Karen Rohack Mclaughlin, Queen Buckaroo at QB Comm, Inc., wrote these notes of a Silicon Vlley PRSA meeting two or three years ago. Re-reading them, I think think deserve a wider audience. To find out more about the SV-PRSA, visit siliconprsa.org.
(AR) has evolved into a critical function due to the industry analyst’s ability to impact a firm’s shareholder price, strategic position and overall mindshare buzz.
The panel explained that AR is a sales job with no quota and no typical day. As with PR, AR influences the mindshare of a key audience by educating them about the company’s business and marketing strategy, key messages and by freely exchanging information. The panel felt AR provides a good return on investment because of its ability to understand the competitive landscape, its positive impact on a company’s strategy and message development, and its ability to give management an honest viewpoint about what’s happening in the marketplace.
A panelist commented that PR tends to take a short-term view, while AR has a more long-term perspective and relationship-building function. This comment made me wonder if AR’s exposure to PR is not to its strategic planning and execution functions, but rather only to the tactical, short-term PR projects such as product intros, new programs and initiatives and crisis response.
What Makes An AR Program Successful? The panel emphasized that support from senior management—their provision of time, financial resources and staff --- are all crucial for the long-term success of an AR program. The panelist’s AR departments averaged between two and 20 people, and all utilized some type of “home grown” contact database solution to keep track of analyst contacts.
While it was mentioned that Cisco offers an annual two-day analyst conference that is a combo of AR and Investor Relations (IR), the panel cautioned that it’s not a good idea to do a large mixed-analyst briefing for a new product or company initiative, especially with tier one analysts. One-on-one briefings are best. However, a large briefing of analysts from one firm can be a cost-effective way to communicate.
Similar to the way many of us set up our press relations, HP tiers their analysts. Level one analysts receive one-on-one briefings and more direct contact, while levels two and three are updated mainly through teleconferences. The panel also noted that because analysts know the market and the players, they can be used to bulletproof presentations, messages and to fine-tune company or product positioning. The AR department can help PR select the appropriate analysts for these types of briefings.
AR’s Biggest Challenge: The analyst landscape is constantly changing. With so many mergers and acquisitions, customer solutions are expanding, so there is a real need to balance corporate vs. technology messages to the analysts. One panelist mentioned, “...many don’t know where the industry is going, so we’re all hedging our bets with strategy/product solutions.”
Key Points to Remember: In AR, you can never rest on your laurels. AR is only one data point for the analysts to secure information about a company’s strategy, technologies or products. It takes hard work to continue to be viewed as an important and knowledgeable resource to the analysts and to reinforce your company’s mindshare and analyst relationships. Also, there must be a strong synergy between the AR/PR/IR functions, as all are important partners in the communications effort. It’s critical to keep everyone updated on goals, strategies, programs, and the competitive and internal issues that might impact the audience.