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Best practices for partner collaboration on AR

This best practice comes from guest contributor Gerry Van Zandt (Twitter handle), AR manager with HP Services.

Joint product, service, or customer announcements with partners are a common part of the marketing repertoire for large and small companies in the technology world. But far too often these “announcements” consist of two names or logos at the top of a press release, with only modest coordination between the PR teams of the two companies (mainly securing approvals and edits to press release text) and then shot-gunning the news release out on the newswires.

As always, AR teams should assess the potential benefits of joint announcements and engage in the process early to help shape content and key messages. To maximize effectiveness of important joint announcements, AR also should coordinate closely with AR counterparts (or resources handling AR) at partner companies and jointly plan an analyst engagement strategy and timeline, executed by both companies. By doing this, analysts get informed about the upcoming news in advance, and learn its context and significance to both companies. This also gives them the knowledge to accurately comment if called by a reporter as a third-party story source.

When engaging with AR counterparts at partner firms, AR should:

  • Identify appropriate AR and marketing resources early at the partner firm. When AR is called into a project, they should as early as possible inquire with partner executives about AR resources at their company, and encourage execs to engage them and/or provide contact information. AR should reach out and engage with their counterparts at the partner firm.
  • Agree upon mutual goals for joint AR. Companies generally have different AR and PR goals based on a variety of factors, including their current business situation, marketing objectives, company size, level of engagement and relationships with the analyst community, presence of dedicated AR resources, and where AR fits within the company from a functional standpoint. These differences can lead to dramatically different AR strategies and tactics between companies pursuing a joint announcement. It’s important that AR engage with the marketing and marketing teams to identify and agree upon realistic goals for the AR effort. AR should ensure that appropriate spokespeople are identified and introduced (if they haven’t previously met).
  • Create key messages and content. AR teams should work together to create and finalize a set of three to five key messages about the announcement that they want to communicate to analysts. These messages should answer key questions analysts will probably have about why the companies are working together; what is the benefit of the joint product/service/solution to customers (if a product or service announcement); how the product or service is differentiated in the marketplace (or why is it significant); how the customer has benefitted from the vendor’s product or service; how the announcement compares to competitive offerings; and so forth. As always, AR should work with marketing and executive teams to create content that is specifically optimized for the analyst audience, and not just a carbon-copy of a PR slide deck or press release.
  • Create a joint analyst list. AR at both parties should identify relevant analysts to be briefed. This list should be tiered and include technology or subject-matter experts as well as industry- and company-watchers who follow what the companies are doing in the marketplace. The number of analysts on the list should be manageable, so that analysts can be briefed by the companies’ executives in a reasonable amount of time ahead of the announcement. AR should assign an “owner” for each analyst/firm in advance, so that there is a single point of contact for all briefing outreach and coordination.
  • Agree upon the analyst briefing strategy. If the announcement is of medium to high industry relevance and importance, AR teams should consider joint consulting with selected analysts. If not, AR should reach out to analysts to set up briefings in advance, with respective AR “owners” taking the lead on outreach. AR should drive content to completion (ensuring consistency with stated messages and joint goals) and oversee at least one “dry run” delivery of the joint presentation by company spokespeople. This exercise helps spokespeople practice as well as sets the order and owners for each company’s respective portion of the content. If possible (due to analysts’ busy schedules), AR should conduct outreach at least 1-2 weeks in advance of the desired briefing dates.
  • Prepare appropriately. AR teams should create short background notes prior to the analyst briefings to ensure that spokespeople are well-prepared for the calls. These briefing notes should include the analysts’ area(s) of coverage; summary of recent reports and opinions on related topics; background; and anticipated questions. Make sure spokespeople receive these notes at least 24 hours in advance of analyst briefings so they have adequate time to prepare. AR also should be prepared to ask selected analysts whether they would accept calls from editors or reporters working on stories.
  • Post-briefing follow-up. After briefings are conducted, AR “owners” should follow up with analysts to ensure that they have no remaining questions or needs and to try to obtain any post-briefing perceptions. This information should be compiled into a jointly authored post-announcement report that is distributed to spokespeople as well as PR teams. AR teams should also recommend specific (highly knowledgeable and/or positive) analysts to PR teams to serve as third-party press references.

Question: AR teams – Have you tried working with a partner on a joint AR campaign? What worked and did not work?

Do you have a best practice, insight or opinion that you would like to share with the analyst ecosystem community? If so, please send an email to info [at] sagecircle dot com with your idea. What sort of guest columinists are we looking for? Glad you asked, here are some examples:

  • IT manager clients of the analysts with research consumer best practices
  • IT analysts who want to give a tip to AR professionals on how best to deal with analysts
  • AR professionals who want to share a frustration about an analyst practice
  • Reporters who want to give analysts tips on how to craft a sound bite that will get quoted
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