize strategic AR. They also know that they require a plan for getting there. SageCircle has defined elements of this plan in its research on “The AR Effectiveness Matrix: Stages of AR Maturity, with the “Leading Edge” (Stage 3) representing world class AR. 

However, to provide a comprehensive response to these requests, we developed a 50-page report that is now a core component of the Online SageContentTM Library. In the process, we learned that 1) no one had developed a comprehensive vision yet and, if developed, a 2) comprehensive vision would have to be flexible enough to adapt to AR directors’ specific business needs. SageCircle built in this flexibility by focusing on how AR programs deliver business value to their companies (see Keys for World Class AR box).

pop-out-keys-for-world-class-ar

While the report provides a comprehensive overview of the components that make-up ‘Leading Edge’ AR programs, it leaves open the question: “How do we get there from here? This process is not simple (a “leap over tall buildings in a single bound” project). Rather, achieving ‘Leading Edge’ status requires Continue reading

Essential qualities of AR objectives: alignment and measurability

Analyst Relations PlanningSageCircle stresses the need for good strategic planning.  Creating the right objectives is perhaps the most significant aspect to advancing the AR program within your company.  AR objectives must exhibit two qualities: 

  • Direct alignment with overall company goals
  • Measurability

When establishing goals and objectives for the AR program, top-performing teams first focus on determining whether a candidate objective directly aligns with a corporate initiative. For example, many AR programs initially suggest a goal similar to, “Get our executives more involved with the analysts.”  But this goal has no explicit business value.  Why does the program want to increase the visibility of the executives?  In most cases when you review this objective the discussion leads to the understanding that analysts find meetings with executives more memorable and valuable, and messages from executives are considered more reliable.  Having executives meet with the analysts increases the company’s top-of-mind with the analysts, which is one factor that affects analyst recommendations.  The AR goal becomes, “Establish top-of-mind with key analysts covering the xyz market to promote inclusion on short lists”.  Executive meetings are recognized as one tactic for achieving this goal.

The second hurdle for program objectives is measurability. To assess this criterion, effective AR teams attempt to define Continue reading

Defining “AR Strategic and Tactical Plan”

Bottom Line:  AR organizations need to plan their programs and resources to achieve most effectively their AR goals. An AR Strategic and Tactical plan should be a detailed roadmap that aligns programs and activities with corporate and business unit objectives, AR goals and the strategic initiative of driving sales. 

AR Strategic and Tactical Plan:

n:  A scheme or method developed to ensure that the AR team is systematically delivering business value to the company for the time period specified. The AR plan requires both a near-term tactical focus as well as a long-term strategic vision. The AR Strategic and Tactical Plan is a document that begins with a statement of AR goals and then provides comprehensive detail for executing AR activities such that all AR resources and Continue reading

Planning and Measurement: more than activities, these are essential components of effective AR

SageCircle - connection between planning and measurementTop-performing analyst relations (AR) programs follow a simple model: 

  1. Define the results they want to achieve
  2. Define and execute a set of activities designed to achieve the stated results
  3. Measure progress

This approach not only helps to keep the program focused, it is critical for gaining and maintaining executive sponsorship and support.  Executives do not have time to learn the details and nuances of AR operations. They could care less how many briefings AR performs, how many e-mails were sent, or how many analyst requests the AR team supports. Executives want to know

  1. What are the business-relevant results the AR program will deliver
  2. Does the AR program have a plan (or is it flying by the seat of its pants)
  3. Is the plan reasonable
  4. How will the program prove its impact

Many AR programs lament their lack of strong executive support, yet have not committed the time necessary to develop the key ingredient for executive sponsorship, a pragmatic Continue reading

The process for developing an AR Strategic & Tactical Plan

SageCircle's AR strategic & tactical plan processCreating a comprehensive AR plan is a significant undertaking, with myriad steps and details. To accomplish this work in an efficient and effective manner — and to ensure nothing falls through the cracks — AR teams should follow a process similar to the one depicted in the graphic (click to enlarge). 

Going through a formal process is worth the effort. We have seen clients’ AR programs receive more headcount and budget when other departments in their companies face cutbacks in tough economic environments. Why? Because these AR programs had realistic AR plans that focused on delivering business value (including sales support which is prized in recessions) that could be measured.

SageCircle Technique:

This AR planning process has six discrete steps (numbered items relate to numbered circles on the diagram):

  1. Assess your AR program. This step helps identify opportunities to build on existing programs and to improve weak or non-existent areas
  2. Align AR goals with overall corporate objectives to prove AR’s value and to make timely adjustments based on business needs
  3. Build outreach programs and activities to accomplish Continue reading
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