Colleagues have recently told me of a disturbing AR/PR practice they’ve run into of late: some vendors have asked them to refrain from tweeting about the plan to have a briefing. Why? They don’t want others not being briefed to know about it. This is childish nonsense. Should some analysts be briefed more often than others in your planning? Sure. But don’t play schoolyard gossip games.
Note that I’m talking about briefings here, not consulting. It’s entirely appropriate, even recommended, that consulting work you contract for be private. I won’t disclose that someone is a client unless they agree to that disclosure – but I will ask to be permitted to do so if I think my objectivity in some public deliverable might be questioned if I concealed it.
As analysts, we are often asked to honor NDAs and embargoes on the contents of a briefing. There can be legitimate reasons for that, and although I have colleagues who say, “Don’t brief me if it can’t be talked about,” I have always been willing to honor reasonable embargoes associated with planned releases or launches. It makes sense to me that strategists might want to get maximum impact out of an announcement, minimize sales delays because of an unannounced version upgrade, or avoid elevating the price of a firm they planned to acquire, to name a few scenarios. That is about the content of the briefing, not about the fact that it took place.
I’ve long advised clients that AR should maximize its resources by “tiering” the analysts it works with and establishing cadences of contact that vary – there is only so much time. You want to spend it communicating with your Tier One research contacts, however you decide on that ranking. There are several ways to tier, and I have my own model which doesn’t need to be detailed here.
But this “pssst…don’t tell anyone we’re talking” thing is something else entirely. It smacks of gamesmanship, of opacity, and feels like the inverse of the suspicion some AR folks have about whether some analysts will talk to you if you don’t pay. This isn’t “All The President’s Men” here – we’re not meeting in a garage at midnight to talk about the fate of the country. Get over it. Don’t make me complicit in some private clique – “I’ll be your BFF if you don’t tell anyone we’re talking.”
Am I sensitive about this because now I don’t work for a large firm and don’t get as much info? Nope – that’s a legitimate question, but I have maintained relationships with all the folks I worked with before and I have not found myself excluded. Nor will I object to getting less frequent contact than I did, if that happens. If someone decides I’m not Tier One anymore, that’s their prerogative. We’re all grownups here. At least I hope so.