Stop playing Whac-a-mole by moving from firefighting and reactive to proactive and preemptive

Analyst Relations PlanningToo many analyst relations (AR) professionals spend too much of their time seemingly playing Whac-A-Mole. They rush from one emergency to another, respond to one request after another (from colleagues and analysts), and always seem to be in catch-up mode. The problem with this state is that AR gets in the rut of being tactical and does not have time to be strategic. Thus, the image of AR merely being meeting schedulers gets ingrained in the company. 

To get out of the firefighting/reactive rut, AR should focus on becoming proactive and eventually preemptive. Firefighting-Reactive-Proactive-Preemptive are what SageCircle calls styles of AR. A quick set of definitions are:

Firefighting: The firefighting style of AR is one where a vendor deals with the impact of analysts as opposed to dealing directly with the analysts. Typically, the vendor’s sales force is trying to do damage control because analysts’ research either ignores the vendor or gives the vendor a very negative description or rating. A vendor with a firefighting approach, because they do not interact with the analysts themselves, is doomed to be defined by the uninformed analyst. This allows the vendor to be characterized by the disgruntled customers, competitors, prospects, and partners who do interact with the analysts. Often a vendor in permanent firefighting style is there because it really does not have an AR program and maybe not even a real PR organization.

Reactive: The reactive style of AR is one where a vendor answers questions initiated by the IT analysts, but does not actively reach out to IT analysts. Because the IT analysts do not necessarily contact every vendor for every piece of research they publish, vendors are constantly fighting ratings and recommendations based on old information. In addition, AR is reacting to requests from colleagues on an ad hoc basis with little advanced notice, e.g., coming up with an analyst quote for a press release that is going to be sent out in a day or two.

Proactive: The proactive style of AR is one where vendors reach out to IT industry analysts to ensure current information is available for the analysts. Vendors in this style are often quite content with the state of their IT analyst relationships because they appear favorably in ratings and rarely get excluded from short lists. AR programs in the proactive style know when analysts are going to be sending out major requests for information and can build these projects into the overall plan. AR also coordinates with internal colleagues and can plan for future support requests so they do not disrupt the ongoing work.

Preemptive: The preemptive style of AR is where vendors are constantly in contact with IT analysts on issues beyond merely updating information on the company and products. For this style, the goal is not merely having a good flow of information, but influencing how the IT analysts think about a market or issue. Internally, AR has developed programs like the AR-Sales Partnership that permit it to anticipate issues and have in place process and resources to respond smoothly to problems.

These are general descriptions of overall AR styles, with the typical AR program having some elements of all four. Even AR programs that are primarily proactive will find themselves in firefighting or reactive mode when something unanticipated pops up. However, AR teams that are primarily in proactive/preemptive styles will deal with unanticipated events efficiently and with positive outcomes because they will have processes in place and solid relationships with analysts and colleagues to draw upon.

Of course moving from firefighting/reactive to proactive/preemptive is a non-trivial task.  Otherwise all AR programs would be there. However, it is possible for even the most slammed AR program to make the transition, but it will take careful planning and support from executive sponsors.

SageCircle Technique for Analyst Relations Teams:

  • Build support from executive sponsors for investing the effort required to make the transition to proactive AR
  • Review your work to find time to re-allocate to use for making the transition
    • Review and re-rank your analyst list using a documented framework with weighted criteria to identify analysts that should not be receiving personal attention
    • Conduct a zero-based review of all activities to identify those that can be safely cut, either temporarily or permanently
  • Reach out to colleagues to identify requests that might be coming in the next month or two in order to address those in a less ad hoc manner during your planning process
  • Assess your current situation in an honest manner
    • SageCircle’s Analyst Relations Diagnostic™ is a free service to assist AR teams in this step
  • Develop an AR strategic and tactical plan that prioritizes AR’s resources and anticipates major activities months in advance
  • Instill discipline to politely decline ad hoc activities and analyst requests that do not rank high in the formal priority framework

Bottom Line: Vendors need to evaluate where along the AR style continuum they fall. It is important not to sugarcoat or come up with excuses as to why they rate negatively on a particular characteristic (e.g., how analysts are picked). This evaluation will determine if there is a serious AR problem and the amount of incremental effort the vendor needs to put into improving the AR program.

Question: AR – Where do you put yourself on the AR styles continuum?

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