AR team is completely replaced by a new influencer group… with disastrous results – Looking Ahead to 2010

icon-crystal-ball.jpgThis post is one in a series where SageCircle pulls out the crystal ball and looks ahead to what happens in the analyst ecosystem in 2010. See below for links to all posts in this series.

 

As SageCircle has pointed out in the Fog of Influence, technology vendors need to deal with an expanding set of influencers. Some vendors are responding by simply ignoring new types of influencers, other vendors are dealing with these influencers in an ad hoc manner, another group of vendors are creating new “relations” departments specifically to handle new influencers such as blogger relations, and a small number of vendors are creating an integrated “influencer relations” teams that brings together existing analyst relations, media relations, perhaps blogger relations, and other relations teams. Unless supported with the correct investments of staff, budget, and spokespeople commitment, these new unified influencer relations teams could end up costing a vendor dearly in terms of their ability to influence the industry analysts.

 

PR + AR = PR/ar. It is quite common for vendors that have a single team with combined PR and AR responsibilities to end up treating the analysts like the press. Why? The team will likely be staffed with PR professionals who are given the additional job of working with the analysts. When SageCircle has talked with vendors about job openings for joint PR/AR positions it is very clear that a PR person with no AR background would be welcomed to apply while an AR person with no PR background should not bother. Because the press and analysts need to be interacted with very differently, taking a PR-centric approach with analysts always results in a sub-optimum outcome.

 

Influencer Relations = PR with other influencers thrown in. The point about PR/ar above could potentially be the model for a formal influencer relations function. There could be a situation where a vendor creates an influencer relations team by combining PR, AR and other staff into a single team with PR managers placed in charge in the new team. Then over time, AR professionals are replaced with PR professionals who are expected to work with analysts, bloggers, maybe consultants, and maybe academics as well as the press. Because the PR professionals are more comfortable doing PR they will end up treating all the other influencers like the press.

 

Spreading the peanut butter too thin. Another potential problem is that the new influencer relations team will not have the resources to handle the broader responsibilities. Even though the new team is expected to deal with more influencers, both in number and diversity, the combined team could have only the resources from the original constituent teams. Worse yet, its resources may be less than the original teams because of some phantom “efficiencies of scale” that is supposed to magically appear. Analyst relations is very resource intensive for both AR labor and spokesperson bandwidth. Siphoning off resources to handle other influencers will only shortchange the ability to influence the analysts.

 

2010 Prediction – Absorbing AR into influencer relations efforts will imperil some vendors’ sales opportunities – In 2010, there will be some vendors who disband AR teams in order to launch influencer relations efforts. As a result, their ability to interact effectively with analysts will be seriously diminished. These vendors will see their “dots” move down and to the left on Magic Quadrants and Waves, advisory analysts advising enterprise technology buyers using out-of-date information about the vendors, and analysts publishing flat out negative commentary about the vendor. All of these situations will result in the vendors getting fewer analyst-generated leads, getting taken off short lists, and putting the vendors at a disadvantage in sales situations.

 

SageCircle Technique:

  • AR teams need to do a systematic job of educating executive sponsors and other stakeholders about the role of the analysts in the sales cycle and how AR works
  • AR teams must clearly show the differences in how each influencer should be treated
  • AR teams need to gather sales impact data to justify their resource needs

Bottom Line: Working with the analysts is very different than working with the press, which is different than working with bloggers, which is different than working with Wall Street analysts, which is different from… Vendors who create influencer relations teams from existing relations efforts need to take into account the different needs of each group to be targeted and invest appropriately in team charter, skills and resources.

 

Question: Vendors – Are you considering eliminating separate AR and PR teams in order to create a unified influencer relations team?

 

Looking ahead to 2010 Series

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One Response to AR team is completely replaced by a new influencer group… with disastrous results – Looking Ahead to 2010

  1. Jan Dawson says:

    On the other hand, I’m aware of at least one large company which has PR (including blogger/Twitter responsibilities) and AR separate, and doesn’t know what to make of analysts who also appear in the other channel. At some point, bringing the two sides (and other influencers) together makes sense. Your message really seems to be: “don’t put the PR people in charge”, rather than “don’t combine this stuff”

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