Credible reports – since confirmed - are coming into SageCircle that Forrester management has set a new policy that analysts with personally-branded research blogs must take the blog down or redirect readers to a Forrester-branded role-based blogs. An email was sent to Forrester public relations on February 5, 2010 requesting a statement.
Update 1 – 2/5/10 12 pm PT: Added text about SageCircle’s prediction about analyst firms will try to limit analyst participation to firm-branded communities, aka private social networks.
Update 2 – 2/5/10 1:25 pm PT: Added Forrester’s official response below, just above “SageCircle Technique”.
Update 3 – 2/5/10 2:55 pm PT: Clarification of what we mean by “personal blogs” in this context.
(added) In this context when we say “personal blogs” we are referring to personally-branded blogs where the analyst comments on issues related to their research coverage or technology markets. Examples include The Heretech (Tom Grant), Web Strategy by Jeremiah (Jeremiah Owyang), A Software Insiders Point of View (R “Ray” Wang) and Mobile Strategy by Julie Ask (Julie Ask). Purely personal blogs that discuss family vacations, restaurant reviews, and so on are not included in this context. All the references to “personal blogs” were changed to “personally-branded research blogs” to avoid confusion.
SageCircle will let others debate whether this policy violates the analysts’ free speech rights, tramples on the spirit of the blogosphere, and so on. What we will look at is the “why” and does it make sense from a business point-of-view.
Forrester CEO George Colony is well aware of that savvy analysts can build their personal brands via their positions as Forrester analysts amplified by social media (see the post on “Altimeter Envy”). As a consequence, a Forrester policy that tries to restrict analysts’ personally-branded research blogs works to reduce the possibility that the analysts will build a valuable personal brand leading to their departure. In addition, forcing analysts to only blog on Forrester-branded blogs concentrates intellectual property onto Forrester properties increasing the value of the Forrester brand.
This move – if true – is very consistent with Forrester’s efforts to manage its analyst workforce to Forrester’s maximum benefit. In a letter to Mass. Gov. Patrick last year (see note 1), CEO Colony expressed his support for non-competes that favored the employer because “… non-competes ultimately help new and established companies alike to retain the talent they’ve invested in, further nurtured and who have become star employees due to their rewarding tenure and success. …” (emphasis added).
What is the downside for Forrester? Likely not much unless there is a big stink in the blogosphere that causes a public relations problem. It is also not likely that analysts with personally-branded research blogs will quit over this policy, especially in this economic environment where job opportunities are still at a premium. Unless those two unlikely events happen, Forrester will have a tool to help manage its brand equity and reduce analyst departures that could result in the launch of new competitors.
For analyst relations (AR) teams with Forrester analysts ranked high on their lists, this new Forrester policy could be a benefit by decreasing the number of blogs that AR has to monitor. If the Forrester policy is success, it could spark similar policies at other firms again leading to fewer blogs to monitor. However, this policy and potential imitators could cause an increase in the volume of posts on firm-branded blogs, which would require careful monitoring by AR.
This move, if true, would not be a surprise to SageCircle. We predicted in Forrester, Ovum, or Gartner launch a client-only social network – Looking ahead to 2010 that analyst firms would try to limit their analysts participation in non-firm communities.
— Forrester’s Official Statement —
Subject: Forrester response to your question/blog post
Regarding Forrester analyst blogs: We believe we can best serve our clients in their professional roles by aggregating our intellectual property in one place – at Forrester.com. Make no mistake: Forrester is committed to social media, and the number of our analyst bloggers is increasing, not decreasing. Analysts will still have the ability to blog outside of Forrester on topics not related to their coverage areas.
Hope this helps.
Karyl Levinson | Vice President, Corporate Communications | Forrester Research, Inc.
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- AR should keep a finger on the social media pulse of their top analysts at larger firms, watching for significant changes of usage due to a ban on personally-branded research blogs
- AR should keep a finger on the morale of Forrester analysts with personally-branded research blogs to see if this new policy adversely their attitude toward their employer
Bottom Line: Because there are relatively few analysts at Forrester and large firms that have personally-branded research blogs, this new policy will likely have relatively little short term impact. However, policies like this might hamper future analyst recruiting efforts limiting the type of individuals wanting a job at a firm.
Question: Do you think that analysts not permitted to have a personally-branded research blogs will impact the quality of independent voices in the market?
Note 1: From a letter to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick dated July 17, 2009 concerning Massachusetts House Bill 1794, which addressed the elimination of non-competes (posted here by State Rep. William Brownsberger).