How can you prove your clietn is the zen master they say they are? PR Pro Debbie Smith goes in search for those elusive proof points.
We know journalists get hundreds of pitches every day. Their mailboxes and twitter feeds are full of companies competing for airtime, all offering informed, relevant comment. But why should a journalist listen to what they have to say?
Fellow freelance PR Lianne Robinson makes it brief.
I saw this tweet from Tom Knowles a few weeks ago, And it stayed with me. I see this type of thing all the time. Paragraphs beyond paragraphs of long clunky words with no clear explanation as to what it is they are trying to say.You can spend what seems like an age watching a company description going around the various the heads and powers that be of a company. I know this as I’ve worked in-house too. Everyone wants to add their own point of view, something that makes them feel that they played a part in the creation of the copy. But in doing so, adding a long word here and a bit of jargon there, we can completely lose all sense of what we’re trying to say.
OK so she does get out of bed for somwhat less then £10k, but Comms Crowd content writer Sandra Vogel, sets out her terms for keeping us all singing form the same song sheet…
Over the years I’ve freelanced for some of the biggest names in tech, for national newspapers, and for some of the best known technology web sites. I’ve also worked with lots of small companies, mostly but not all with a technology angle, with voluntary organisations, and with communications agencies.I’ve found good and bad clients across the spectrum. It’s not the size or sector that matters – it’s the approach and attitude of the client to using freelancers.
Newest Comms Crowd recruit and PR Pro, Lianne Robinson, looks at how the brave and the bold can get the better of Brexit.
Any economic event brings with it a period of uncertainty. We saw it back in 2008 when the market crashed and we are seeing it again now courtesy of Brexit.
When situations like this happen, it’s tempting for a company to crawl under a rock and keep quiet. But, at a time when staff, clients and other stakeholders are looking for answers, it’s imperative to have a voice and adopt an honest and open communications strategy. Doing this not only helps to protect its reputation but it also reduces the risk of a negative fallout later down the line.
In 2006, I landed a job in property PR. Back then it was one of the most exciting and fastest moving sectors in which to work. The industry was booming and companies were reporting significant growth and opportunity across the board. Then at the turn of 2008 the recession hit and disaster struck.
In those dark early days of fear, the companies who realised that the situation could yield opportunity had to react fast and work closely with their PR teams to reassure their stakeholders. In such volatile markets, it became vital for businesses to be much more visible, open and out there promoting the positives. There was a real need for company spokespeople to provide shareholders with a degree of confidence that action was being taken and businesses needed advice on how best to proceed.
It is widely noted that the Brexit result came as quite a shock to many. But companies across the country would have spent months, even years, planning for the possible outcomes of the EU Referendum and discussing their business strategy. Most businesses will have a game plan to put into action and now is the time to engage with key stakeholders on the significance of the decision and what it means for the business.
When markets become nervous, it is important to be a voice of reassurance, emulating a sense of calm and trust in order to bring people with you and protect the reputation of the business. Companies who think carefully about the issues and position themselves with care, have a real opportunity to use recent events to help build their profile and garner support. There is a lot to be said for those who are among the first out there providing guidance and confidence.
With something like Brexit when the outcome as a surprise to many, it is difficult to know what the right thing to say is and easy to let other put their head above the parapet to offer their opinion. When no one knows the most appropriate thing to say, only the brave and the bold are prepared to go on the record.
Right now there is much speculation around the future of the United Kingdom might and there are no ‘right’ answers. And while it’s true that yesterday’s news is no longer today’s chip wrappers as the growth of online and digital means that what you say is here to stay: offering a level of insight can pay dividends for the sake of supporting your stakeholders and the continuity of your business as much as anything else.
Courtesy of Eria Odhuba, a founder member of the team and our resident analyst relations guru – is it about what you know or who you know?
When engaging with industry analysts, tech vendors and end users ALWAYS want to know what value they add and whether they can actually provide guidance to help them make crucial strategic decisions.
For some people, the fundamental reason they engage with analysts is to get advice about how to position themselves better (vendors) or which vendor technologies to consider (end users) because they genuinely can’t do so themselves and feel that analysts know more about certain aspects of the industry than they do.
When everything matches – i.e. connection with the right analyst, finding the best time to engage with them during the product life cycle or decision-making process, execution as advised, and progress reviews – we’re all happy and feel the whole process was worth it.
All this depends on:
1. The analyst adding to the knowledge that didn’t exist within the organisation, or did exist but no-one had a good idea how best to utilise it strategically;
2. The analyst using their extensive knowledge of various technologies, implementations and case studies to provide impartial advice and pro-actively guide their clients.
Now, occasionally, we hear “I definitely know more about this industry than XYZ analyst, what value will they really provide? I will be the one educating them!”
Time is precious and it is understandable if someone doesn’t want to waste time talking to analyst they don’t feel are relevant to them. What people should always remember is that it works the other way round as well. Analysts don’t want to talk to people that are not relevant to their research areas or can’t provide valuable information they can use to help advise their own clients.
So if an analyst wants to speak to you, they may not necessarily know more about the industry than you do but they do want to know more about your company, technology, services, GTM strategy, etc.
Fundamentally, you need to see this as an education process. Though you may know what you are doing, you need to get the message out. So, educate the analysts and let them educate the market / tell people about the value you provide.
For a normal briefing, the question to ask is “what gaps in the analyst’s knowledge exist that I need to fill in?” instead of “does this analyst know more than me?”
For consulting / inquiry-type engagements, you can think differently. You want to make sure the analyst you talk to is providing you with the necessary advice related to messaging, market positioning, technology development, etc. What you are looking for is an independent opinion which, given the opportunities analysts have to talk to end users (about deployments) and vendors (about technology solutions), allows them to give actionable advice that you can use.
Sometimes, all they can do is validate what you already know or do. But it is important to have that validation so you don’t get caught up navel gazing. A reality check is always good.
So, do analysts always know more about an industry than you do? No they don’t! But by carefully identifying and approaching the right analysts, you can engage with those (paid or not) that are driving conversations or have an impact on end user technology selection because someone somewhere finds their output valuable enough to engage with them.
Their independence, means people will be more open to them than to you, is something to take advantage of. So don’t ignore the newer / younger analysts – they could be your biggest advocates in years to come.
PR Pro, Debbie Smith looks at how to ‘ride’ a current news story to raise your client’s profile…
When you choose to work in B2B technology PR, most of your career is spent pitching to trade press and freelance journalists who specialise in the same area. Unless you’re working for a megabrand such as Microsoft or IBM, you’re not going to have many opportunities to pitch to the national press.
OK, let’s rephrase that – nothing’s stopping you pitching to them, but you’re unlikely to get much response unless your client’s invented a computer processor that isn’t based on silicon or found a solution to climate change. However, there’s a useful tool to add to your PR kit bag: link your story to something that’s already making the headlines, and your client suddenly becomes relevant to mainstream media.Critical to success are speed and relevance. The link has to be genuine, and you need to act fast. If you’ve spotted the link, you can be sure that another PR will have done so too. But if you get it right, you open up a whole new conversation for your client. Here’s how we made it work for Comms Crowd client, Elliptic.
Elliptic specialises in security and analytics for the blockchain. The firm was the founding member of the UK Digital Currency Association (UKDCA), and in this role provided input to a Government consultation on digital currencies. Earlier this year we thought the results of that consultation might be announced as part of the Budget a couple of days’ hence. This was an ideal opportunity to link Elliptic to a topic which would be given extensive coverage in the print media and online as journalists analysed every last detail of the Chancellor’s speech – assuming of course that digital currencies were included.
So we wrote a short alert to let key media know about the potential announcement and outline why Elliptic could provide expert comment. The following day we listened carefully to the Chancellor’s Budget speech – but no mention of digital currency. However, an online search led to the supporting papers for the Budget and there it was – the Government’s recommendations on how it proposed to make the UK a world leader in digital currency. We quickly followed up with our key media, providing a link to the announcement and offering comment.
The results exceeded all our expectations – interviews with the FT and the Guardian and several requests for written comment, resulting in 15 items of coverage including City AM, the Independent and the Wall Street Journal. Our client was delighted and so were we.
Opportunities like this don’t come around very often. It’s important to be aware of what’s making the headlines, think creatively and look for new and unusual ways in which you can link your client to a story. It may be straightforward, such as when a former colleague was working on a campaign against workplace bullying for a leading trade union and bullying in the Celebrity Big Brother house hit the headlines. A few media calls later and the client was on Sky News explaining what an individual should do if he or she was being bullied. But even if it’s a more tangential link, remember that journalists have pages to fill every day and may be looking for a different angle to keep the story alive. Why shouldn’t you be the one to provide it?
Courtesy of Eria, our resident analyst relations guru, we look at engaging with the industry analysts via social media channels:
In the ‘good old days’ of analyst relations, things were easy. If you wanted to know what analysts thought about technology, markets or vendors, all you had to do was read their reports or, occasionally, get it direct when they spoke at events.With so many channels for information exchange now, AR teams have their work cut out tracking analyst opinions. This is even more difficult (though I should really say exciting) when you consider all the ‘disruptive’ analyst firms that have sprung up over the past five years.
Many analysts don’t just rely on reports, inquiries and speaking engagements to engage with their audiences. They use social media and, more importantly, use it so naturally that there are significant opportunities to interact with them in meaningful ways. Analysts that use social media successfully don’t see it as a separate project / strategy to what they do. It is simply part of a multi-faceted approach to engagement which fits in naturally with everything else they do, including paid engagements / products.So the big question for many vendors isn’t, “Should we spend valuable time and resources tracking relevant analysts on social media, and engage with them / their community?”
But, “How do we continue to engage with our important analysts using all the channels available so there is a seamless relationship experience?”
- First of all, we all need to understand that we have moved on to a time where social media is seen as part of normal day-to-day activity. It is, for many people, now simply a channel to engage with followers and/or communities where information sharing, recommendations and online reviews are fundamental parts of decision-making processes. If you still need to have a meeting to decide whether to have a social media strategy, you’ve missed the boat! So, in answering the key question, you have got to make sure you have the right reasons for doing so and realise that it can’t simply be a case of following analysts on twitter. A well-executed and comprehensive AR program will include many traditional elements (i.e. briefings, inquiries, speaking engagements, white papers etc.) but will also have adequate resources to track analyst conversations on social media. More importantly, there will be a willingness to engage with analysts via social channels by sharing useful information or providing comments that add value to conversations taking place (without the hard sell).
- Secondly, it means getting a better understanding of how end users or key decision makers use social media to help them engage with analysts and make purchase decisions. This is hard, really hard! Though the actual decision to select a particular IT vendor may never be known, engagement within relevant communities can sometimes give an indication of the views that end users have regarding particular technologies (though you have to look beyond the beliefs of die hard fans for specific ones such as the Apple fanzine), and analysts’ reactions to these views is important to understand what they think needs to be addressed.
- Thirdly, you have to accept that social media engagement with analysts will not necessarily result in their endorsement of your products / solutions. More often than not, you open yourself up for scrutiny and possible criticism which means being prepared to address community concerns in ‘real time’ just to maintain any credibility. Think crisis management on speed!
- Finally, the social media experience should give companies more information on the analyst they engage with, and form part of the wider intelligence they gather about analysts, including their views on the market and trends they see in the market.
We shouldn’t really be talking about social media for AR any more. We should think of it as seamless, multi-channel AR where we curate information from multiple sources to build better pictures of analysts and develop mutually-beneficial relationships with them.
Guest post: Eria Odhuba analyst relations lead asks, when it comes to conducting an analyst relations programme, does company size matter?
I’ve worked with every size of technology company – from mighty household names, to hungry start-ups. While many may differ, the goal is still the same for their AR programmes – they want to make sure they are on the radars of relevant analysts that cover their technologies and, hopefully, fall into conversations analysts have with their clients.
The key perception that vendors need to overcome is that they must have large budgets to be on the analyst radar. Well – that is just not true. Here is why:
For super large vendors – AR programmes are normally
multi-faceted (especially if there are different business groups that need to
build a story that shows they are fully integrated with each other, and where
the vendor needs to show growth in multiple markets). More often than not,
there are opportunities for numerous engagements with analysts as there is a
lot to update them on. Occasionally, analysts are writing reports looking at
key vendors and they need to keep in touch to make sure they represent the
vendor properly. Basically, there are more opportunities to build comprehensive
AR programmes that have an impact on the bottom line.
At the other end of the scale are the start-ups…. yikes,
where do you start? Actually, you start by first finding out what you’re
passionate about and what problems you are looking to solve. You may not have
the budgets larger vendors have, but you’re doing something interesting
(hopefully) and touching people they probably don’t want to or can’t, and
making your clients’ lives better. Crucially, you can be mavericks as you don’t
have to defend vested interests or fight internal political battles that
sometimes happen at larger vendors.
Whether you have large or small resources certain basic principles apply for an AR programme to succeed. These include:
- Doing some homework on your messaging to make sure you are
absolutely clear on what problems you are actually solving and what solutions
you have to help clients. You really need to make sure there actually is a
problem you are solving;
- Identifying who actually needs your solutions and ideally,
or if you’re lucky, finding out more about their decision-making process to see
how they use analyst research to select technology solutions;
- Finding out which analysts are covering the technology
solutions you provide, and tracking their research plans and speaking
- Using multiple communication channels, including social
media, to amplify your message and get people to follow what you say as you
drive or contribute to relevant discussions. If you’re a start-up – be
provocative. You have no time for timidity;
- Taking the plunge and speaking to the analysts you’ve
- Takeing on board their feedback and make sure they see you
addressing any concerns they have raised.
So, those are the basics. You really can’t do much more if you’re a smaller vendor simply looking to start engaging with analysts. That is a good start! You just need to be realistic about the frequency of interactions you have and depth of programmes possible. If you are a start up with 15-50 employees, you will not have the frequency and depth of engagements a mega vendor has, but you can still make waves. And analysts will speak to you if you’re willing to accept that they will not promise quarterly updates or publish a report four weeks after meeting you.
As you get bigger and perhaps have larger budgets, your challenges as an organisation will change. There are more opportunities for competitors to hit back at you and you have to show you can continue to grow and defend yourself from all the FUD competitors will throw at your clients or prospects.
Now you can start thinking about more commercial relationships with the analysts – white papers, subscriptions, speaking gigs or event support. And be sure any feedback is integrated into your internal market intelligence, and that sales / marketing teams benefit from the enhanced relationships.
If you’re careful, you will have made sure you’ve used the interactions with analysts to identify who actually impacts your target market and can actually help you (without compromising their independence). While respecting the analysts and how they work, you can make better decisions about which paid engagements to plan for and how these help your wider marketing and sales teams to do their jobs more effectively.
Eria Odhuba analyst relations lead ollates industry analysts predictions for fintech for insurance, China and the cryptocurrency eco-system.
Before we get too far into March, I thought I’d follow up my previous predictions by continuing to look at what analysts think is in store for the rest of 2015. I’ve also given myself a bit more time to get information from calls, reports or announcements made during February.
One topic that is hot right now – insurance. If you’re like me, insurance rates seem to shoot up every year. But if technology is being used to make the insurance industry more cost effective (and, hopefully, pass the lower costs on to us), what are the key things to look out for in 2015.Focused on the US insurance market, Aite Group predicts a new trend which will inevitably be widespread elsewhere – personal risk management. Key things to look out for include:
- Smartphones enable next-generation risk management capabilities
- The Internet of Things and sensor fusion technology contextualize risk
- A personal data backlash creates monitoring opportunity
- Insurance learns to share
- Digital marketing platforms socialize
- Core applications cloud compute
- Risk-scoring models sell life insurance
- Health insurance transparency reaches ubiquity
- Health insurance payments go mobile
- Docs demand denial-management data
Here in the UK, the key trends are 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 (my take!) – we’ve not reached the health insurance penetration rates you get in the US, but there is a lot that vendors and clients will learn from the US experience.
For those interested in China, Kapronasia has looked at the top 10 China banking and capital market trends, plus the top 10 Asia digital currency trends. Key ones that jumped out for me include:
1. Wealth management will continue to be a key product area – with a growing elite class, this is inevitable especially as a growing band of rich Chinese look to pass their global wealth to heirs while minimising tax.
2. Chinese financial institutions move away from foreign vendors. Now this is big news. Over the past few years, the strategy for vendors looking to get into China has been to partner with local firms / individuals who can help navigate the bureaucracy that existed. It looks like Chinese firms are starting to build up the expertise needed to deliver many of the services that local financial services need, so foreigners will struggle to make in-roads. Value-add will be a premium for winning new business.
3. Overall digital currency regulation in Asia will not be positive. Trust is a hard thing to win, and digital currencies in Asia will be something the regulators look on with suspicion until they know more about them – and their potential for fraud. Basically, more money for analysts, consultants and lawyers that can help vendors and firms navigate what could potentially turn out to be a big, fat mess!
For more capital markets predictions, Greenwich Associates doesn’t just have 10 trends to watch, it has 15! Where do I start with these predictions, you just have to read them. The one I think will result in big structural changes (though all of them will) is number 7 – the unbundling debate in European equities will rage on. ESMA and the FCA have proposed a complete unbundling of all research advisory services including corporate access. Blood will be shed getting this sorted – and the buy-side firms will seriously have to think about how they access and use research to deliver value to clients.
Finally, what about Bitcoin? There are two sources I’d like to draw on regarding this.
First of all, let us look at Aite Group’s report in December 2014. This, controversially for some, came up with an interesting hypothesis. Bitcoin, as we know it now, might not exist in the future but could evolve and provide the platform for new laws and forms for cryptofinance within the financial services industry. The ‘Napster-came-before-Apple-and-Amazon-and-Google’ comparison might be something we look back on in a few years time.
Secondly, Juniper Research has published a report on The Future of Cryptocurrency. Whether bitcoin or other current forms of cryptocurrencies exist in 5 to 10 years time, Juniper predicts that although crypto-transaction volume is likely to increase in 2015, value should decrease 58% throughout this year to approximately $30 billion. It believes that despite the drop in bitcoin values, it is a great tool that can be used to improve the payments ecosystem.
Taking the Aite Group and Juniper Research reports / predictions together, it all makes sense. Crypto-currency transactions are in their infancy. With sensible regulation, sound storage and custodian services of cryptocurrencies, enhanced fraud protection and education, 2015 might just be the start of something really exciting.
Both the predictions above and those covered in my last post will drive the need for advice from the industry analyst community. There is so much change happening in fintech and a huge need to incorporate new things with old, creaking legacy systems, CIOs will have to prioritise with care.
What’s on the horizon for retail banking, risk and FX? Our man Eria Odhuba, analyst relations lead puts together a digest of analyst insight on fintech trends in 2015.
Part one of two posts as there is much to cover, this one looks at retail banking, risk and FX. I’ve decided to start by pointing to a number of articles that I feel provide a really good overview of the predictions within specific sectors of financial services for 2015, to which industry analysts have wholly or partially contributed.Traditionally, this time of year means predictions – when wise industry analysts predict the key IT trends for the next 12 months or so. Kudos to analysts willing to stick their heads out! So, at the CommsCrowd we thought it might be helpful to summarise analyst predictions for 2015, specifically, the financial services technology industry – one of our sweet spots.
Caveat – some analyst firms still have predictions webinars coming up so maybe I jumped the gun a bit (e.g. Celent). However, if you know of other predictions that should be read, please feel free to share these. I definitely don’t claim to have scanned all the key predictions out there – so share away.
The digitisation and disruption of retail bankingThe first article, if you have not seen it already, is a whopper! Top 10 Retail Banking Trends and Predictions for 2015, The Financial Brand:
- Using Customer Analytics to Drive Contextual Experiences
- Expedited Deployment of Digital Delivery
- Mobile-First Design
- Increasing Digital and Social Selling
- Mass Market Acceptance of Mobile Payments
- Focus on Security and Authentication
- Industry Consolidation
- Enhanced Customer Incentivization
- Investment in Innovation, Incubation and Uncommon Alliances
- Increased Impact of Digital Disruptors
So what caught my eye? Apart from specific analyst comments, it is the massive interest in, and inter-linking of, digital, personalisation and mobile. I imagine we’ll see lots of waves being made as banks fight to win/keep customers and look to make their multi-channel experiences seamless, enjoyable and secure.
Oh, and Apple Pay. Trust them to put a spanner in the works!! Ovum is just one of many analyst firms that have a view on how this will change the payments landscape.
Align that spine
But, every now and then someone highlights the ‘old world’ stuff that needs to be sorted out. Check out Four big bank tech trends for 2015 by Chris Skinner. Good old core banking systems renewal is, reluctantly, hanging in there as a major target for investment against ‘newer world’ entries like cloud, analytics and incubators. Banks have to get their spines in order and renewing core systems is a nasty job (probably why CEOs don’t like doing it).
Invest in risk or risk failed investments If you like going deep, deep, deep undercover in the risk world, IDC Financial Insights’s Worldwide Risk Management 2015 Predictions is a good bet. What do they say?1. Risk data aggregation, analytics and reporting consumes 75% the CRO agenda in 2015.
2. Led in part by big data solutions, fraud and financial crimes analytics will set global financial institutions back US$2.8 billion for software and services by 2016.
3. 30% of top compliance functions introduce a technological means, business processes, and metrics to manage and minimize conduct failures.
4. Institutions increase investments in risk culture through enterprise education by more than 15% in 2015
5. Industry clouds disrupt legacy risk operations and contribute to 10% reduction in KYC and other compliance costs by 2016.
6. Virtually all CROs will be engaged in credit risk modernization initiatives through 2016
7. By 2016, threat intelligence security services market will growth at 20% CAGR, with consulting services leading the growth.
8. To meet the demand for convenience, by 2016, 10% of mobile-initiated commerce will be biometrically secured, and password usage begins to show signs of decay.
9. By 2017, with workable boundaries of regulation at state and federal levels, financial institutions find their role in crypto-currency clearing.
10.Through 2016, operational risk spending will grow at 8% CAGR, almost 2 times the average growth rate for all IT industry spending.
What got me, first, is the eye-watering $1/2 trillion (really) IT budget for risk across all financial services and, second, the fact that this is still increasing. Risk management, with all the accompanying regulatory, human, technological and political pressures will be a big issue in 2015. Industry analysts that focus on this area will be VERY busy as the need for advice to navigate this really complex area continues.
Cloud, big data and analytics are entrenched topics for discussion now – and in 2015, the vendors that catch analysts’ eyes will be the ones that actually deliver solutions to mitigate risk across these three areas and not simply have aspirational messages.
FX – up your game plan
What about some capital markets-specific predictions? I’ll stick to FX. We all know regulations and FX-fixing seemed to dominate headlines as 2014 closed.
FX-MM magazine has a brilliant overview of what Aite Group thinks will be happening in the global FX market in 2015. There is a lot to digest but I’ll highlight a couple of things. First, tier 2 – regional and national – banks will need to up their game in various areas to compete effectively with tier 1s. Second, as pointed out by Javier Paz, banks looking to broaden their capabilities will need to carefully manage crucial relationships with FX technology firms, brokers and venues. I predict a queue to analysts that can help vendors and/or banks deal with all these issues – and this is just FX!
These predictions will, to some extent, dictate what analysts are interested in. And if they are really interested in something, it is because there is a demand for their insight. While I have not covered all the fintech predictions possible in this post, it is clear that things like regulation, mobile, customer experience, cloud, big data and analytics will be top of mind in the industry.
The key thing many banks and vendors have to do is to find the right analysts to help delve deeper than the predictions outlined and actually get insights that give them a competitive advantage.