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Influencing the Influencers

A big part of the PR mix is to win mindshare with leading industry analysts. However, to be successful you need to know what analysts want, when they want it and how to present it – a task that is not as easy as it may seem.

Industry analysts are viewed as impartial and with extensive knowledge of the relative strengths and weaknesses of companies and their products. They are the opinion formers, reputation makers and recommenders.  Through favourable citings in the press and recommendations to clients they can help build a supplier’s mindshare and sales pipeline. 

Given this ability to move the market, building relationships with key analysts is clearly vital. And yet it is surprisingly often overlooked both by PR firms and their corporate clients.  Large organisations with their own analyst relationship (AR) departments often make the mistake of communicating with analysts by sending them sales literature and PR releases – neither of which speaks to them in their own language – that is, with succinct positioning statements backed up by accurate, specific data.  SMEs are often cowed at the very thought of reaching out to the analyst community, fearing that they will bungle their first attempt at presenting themselves, create the wrong impression and remain either invisible to analysts or end up on their ‘not-going-anywhere-fast’ list.  Analysts do not neglect vendors out of spite or laziness, but it is true that a bad impression once created is often hard to redress.  They key here is, having gone to considerable time and effort to secure an analyst briefing session:  Get in right first time.  How do you do this?

Four things analysts want to know

To begin with, scrap the hyperbole and self-aggrandising sales pitches – which includes taking a scalpel to the word ‘unique’.  Statements like “We are the only company to...”, “We provide the best…”.  These statements may be true but unless they are backed up with hard evidence they remain empty rhetoric and vague generalisms that immediately raises analysts’ hackles.   Here’s what they actually want to know:

  1. What is the relevance of your product or service in the market? And to whom?
  2. What truly differentiates your offering from your rivals in the market? 
  3. How the business is performing, and what are its prospects going forward?
  4. How do you see the market changing and what will that mean for your future plans?

The more clear, confident, succinct and specific is the information, the more likely analyst are to sit up and take notice.  They don’t assess on what companies say but on what they can prove.  If a product is better than the competition, provide credible evidence and benchmarks.   If you save customers money, say exactly how. If your organisation is poised for growth, include roadmaps and strategies.  Above all, demonstrate you have a clear understanding of your market and its needs.

All this may seem like ‘mother and apple pie’ but in our experience it is require a good measure of discipline and dedicated resources in areas encompassing everything from corporate governance to data analysis, market research and product positioning.   And of course an effective PR and/or Analyst Relations department that can synthesis all of this information into credible communications. 

By Simon Levin, The Skills Connection