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Influence, spin or educate?

Hmm, “influencing the influencers” is certainly a catchy phase and one that I have used many times in the past. However, the longer I was actually in AR the more I thought that this was a dead-end way of looking at what the AR profession should be doing – and most definitely not what the analysts and their end-user clients wanted us doing.  So how should we be thinking about this?
 
Definitely the word “spin” should be purged from the AR vocabulary as well. First off, spin has a rather pejorative feel to it.  Second, “spin” is closely associated with PR. Yes, our friends in PR are a sibling profession to AR, but they have a very different approach to doing their business versus how AR should be doing its business.
 
I think the best word to describe what AR does is “educate.” To over simplify, what most vendors want the advisory analysts (e.g., AMR and Forrester) to do is to place their products on the appropriate IT buyer short lists and to accurately inform IT buyers about the vendor and market trends. To make sure that this happens, the vendors have to educate the analysts. The better educated the analysts are about your company and its products/services, the better equipped they will be to educate the IT buyer.
 
There is also the fact that for many analysts spinning and influencing simply does not work and it hurts the vendor representatives’ credibility. After getting spun early in their careers, many analysts have developed a strong skepticism toward what vendors are saying. I personally developed an arm motion while at Gartner that I called my “BS vibe-o-meter” to indicate to the vendor briefing me that I wasn’t buying what they were saying. It was kind of rude, but the arm gesture was quite effective. So, if the only outcome of trying to spin or influence the analyst is to set off their skepticism, why bother?
 
Good advisory analysts have multiple intelligence sources – including your prospects and customers. While an analyst might initially buy your spin, as soon as they get contradictory input from their other sources they will discount all that you have said, not just the part that was spun.
 
Bottom Line: While trying to influence or spin the analyst is more fun and requires less work, in the long run focusing on education is the better approach. The only downside is that education does require more work, like ensuring your message is comprehensive and compelling, developing in-depth information, and making sure you line up rock solid proof points. But a well educated analyst will do a better job of positioning your products or services to IT buyers, leading to more leads for your company.
 
Question: Analysts – how long does it take in a briefing to determine that the vendor is trying spin you instead of giving you straight information? AR professionals – how do you think about what you do?  IT buyers – would your opinion of an analyst’s credibility change if you thought he or she could be spun by vendors? 

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One Response

  1. This is a very worthy post, but I wonder how many inhouse AR teams would agree with you? Especially when in most cases AR falls within the PR function.

    The analysts I respect the most are pretty impervious to spin.

    On the other hand, experience has shown me that industry analysts, being human, have preferences when it comes to presentation delivery style, content, etc. By picking up on these preferences it is possible for vendors to increase the effectiveness of analyst interactions.

    It’s not spin, it’s simply studying basic behaviour and acting on it.

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