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.
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.
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.
Over the last few years we’ve been working with vendors that have won significant projects through G-Cloud. From this vantage point it has got us thinking about the G-Cloud business opportunities available to small IT vendors and service providers, and some of the serious challenges they might face.
While 2015 might not necessarily be ‘make or break’ time for suppliers if they don’t get a bigger slice of the G-Cloud pie, we think one trend that will become more entrenched: there will be a small group of providers winning a disproportionately larger share of contracts, leaving the rest fighting over the scraps.
Eria Odhuba, resident analyst relations lead reviews the ‘dos and don’ts’ for getting the best out of the mighty trade show.
|Sibos – comes round quicker than Christmas|
So I’ve just been to a couple of big industry events, and it got me thinking about the preparation exhibitors need to do to make them worthwhile. I am going to use Sibos 2014, this year in Boston, as an example here as I have shed so many tears getting clients Sibos-ready over the years.
Obviously there are many exhibitors who have got Sibos running through their veins and if they had time, could write this post with their eyes shut, but here’s a guide for Sibos newbies, or a useful checklist for the seasoned salts.
What are some of the issues with events like Sibos 2014?
- ROI – if you’re going to exhibit, you want to make sure you recoup your costs and some! It’s a very expensive line item, the return needs to be quantifiable and equally impressive.
- Poor preparation before the event – If you don’t plan your communications and resources properly, you will look amateurish and it will show compared to those companies that have this event down pat.
- Being heard above the white noise – if you don’t know your key message, if it’s not relevant, fresh and exciting, then you won’t get heard.
- Thinking lead generation begins at the event – People come to Sibos to continue conversations, not to start them, Sibos needs to be the culmination of a campaign that results in a face to face meeting.
- Recruitment consultants – not much you can do about this. I remember a consultant at Sibos who told me, at a party, that he had received or processed CVs for about 25 people in the room. The recession is over; it’s a seller’s market.
What should you NOT do before Sibos 2014?
- Panic (!) i.e. wait until it is too late before preparing for the event.
- Keep your head in the sand and ignore industry trends leading up to the event – you need to know what pain delegates are feeling so you know what your products and services best address it.
- Miss the opportunity to try and connect with signed-up delegates before the event (more on this later).
- Prepare conference material that is bland or off topic.
How should you prepare for Sibos 2014?
- First of all, you need a three-month activity timeline with specific actions and deadlines, allocating responsibility for each action. So, with Sibos 2014 in October, you need to start planning now, July.
- If you’re reading this and you haven’t booked your hotels and flights yet, suggest you stop reading right now and get on it 🙂
- To stay ahead of the game, read the Sibos 2013 summary by Aite Group here and other post-event summaries.
- Read Sibos Issues and other news to understand what people will be talking about this year. Don’t repeat the last year’s messages or themes – find something new and relevant to attract attention in the lead up to the event. If you can’t figure out how to articulate your value proposition, get help.
- Think how this event falls into your sales funnel. Identify key prospects from the delegate list, and plan multi-step communications or lead generation activities to get them to want to talk to you at the event. Each step should add value to the relationship, so use content to increase interest. Get delegates to self-select themselves to contact you for a meeting based on the content you have provided BEFORE the event.
- Plan your press and industry analyst engagements now. Influencers don’t have time to speak to everyone so make sure you know how and what to pitch to them. If you don’t know how, get an expert in. Don’t be unprofessional about this and ignore the value of great influencer meetings.
- Focus on meeting influencers you rarely see, rather than those that are down the road from you who you can catch up with any time.
- Go for feature opportunities that get you in the news the week of Sibos, and make sure whatever news announcement you have is actually informative and not simply white noise.
- Contribute or link to pre-event social media communications to help build your profile before the event.
- Plan your post-Sibos steps now – what content or steps will you follow up with and who will be responsible for these steps? What you do after the event is even more important if you want to convert prospects into sales?
What to do at Sibos 2014?
- Make sure you set time and proper spaces aside to speak to delegates you have meetings planned with.
- Document your meetings and make someone responsible for managing follow up actions.
- Plan how each contact will be communicated with after the event and when.
- Get someone to walk the floor to see what other exhibitors are displaying. You need to understand what competitors are saying and how they might be getting their message across.
- Have content that is sharp and precise enough for someone to read in two minutes that would make them want to ask questions.
- Enjoy yourself; ergo no rest for the wicked!
Eria Odhuba, resident analyst relations lead dispels the most common myth about analyst relations – you have to pay them to play with them.
“We have a problem with analysts,” I hear you say. “You have to buy analyst services to have a good relationship with them,” has got to be the most common phrase any analyst relations professional hears from colleagues.
Cynicism reigns when it comes to judging analysts, which reflects the way many of us might feel about the role they, and other influencers, have when recommending IT products or services.
Admittedly some are harder to engage than others if you do not have a subscription, but is that true of all Analyst Houses or is there a middle ground?Seven things worth knowing about analysts
We’ve compiled a quick checklist to help you understand their drivers and so you can better develop great relationships with analyst firms:
1) Good analysts prize their independence. In fact, their reputation hinges on remaining independent while advising their clients.
2) Analysts will NOT ignore you if you have something really good to talk about. Why should they? After all, you might be the trailblazer they identify and, in turn, get the kudos for predicting the disruptive influence you have on your target markets.
3) Analysts are human. They don’t know everything but, crucially, don’t have time to speak to every single vendor.
4) As they are human, you have to understand how they work, what they are working on, the timescales they have and the channels through which they provide advice.
5) To catch their attention, you need to provide really useful information using structured engagements over time to help them with their research, and make sure this fits in with their schedules. One off briefings are useless.
6) If you say ‘we are the world leading vendor providing modular, scalable solutions…blah, blah, blah’, just STOP. This means nothing. Tell analysts about specific and real problems you are addressing and let them tell people you are a leader.
7) They need to eat, pay mortgages and go for the occasional holiday. Separating how they make money and learning about various vendors so they can then advise their clients is something they all do – the best ones give disclaimers so you know exactly who their clients are.
So, what are analyst subscriptions all about?
Sometimes, you just need help with your lead generation and market positioning. Analysts who track various vendors in a specific market will know the ones that are doing well. Sometimes it is simply the technology or services that competitors provide which simply rock. Most of the time, they just have a good story that resonates better with clients than yours does.
Analyst subscriptions are, therefore, useful to help you position yourself better using the resources, advice and specific feedback opportunities you have available with individual analysts.
If you think it means analysts will say you are the best thing since sliced bread was invented, forget it. No analyst worth their salt will destroy their reputation doing so. Yes, you might get the Gartner Magic Quadrants and Forrester Waves, but these follow strict guidelines to maintain analyst independence (whether you agree with them or not).
Why don’t analysts want to talk to me then?
Just maybe, you don’t have anything relevant to add! Or maybe what you have to say is not relevant to their speciality.
There are too many vendors to track and a lot of output they need to plan for and deliver. Follow the steps above. Make sure you have a really good update or case studies to follow up with (even better if end users can talk to the analysts directly).
Will analysts stop talking to me if I don’t pay them?
No. They would ideally like to have you as a client (if they take on vendors as clients), but if you’re making waves in your market they still want to give advice to others that will help them make good purchase decisions.
So, be relevant but realistic about what analysts are looking for. They need information to help them build thought leadership positions. You can help them if you engage properly with them. They can also help you if you are honest enough to recognise you need advice to position yourselves better against your competitors. That is when analyst subscriptions come into play.
If you found this interesting you may also to peruse our analyst relations whitepaper which can be downloaded here.
In fintech Sam Howard asks can comms people add value or are they the weakest link?
I’m a comms person in b2b tech, primarily fintech. Fintech – that’s software geeks creating awesome stuff for banking geeks.And all fintech comms people have to do is wrap their pretty little heads around how the the global markets work, how a financial institution works and how it makes its money; then evaluate the opportunities and obstacles created by the latest market conditions and regulations that might help or hinder it making that money and just piece together how their client’s technology taps into those opportunities/overcomes those obstacles, so that a bank might want to buy it.
Anyone got a PHD in anything at all they are not using right now?
Dear software geeks, we understand your fear of getting us comms people involved, we share your fear. We have reoccurring nightmares where Anne Robinson is sufficiently underwhelmed by our efforts. But Einstein once said if you can’t explain it to a six year old, you can’t explain it. Let’s assume all the people in the room are clever, it is the common denominator, so there is no need to posture on that. Don’t be tempted to use content as an opportunity to show off how much you know – they know you know.The key then is to add some value to the debate, to explain the complex lucidly, to ensure that overarching points are not lost in the minutiae of the detail and that those points stack up to a logical argument leading to an insightful conclusion.
It’s not as ‘easy’ as it looks, I can tell ya, getting the people with the PHDs to look up not down, out not in. And if in so doing we tend to simplify things, rather than wonder if we haven’t dumbed down your whole reason d’etre, just trust, you know how to build software, we know how to build reputations.
In the kingdom of the big and the clever, it’s the six year old kid you need to impress.
Sam Howard advises on how tech companies can give better interviews.
Media training – that’s a terrible phrase isn’t it? Makes you think of all those awful politicians that enunciate every syllable emphatically, use all their fingers to underline each phrase and talk at you as if you were Jeremy Paxman. So let’s not go there. But there is still much you can do to make sure your conversations with journalists go well. Key, is to remember the journalist has very little time to create a very good story, and it’s your job to help them with that.
Some sensible tips for sensible interviews:
1) The Press as a whole are more concerned with business arguments than technology methodologies so the WHY needs to be answered way before the HOW and this is where many tech companies need to lift up their heads. The WHO is pretty interesting too, so whatever you do, don’t tone down your colourful characters.
2) The old truism,’ no-one is that interested in you’ is – erm – true. They are interested in issues though, so if you can help solve them, then that’s the angle to go in on.
3) Journalists are very busy people, so PLEASE get to the point. Work out how your issue-based messages can be delivered top down, so if you’ve struck a chord you can drill down with more insight or leave it as a one liner if it gets no traction.
4) It sounds obvious, but actively listen to the question and genuinely try to answer it.You need to answer questions as best you can and weave in your messaging where appropriate and leave it out where it isn’t. It’s critical to be seen as someone who understands the market and how it ticks. This is more important than getting all your messages across in each and every interview, euch! You may manage it the first time, but I doubt if anyone will want to talk to you a second time. However if you can establish yourself as a credible and trusted source, then the journalist is more likely to make time to talk to you when you do have relevant news.
5) The journalist is looking to create a compelling story from a mixture of background information, intelligent argument and quotes, so if you want to be quoted you need to have a view and be incisive; otherwise you find most of your effort gets swallowed up in unattributed body copy or as background information. Answers can be your own thoughts based on experience or theory, statistically or anecdotally-based or ideally a mixture of the lot.
6) Spokespeople should be reading a weekly digest of relevant hot stories, remember head up!
7) It should go without saying but follow the publication and the journalists you are hoping to meet, so you can assess what messaging will resonate best for that particular journalist.
8) Be courteous, Allow time for the journalist to finish their note taking and prepare their next question, do not dictate or just talk into the silence. Offer sustenance, and DO NOT look at your phones.
9) Remember this is a two way conversation, ask what the journalist is seeing and hearing in the market and future story ideas he is working on.
10) Every interview is different but you should be able to answer the following fundamental questions:
. In these cash strapped times, where are your customers spending their IT budget in your sector?
. What are the drivers behind this (i.e. sticks and carrots)?
. So where do you fit in?
. Other companies do what you do why are you better?
. What tech Holy Grail are you customers chasing right now?
. What’s preventing organisations from achieving it?
. What are the key trends in your technology sector right now?
. What’s your sector going to look like in five years’ time?
You can download these tips in a handy pdf if you like to keep on your desk and front of mind.
Sam Howard wonders do we really need tech PRs?
A recent survey by Careers Cast suggested that the life of a PR was second only to being a pilot in terms of stress.
“It’s not rocket science!” blasted journos all over twitter.
Very true, but PR can be a trite fraught on occasion. To illustrate my point lets imagine a world where there were no PRs, because everyone in The World of Tech was just so good at connecting and communicating…
Once upon a time, there was an incredibly enthusiastic and irrepressible young journalist, to him the glass was always half full, not that he was much of a drinker, mind! One day he had to catch a bus into the village to buy more type writer ribbon. He planned to use this time on the bus to fact and spell check his work before submitting it to his editor. “You are such a perfectionist!” The wise, old gentleman would kindly chide him, whenever he handed in his copy just a little late.
In the next village there lived the most charming and charismatic inventor you could ever hope to meet. She also had to catch the bus to visit the local ironmonger, who she had commissioned to make some more phalangees, a critical component in her latest invention.
Well, it must have been fate, for on that day, these two jovial people just happened to sit next to each other. Both of them being out-going types, in possession of exceptional social skills, they soon fell into a happy rapport. In no time at all the earnest inventor was telling the curious journalist all about phalangees and their properties in an extraordinarily level of detail. The journalist had all the time in the world to listen to the long list of features that each permutation of phalangees delivered; indeed he was gripped. Having both missed their stops, they were now walking companionably back into the village together and the journalist used his psychic skills to ascertain the unique business benefits that phalangee-based engineering could deliver to his readers.
And so with a great shout of excitement the journalist stopped in the lane and cried, “I believe this to be the singularly most important technological discovery of our time! And even though my beat is actually musical theatre, I’m sure my editor will give me the cover story to tell the world all about it.”
Well, the inventor was somewhat overcome and demurred, “Golly that’s terribly decent of you, but do you think you might wait a while before you write anything as I now realise I’m not quite geared up for discovery just yet?”
The journalist nodded solemnly, and true to his word the story was published quite some time later, once the inventor had taken her suit to the cleaners, decided on her company logo and got the phalangee-based product range to stop blowing up.
Within hours of that one story breaking, everybody was talking about it, and, Ashton Kutcher, Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Stephen Fry were all begging to be among the first to beta test it and the company share price shot up and overnight the inventor became a multi-millionaire.
As for the journalist, he was ever after regarded as a technology guru whose wise words would forever be commissioned throughout the land. And they all lived largely ever after…
Yeah, like that happens all the time!
If it did there might be no need for PRs to help companies articulate their offering in a coherent way that delivered compelling copy to the media. But it very rarely does and and making it so is sometimes a thankless task. But the second most stressful career?
OK if it wasn’t for us PRs the wheels of commerce might have to travel a road more pot holed, but no, it’s not rocket science, nor is it like flying a plane, or being a nurse, a fire fighter, a policeman, a prison warder, a teacher, a carer, or even a journalist…All jobs have a level of stress associated with them and in PR I think we might secretly like it, it’s nice to be needed.
Another of Sam Howard’s pet
In PR you hear a lot about being ‘On Message’. This is very important isn’t it? Being On Message, having your people rehearsed and slick, so they can always be On Message? Oh pulllease.
If a journalist knows what you’re going to say before you open your mouth why would he/she bother to rock up for the interview? I mean seriously, what’s in it for them? If they just want the corporate spiel, they’ll check out your website. If they want to talk to you it’s cos there’s a vague hope that in and around the adaptable-scalable-innovative-flexible monologue you might actually have a view, say something interesting, topical, original, human even, and actually provide some decent copy.
The best view to have, I think, is one that runs contra to the stream. Back in the mid 90s when I laboured over my very first press release, I was super diligent about being fact-based and succinct, (I had been trained well, forever in debt Mr Springett) but I didn’t have the confidence to write the quote for my boss. So instead, I wrote, “Say something contentious here.” And he did, and it worked a treat. Mr Caplin, gotta love him and even if you don’t, he always makes great copy.
On occasion, it’s OK to fess up to that slightly dodgy implementation when your record is normally great, and you can demonstrate you have learned from it. Or to admit the recession might be taking its toll on you too, but you are gonna haul your weary backside out of it, or die trying.
You see the joy of sometimes wondering off message means that when you do get back on it, your audience might actually believe you. And isn’t that quite important? Besides, whoever wants to hear somebody else’s diet is going really really well?
When I work with my PR clients we work hard on looking at where we can first and foremost add some value/originality to the debate. You know not everything that comes out of your mouth is necessarily going to be that great and that’s where your trusted PR comes in – they can tell you what to run with and what not to bother banging on about, because it is irrelevant or just actually not that interesting. Sometimes it is all about the team singing from the same hymn sheet, but other times you just need to know a good tune.