The two faces of AR

November 17, 2010

Its been a while coming but recently I had the chance to read the Forrester report in engineering AR (http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/time_to_engineer_ar/q/id/57611/t/2) my thanks to Kevin Lucas for letting me read the report (currently not a subscriber).

It’s a good read I will comment about it on the AR forum that Forrester runs. But as always it got me thinking about AR and how things are evolving. The big seem to get bigger and the small use social media while the big, try to use social media.

As I see it – yes generalisations here but we have two modes for doing AR:

  • Open walled
  • Closed walled

I’ll start with the latter, closed wall is Gartner and Forrester – the procedure for interaction is well-developed and outlined and now features a specific AR component. When you submit a vendor briefing request, you submit it you don’t email it. You know what to expect by when, you know what’s on offer if you pay and what you can get if you don’t. You also know the reach and influence of the firms.

For open walled read the others, the analysts tend to be active in social media, the content they produce tends to be free, some post presentations on slide sharing sites. The analysts will tend to be happier to provide feedback in a briefing.

But what difference does this make to AR then?

Its means a lot, it means that you can’t treat all analysts in the same way (why would you?) it also means you need to think long and hard about what the vendor corporate objectives are and what role interacting with analysts will play to help you meet these goals. Lastly it means you will need to firmly set expectations with spokespeople as to what to expect from the different analysts and last it means you will needed to have a blended approach to working with the firms those that are open walled and those that are closed.

You may argue that it’s always be this way, but I feel that social media has been a major game changer. The principles are the same but channels are more varied and more dynamic than ever.

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Event content management

November 16, 2010

For me events are the life blood of AR – analyst days, strategy sessions, customer roundtables, launches etc.. it’s a chance to focus the vendor on producing content and it’s always’ great to see the analysts in person. Virtual events, I have not really got to that yet.

I think that social media has transformed the way events now occur. In the old days we would get the slides done – while the analysts collected their name badges, never mind the run throughs 😉 the analysts would get a hard copy of the slides or possibly have them emailed or if we were really doing well a branded USB stick.

The analysts would get the content while it was delivered in hard copy or after the event. Excellent right of reply limited to Q&A.

But Twitter has changed everything. For the better. Events have gone from static to active. A recent event I did we had a developer disagree with an analysts tweet in mid presentation and use of file sharing sites meant an analyst coming late to a session had downloaded the slides and was browsing the final slides before the speaker had got to the middle and then tweeted about it.

So what is the upshot of the changes?  In short a vendor that thinks it can talk one way has overlooked the dynamic nature of social media and the impact of an event is instant. It also means that the content is open to any interested party i.e. the customer, again not a bad think.

Right better send the invite out to the next analyst summit I am working on….

Help – I have just hit the glass ceiling

July 14, 2010

I have been having a number of great conversations with members of the AR fraternity about all things AR. Smart people whose work I respect and opinions I value too.

One of the comments that really got me thinking (and now finally blogging) was as follows (paraphrased as this was a conversation I had a while back):

‘The problem I have is that I feel I have hit a glass ceiling with AR, there is only so far I can go with it. Plus in the organisation I work in, its part of the PR framework and I feel there is a limit to what I can do’

Is that really the case??? At an analyst event I put this view to an analyst and got a very interesting response:

‘Yes I deal with some really smart AR people, they really understand how we work and how to make things happen for us, and we likewise help them as well, but some take too short-sighted a view about working with analysts and need to look further than the briefing/messaging process’

In effect it comes down to what you make of AR, I have written in the past about marketing oriented AR and feel that this is the key to breaking the glass ceiling. I for one will always look at ways to push the boundaries!

Analyst musings in July 2010

July 14, 2010

Finally getting round to writing up the blog posts that have been drafts for a while.

My style is not to name names or pass comment on events – I am not that smart. One thing I have been keen to share is that as an AR practitionerI have a lot of interactions with Account Managers. Some experiences I would like to share

I have in the past written about how commercial contracts/pay for play impacts on AR but the one thing that strikes me from my experience is how different Account Managers (sales folk to you and me) operate in different firms.

I am of the view that with very few exceptions analysts don’t make great sales people, they are after all great analysts. But with account manager folks there are some great ones and some awful ones.

Some notable experiences – an account manager in a meeting with some marketing colleagues who are sold to ALL the time and not picking up the signals that it  was time to focus on what they were after not the entire deck he had prepared.

A real favorite – a sales guy sitting in an analyst briefing (which had taken six months to arrange) and then ambushing a senior spokesperson about which firms they did or did not spend money with while the analysts in the room winced.

And the final one the account managers that work fora firm that struggles with the word NO, yes we all have targets but which bit of not at the moment is confusing I wonder???

One final favourite is the AM telling my how complicated it is to work with analysts – not half as irritating as it is to work with some sales folks from analyst firms! Yup I get it, the more complicated you make it, the more valuable it is!

 But for all of the negatives there are the positive there are plenty of AM’s that get where you fit in the picture, understand how you can help them and are prepared to give a little to get back.

Fastest finger first

July 14, 2010

One of the thoughts I have had about social media and information overload is that at present what counts is not the content but speed of delivery. With Twitter/Fbook etc. we all have access to content, the real issue is about who shares it first. Presuming of course that the audience we are sending the content to find it of interest.

No but Yeah – when doing no AR is the way to go

March 16, 2010

Don’t worry this is not a post about Vicky Pollard from Little Britain (anyone outside of the UK feel free to contact me for more details about this epic piece of British comedy) but rather reference to a very interesting call I had last week with a contact who I used to do work for.

I receive a LinkedIn message from a former client who wanted to discuss analyst strategy with me. As a self-employed consultant,  this not a message to be ignored.

My contact has recently joined a technology start-up that has a clearly defined USP and this persons role is to look after all things marketing. The CEO wants to do work with analysts but the head of marketing  is not 100% sure this is the right way to go, so would like to bounce off some ideas of the expert (me ;-)) to make sure the decision is right.

The company’s situation is pretty clear, it’s an emerging business, with some excellent customers on board already, so is now the time to build relationships with analysts/influencer firms?

The crux of the decision revolves about the company’s growth plans. Are there a set of ‘must win’ customers or is the priority about ‘getting on the radar’ of prospects? In this instance, there is a dream list, and the vendor knows how to get to these guys directly.

So my view – its NO to AR right now, if you can’t support it properly and are focused on direct engagement with you customer wish list, better to hold off building links with influencers until the proposition is stronger, customer list bigger. Better to do it right than half do it, you only get one chance to make a first impression and with finite resources, you have to go with the activities that are likely to generate business in the shorter than longer term.

However when the company does look at engaging with the analyst community, I know a great consultant that is great at……….. 😉

Full on AR vs. Focused AR you decide…….

March 15, 2010
I have worked in the wonderful world of AR for over a decade both for PR agencies and for vendors and for the last eight years as an independent consultant. I am lucky I have never got bored of AR it changes so much its hard to get tired of it and the way things are moving there is no doubt the pace of change will only increase.
 
One interesting point to consider is should vendors have a full time dedicated AR resource or is AR a discipline that can be used as and when i.e. outsourced to an agency/external provider and undertaken on an ad hoc basis?
 
The purists will say that you can’t turn on and off links with analysts like advertising or direct marketing, while pragmatists will argue if AR is used to support marketing initiatives then its another tool in the arsenal that should be used as and when appropriate.
 
Ultimately it comes down to how you view the role/importance of industry analysts that will influence the decision. One point to consider there are analysts I know and have worked with for years, I mean years. I may not talk to them day-to-day but I know who they are and they know where I am too. While growth targets may be temporary meaningful business relationships are timeless.

Anyone for breakfast…..

March 3, 2010

Just finished a very very interesting briefing with a client about an area until today I did not really understand fully. The analyst conversation was classic two-way plenty of give and take.

A number of light bulbs went off in my head at the time of the meeting a couple regarding how to approach a particular area of the clients business that to date analysts have not found too compelling but I finally have found an analogy for how to cope with Twitter, Blogs etc..

Having discovered Twitter a while back, there are times when I will happily switch it off to get on with day job and then there are blogs to absorb. How does one cope before getting to information overload????

Answer – breakfast please…

Just kidding, in my view the key to delivering value in business is through:

  • Relationships
  • Content delivery

I’d like to cover the second one in this post as I have focused on the former elsewhere and will come back to it at some other point.

So here is the analogy piece, convention has it that eating a balanced diet is the key to living well a little of what you fancy does you good. Eat at regular intervals etc. I have come to the conclusion that the same is true for how to deal with information – one needs balance, consume the right content at the right time and it works, consume too much and you get ‘infogestion’ some content makes you move faster, other takes a lot longer to digest.

So why does this matter? Well with all the free content out there are times I feel I am missing out on knowledge/insight/potential for competitive advantage. But I think the best way is to take a balanced approach. Consume content when you have the time and when you can digest it and get on with the day job when you have to.

With that in mind – its time for lunch

Freelance musings….

February 11, 2010

I have had a some really interesting conversations with people about  freelancing in general so I thought it would be a nice idea to blog about it.

Not a big writer but some points of interest:

  1. Freelancing is not for all – the grass is greener, it all looks great but you can’t rely on anyone else. It may not be for you, snowboarding is not for me but it does look v cool
  2. Spotting the opp  – there are times when you have to walk away from work that you can do and other times when despite the good will you need to drawn a line and say time to look at new leads
  3. Your value is your value – ‘you pay peanuts you get monkeys’, your worth is your worth. As a freelancer if you don’t deliver, you are out but as you deliver (or should do) you have a worth
  4. Fortune favours the brave – as you can’t hide behind anyone else you have to do it all but as that is what you have chosen so get on with it 😉
  5. It’s all in the mind – attitude is as important as competency

Right back to work!

Twitter yea not

February 9, 2010

My thanks to Dominic Pannel for introducing me to Twitter. Having been slow to the blogsphere, I guess I was somewhat slow to this fab Web 2.0 application. This tool and I am sure there are others, clearly provides a new dimension to AR, but one thing I am mindful of, is that nothing replaces investing in professional analyst relationships and getting a clear understanding of exactly what each analyst is after and more importantly what there are not. Might be an obvious point but I have always been a big believer that while technology is an enabler/enhancer of relationships it will never replace the human element which great AR professionals are valued most for.

Feb 2010 now Twitter is mainstream and the issue is not whether it is used but how to use it. I remember years ago a senior Microsoft executive telling me about he did email ‘I spend two hours a day doing mail. One hour in the morning and one in the evening. In between that I get my day job done.’ For me that is how I now approach Twitter it’s not the sound of the alerts that breaks my concentration (I am an avid Tweetdeck user) rather being in a constant state of alert about who has tweeted what. Maybe I can’t concentrate but I now find having Twitter on a lot like working with the radio on – there is a lot of background but every now and then there is something you need to stop and concentrate on.