Thursday, 2 March 2006

AR 101 series: selling the value of AR

As we previously wrote, AR is NOT an outbound tactic: briefing analysts and expecting them to write something is called PR and does only harness a small part of the value AR can deliver. However, few AR people feel confident selling the value of AR back to other stakeholders, such as sales and marketing.

Here are a simple 5 steps guide to getting it right.

Step 1: establishing AR
AR often grows out of media relations and tend to have communication as a reporting line (this seems to be the prevalent model for small organisations). AR practitioners should seek to clearly differentiate their audience (read AR 101: Analyst vs. press) as it will impact management and stakeholders expectations.
In this post (AR 101: Measuring Analyst Relations), we lay out three models for AR:

  • Outbound: pushing information out to analysts in the hope of generating reports
  • Transactional: pulling targeted analysts into a relationship with the firm
  • Insight: primarily using analysts to develop internal understanding and direction
AR professional should strive towards establishing an insight-based AR practice and align with sales and marketing rather than with comms. See Duncan's tips here.

Step 2: setting goals and measurements
Thanks to Pavlov, we know that rewards conditions behaviours: it is crucial to align AR with sales and marketing goals. In this post (AR 101: Measuring Analyst Relations), we give the following recommendations:
  • AR's primary goal should be create a positive external environment for business
  • Focus and attention should be given to setting up balanced metrics to measure AR not only on raw clippings and quotes but also by weighting them to reflect the importance of the analyst, by surveying all analysts and through independent perception audits.
  • AR need long term objectives and can contribute positively to developing corporate strategies.
Read also ANALYST EQUITY: Share of Voice: Useful, Often Vital.

Step 3: impacting the strategy
Well executed, AR can leverage the analysts privileged position and wealth of knowledge as a competitive advantage. Do use analysts to get a sanity check and/or coach execs, balancing independent analysts (they offer better value) from those having customer insight. Do schedule message testing sessions way ahead of launches (under NDA). Do allow time for analyst feedback during briefings (bearing in mind that there must be something in for the analyst, like buying reprints or getting the analyst under retainer). Do not let short-term tactics waste this potential.

Step 4: Shaping the agenda
Having engaged proactively with analysts should give your company clues about trends you might not have spotted before. This not only gives your execs the chance of fine tuning their strategy and messages, but armed with this knowledge you should be able to also synch briefings and announcement with the analysts' research agenda. Read also AR 101 series: the research process.

Step 5: delivering to sales and marketing
There are multiple ways for AR to help marketing. Do start by making sure that AR tactics are included into the marketing plan, it should also provide for analyst deliverables (such as speaking engagement, research projects, etc...) Do plan AR tactics way ahead of product launches.

Do spend some time to explain how analysts come in the sales cycle and do raise awareness with the sales community so that they come back to AR when they hear of an analyst being consulted by the prospect or client. If you have followed step 4, you should be able to know where the analyst is coming from and what should her/his objections. You should thus be in a position to balance this with either positive research (from another firm or sometimes from the same firm) or to help sales refocusing the discussion. Remember that sales always get the kudos for wins and will try to deflect the blame for losses.
Read also Reacting to an analyst attack and Advisory analysts do impact vendor sales and make/break products.

Good selling!

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