A “problem analyst” is in the eye of the beholder. There are analysts whom vendors think are problems, but are really only doing their jobs in an effective manner. However, there are truly analysts who cause problems for vendors with technology buyers and the press. The two SageCircle webinars on “Dealing with Problems Analysts” were lively with questions and discussion as AR professionals grabbled with how to identify and deal with various types of analysts. Here are answers to some of the questions we received during the webinar.
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Q: What do you do at analyst events (50+ analysts) where you have a blending of problem analysts – to avoid “public problems”?
A: First off, you should always invite a problem analyst to an analyst event they would logically participate in. The analyst would hear about the summit or conference and become ever more of a problem if they decided in their mind that they were disrespected.
Analyst events can actually be good opportunities to turn around a problem analyst, depending on the type of problem of course. There are some planning steps you have to take to ensure they don’t disrupt the event. These include assigning AR “handlers” who can ensure the problem analysts get the appropriate attention without hogging too much executive or domain expert time. It is also important that problem analysts don’t sit together where they might reinforce negative opinions based on lack of knowledge. Arranging for the problem analyst to be surrounded by well-educated, positive analysts can provide an environment for indirectly influencing them. Setting up a few, targeted 1-on-1s with executives and domain experts is also a good technique.
Q: Can an analyst be a combination of several types of problem analyst?
A: Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Obviously, this makes determining the best approach for turning around a problem analyst even trickier. Focusing on common traits (e.g., “Know it All”s and certain “Thought Leader”s are not particularly interested in listening to vendors) is a good start.
Q: There is an analyst who always gets quoted in the press – I think you know who – that does not cover us but takes press calls about us. He refuses to be briefed unless we are a client. Can we tell the press?
A: No. NO. NO! NO!! Frankly, the vast majority of reporters do not care how good or accurate an analyst is when they are searching for a quote. Rather, reporters are only interested in someone who will return their calls, provide an entertaining sound bite, and has a semi-recognizable name with an appropriate job title and employer. So telling a reporter that an analyst is pay-for-play and uninformed won’t impact their decision use that analyst. Plus, you run the risk of what you said getting back to the Press Hound, which would lead to only greater problems.
Comment: To the previous question, we gave one of these press hounds a small contract and the problem went away.
A: Yes, sometimes that is an effective, if distasteful, approach. However, it is not enough to throw a few bucks at a Press Hound and hope they wander away. You should still provide some very focused briefings – usually done by the AR team and not executives – and use the Press Hound as an advisor for very targeted issues. You might find that you actually get genuine value from the Press Hound if you get to know them and not just distain their business model.
Q: How much of issue is the whether or not we have a contract with the analyst?
A: With the exception of the “Budget Vampire,” not having a contract is usually not the reason why the analyst is a problem. For instance, the “Overworked” type is stressed, interrupt driven, distracted, and lacking time to take briefings. They simply don’t care if you are a client or not. That said, having client inquiry access to an analyst is a critical tool for some approaches to dealing with problem analysts. An example is using client inquiry to have a Rock Star, usually too much on the road to take briefings, to educate him or her by having them critique a draft press release. The process of critiquing the document will usually give you the opportunity to provide some bite-sized education that will slide under the Rock Star’s radar. Not have having a contract – and thus no access to the analyst via client inquiry – takes away a major tool.
Q: Does the approach for Press Hounds change if they are also bloggers?
A: Hmm, good question. It probably won’t change the approach, but if the Press Hound also has a prominent blog it could change your assessment whether they are enough of a nuisance to warrant attention. The more outlets the Press Hound has to get their sound bites into a press article – some reporters “quote” analysts by doing a cut-and-paste from an analyst’s blog – then the greater the potential for issues with your executives. A Press Hound that effectively leverages blogging should probably get a higher priority.
- Do not fall into the trap of assuming that all analysts are problem analysts
- Do not fall into the trap of assuming there is a “one-size fits all” type of problem analyst
- AR teams need to analyze the characteristics of each analyst to determine the type and most appropriate response
- Problem analysts that are highly relevant and influential require plans and patience to turn around
Bottom Line: Not all analysts that are skeptical and raise concerns about a vendor’s strategy or execution are problem analysts. AR professionals need to carefully analyze the situation they are confronted with and develop a plan specific to that situation.
Question: Who do you approach problem analysts?
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