Technology analysts tend to specialise in a single industry or market segment, and make their living by advising organisations on the best ways to invest their IT budgets. They research the latest developments in the industry, identify market trends, and create sophisticated forecasts and models to provide leading market research, competitive analysis, and consulting to their clients. They should not be confused with the financial analysts that focus on equities, investments, and financial opportunities. However, their work could be viewed in some quarters as just as essential in oiling the wheels of the technology juggernaut and ensuring industry players steer a true course through the technology minefield.
Analyst relations, however, continues to evoke a very mixed reaction from technology vendors, who tend to fall into two very separate camps. On the one side, you have those that view analysts as a valuable resource and an essential element in their PR campaign; on the other, you have those who question their impartiality, and are sceptical about their role as objective commentators. You could even go as far as saying analysts are the ‘Marmite of the PR industry’ – you either love them or you hate them. So, why all the controversy? What role do they play, and how do you decide whether or not you should make analyst relations part of your PR spread?
One of the reasons industry analysts have so much criticism levelled at them is due to the inevitably close ties they form with technology vendors. After all, an analyst’s work is often funded by technology vendors, the very same people from whom they extract expertise and (more controversially) opinion, whilst delivering ‘independent’ advice to those purchasing the technology.
Despite what the more cynical amongst us would view as being a somewhat duplicitous role, and whilst trying to be as sensitive to our client’s personal feelings as we can, our advice is always the same: However you feel about them, analyst houses – such as Gartner, Forrester, and Yankee Group – remain important market commentators, and continue to hold significant sway over the technology purchasing decisions of businesses and public sector organisations.
In one case, a networking client of mine could have lost out on a major deal had the analyst in question not been familiar with their technology. Many firms subscribe to the research services of Yankee Group, and Bloor, whilst the Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave are widely respected hallmarks of market leadership, and undoubtedly influence the decisions of technology buyers. For these reasons alone, it is reasonable to say they should form an integral part of your external communications programme.
A further argument for including them in the PR mix is that technology analysts maintain close relationships with the media. In almost all cases, a journalist will consult with at least one analyst to gain a wider perspective on a technology trend or story, which is why they analysts are regularly quoted in the press and b2b media.
Engaging with industry analysts needn’t be a costly and time consuming exercise. A common misunderstanding clients have is that you have to pay to brief an analyst or subscribe to their services. This is not the case. It is in the best interests of industry analyst to stay abreast of the players within the market they specialise in, so the large majority are willing to receive a briefing without payment. Naturally, you can’t expect analysts to give away their services for free, but if you do choose to subscribe to their consulting services and research notes, the insight they provide can prove invaluable.
And in an increasingly crowded technology market, an analyst’s insight can help you see the wood from the trees.
So, whatever your feelings regarding the role and impartiality of analysts, and how this impacts their role as effective market commentators, the stakes for technology vendors must not be underestimated. Technology analysts continue to exert considerable influence over the market and the media. Perhaps the question you should be asking is not whether you should include them in your campaign, but whether you can afford not to.