Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Believe it or not? A rift between H&K and KCG

My sister always sounds happy for me when I tell that I'll be spending a day in downtown San Francisco. Although it just means a day working from the Courtyard, it does give me a few hours to exchange news with friends who work nearby. Given a lobby with both Starbucks and pretty fast WiFi I can multi-task, and multi-gossip.

The most repeatable story from breakfast concerns our friends at Hill and Knowlton and the guys at Knowledge Capital. It seems that H&K feels that KCG has been presenting H&K as if it's a happy customer of theirs. However, the opposite seems to be true. H&K ended its token partnership with KCG a few years ago, and didn't get much out of it. Now H&K is developing the same sort of advisory services, as well as metrics like those that KCG resells from Biz360 and Evalueserve.

Personally, my impression was that they have been buddies: I'm pretty sure I've seen H&K listed as a KCG partner, and Stephen certainly made me think they were close. Perhaps the two firms have drifted apart. My friend feels that KCG has continued to talk about H&K as if it gets its AR strategies and skills from KCG; meanwhile H&K has gone in its own direction, learning more from its work with Carter's team at HP can anyone could learn from KCG. KCG and H&K are now, more or less, full competitors -- even if H&K is more focussed on selling AR to exisiting PR clients.

This cold war has turned hot after a client asked H&K about its link to KCG. It turns out that KCG's materials referenced H&K. H&K has told Bill to remove all the references. My friend feels KCG has been too slow to make that happen. Everyone seems to be ratty with everyone.

Glancing at Bill's website, I can't see any references to H&K. However, I also think that KCG has pulled its client list from its website, perhaps temporarily.

7 comments:

Vinnie Mirchandani said...

Lusher and Hopkins were both my collagues at Gartner. Both extremely smart guys. But not sure you can generalize one is much better than the other. Running internal AR, Carter, managing a budget, dealing with a saless force etc Carter and team can point to certain operational nuances which I am sure would help other AR folks. But Bill and his firm have the breadth of dealing with many more clients and being able to showcase what works, does not work for small and large companies.

This is a classic built for endurance versus epeed you have when you consider someone internal versus a consultant. You need both perspectives I would suggest.

Joshua Reynolds, H&K said...

Let me clear the air here. I am the founder and chairman of H&K's Analyst Relations Practice. KCG and H&K are not partners. The "token partnership" of which you speak predates my arrival three years ago.

I can't speak to any sparks or animosity, as I haven't personally spoken with KCG in more than 18 months. If they are representing H&K as a partner, it is an annoying misrepresentation, nothing more. We think there's a place in the market for them, certainly. They are good analysts of the analysts.

But to be sure, H&K's AR offerings include some of what KCG will try to sell you. (H&K sells AR to more than just existing PR clients, BTW. We do have some clients who leverage us for Analyst Relations or message development only.) H&K has shared a client with KCG on three occasions, the most recent of which was in early 2005, but the overlap was quite accidental. More frequently, H&K has picked up AR work for clients where KCG left off.

Specifically, in addition to AR execution support, H&K offers AR strategy, program design, analyst targeting and tiering, presentation development, and AR coaching and training (though we don't pretend to be qualified to offer industry certification for it). And like KCG, who boasts an ex-Gartner analyst at the helm, we employ four ex-industry analysts (three of us from Gartner), not counting the ex-Gartner PR manager, the ex-Capitol Hill researcher, and the Masters Degree in Library Sciences research director we also employ.

We do not compete with KCG when it comes to the execution of AR programs, as KCG does not have the capability to execute the AR strategies it creates. (That is our primary differentiator as an AR strategic consultant--our 12-person Global AR team, all full-time AR specialists, actually executes what we recommend. You can hold us accountable for what we suggest.)

We also have some analyst relations metrics tracking that competes with what you'd see from more traditional tracking/monitoring players. We also offer non-publication-based measurements, such as quantifiable impact on lead generation and message pull-through on inquiry.

Most importantly, we actually subscribe to and leverage inquiry access with Gartner, Forrester, IDC, Yankee, Jupiter, AMR, and a few others. We spend at least as much time actively engaged in analyst inquiry, message-testing and development, and consumption of research as we do with outbound communications.

And THAT, as I'm sure every ARmageddon reader already knows, is the secret to effective analyst relations.

For more info, email me at joshua.reynolds@hillandknowlton.com

Duncan Chapple said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Duncan Chapple said...

Vinnie is spot on: it's horses for courses (as we say here).

Powerhouses have very different challenges and opportunities from mid-market firms. I'm sure that H&K works with firms of many sizes, but I guess that most their AR work will be with very large firms. I ran a similar team at Brodeur Worldwide, and that's how it was for us then -- and how it still is at Lighthouse. KCG has much more experience at working with small and mid-market firms than anyone else: and that's reflected by their claim to have 700 reference clients (and even without H&K, 699 is still a lot).

I think what Carter, and H&K, will be living in "the Powerhouse experience" is the reality that at different stages AR changes between being an art and being a science. The importance of *internal* communication also changes, and head of AR spends more of their time being an ambassador to the rest of the organisation.

Stephen England @ KCG said...

It is KCG policy not to engage in debate on anonymous blogs. Should you wish to discuss this issue or understand more about KCG products, client and partners please visit www.knowledgecap.com or contact Stephen England at england@knowledgecap.com or on +1 (512) 334 5943.

Anonymous said...

Stephen,

Your silence speaks volumes.

It shows that you're not much of a communications specialist, because a 'no comment' after you've been caught out just is one of the basic errors.

The reality is that this post, and Josh's reply, sound believable. Your reply adds to that. It just doesn't matter whether this blog is anonymous or not. It's read by your potential clients.

As the whole issue is what you've been saying or writing when H&K are not around to correct you, the idea that the answer is a private call to you is just self-parody.

Have you considered speaking with a PR agency? There are some good papers by Terry here:
http://www.piercom.com/resources/library.html and Mike Russell would be good to speak with.

Joc said...

While initially I thought it was appropriate for H&K to set the record straight, they didn't stop there, but continued on to use the blog as a marketing opportunity (even though many of the AR bloggers have been pretty vocal about our belief that you shouldn't outsource AR). I wonder if it was because they couldn't pass up a PR opportunity.

KCG, as always, chose to take the high road and not respond to unsubstantiated rumour. I applaud Bill and Stephen for that!

Let's not turn the blogs into the equivalent of the supermarket tabloids, please. I really do want a place to read the rumours about which analysts are thinking of leaving (and why), and what others are paying for a strategy day. But this has the potential to turn these blogs into a forum for bashing the painfully few organizations that understand AR enough to help others in the profession.