AR: Tiering Analysts Is Good, But Don’t Play Childish Games

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.

About Merv Adrian
Gartner Research VP, technology analyst and consultant, 30 years of industry experience, covering software mostly, hardware sometimes.

10 Responses to AR: Tiering Analysts Is Good, But Don’t Play Childish Games

  1. Bob Sakakeeny says:

    Total agreement from this AR professional. Both AR and analysts need to have an open and honest relationship, and keeping unnecessary secrets undermines the vendor’s credibility. The “pssst…don’t tell anyone we’re talking” will come back to haunt the vendor.
    But, I wish you would write something I don’t agree with so it won’t look like I’m kissing up all the time.

  2. Merv Adrian says:

    Seems to me you’ve slapped me around once or twice, Bob, but I’m glad not to suffer this time.

    I can’t recall a time when our interactions were anything but unambiguous and transparent. There were times when you told me I could not discuss something and I honored that, and others when you told me I couldn’t be told something I had a whisper of somewhere else – especially financial transactions. I understood that there were people who might be told something I might not be on the list for, and I never felt that was anything but your prerogative.

  3. Curt Monash says:

    Merv,

    I think you’ll find that as your blog becomes more influential — as it deserves to and hence most likely will — you’ll feel more and more need to disclose your clientele.

    Now, I don’t disclose all my sales wins and losses in a timely manner. 🙂 But it’s pretty clear that most analytic DBMS vendors are my clients, and most of the rest at least purport to be considering becoming such. 😉 And if somebody raises a specific question about my vendor clientele, I usually answer it.

    User clients are a whole other matter. There the only disclosure issues arise when I ask vendors questions on behalf of a specific client that I’d also be interested in writing about the answers to. There’s generally no other need for me to identify user clients unless there’s some jointly-agreed marketing reason to do so.

  4. Merv Adrian says:

    Curt, thanks for joining this conversation too. I have been specific when I have written posts about clients – but since I’ve only been active as an indpendent for three months, most of my posts pre-dated my first “revenue events.”
    I will be continuing to identify those I write about as clients when they are. And I hope that happens often!

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  6. Marc Duke says:

    First I have heard of this, in Europe the reverse seems to be true!

  7. Merv Adrian says:

    Marc, thanks for commenting. Hope it remains so.

  8. Pingback: Analysts chattering on Twitter – the genie is out of the bottle « SageCircle Blog

  9. GregC says:

    Ive done AR/PR for techn companies the last 13 years; I can understand how a vendor wouldn’t wish for “all” of their activities to be tweeted around, esp since competitors are reading; but that certainly does not fall on the analyst! It’s on PR to make a strategy that considers each and every outcome.

    I can only imagine your immediate reaction when you received such a slippery request. Of course, you later penned this blog post. 🙂 More than half of a PR person’s skills come from reading attitudes, the rest is execution.

  10. Merv Adrian says:

    Thanks, Greg. No names, though. 😉
    Seriously, I’m fine with respecting NDA. Always have been. But why would anyone want to pretend that they are’t talking to anyone? Without any notion of what the content might be? Just silly.

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