two-birds-one-stone-reducedHow does your organisation handle its analyst relations? Do you rely on a public relations specialist or a PR agency? If so, you are not alone. And you’ll not be alone, either, if you’ve had to get used to seeing a frustratingly low ROI from your efforts to engage the analyst community.

What are you getting for your money? All too often, the answer is “Not much.” Few, if any, referrals. No great improvement in your Magic Quadrant assessments (assuming you’ve even managed to get yourself included). And virtually no prospects ever telling you the analysts have mentioned you.

So what does that mean? Does it mean that analyst engagement is a waste of time?

No, it doesn’t. What these results are really telling you is that you’re not actually engaging the analysts at all. You’re not getting through to them. And the reason is simple. Analysts are not journalists or bloggers under another name. Analysts don’t have the same goals as journalists and they don’t need the same types of information from you.

The problem is simple. You are trying to kill two birds with one stone, and these are two very different birds, flying in very different patterns.

Magpie or falcon?

Let’s look at just how different these birds are.

They have different objectives. They work in different time frames. And they need very different things from you. The journalist is an opportunist – a magpie. The analyst is a hawk, a falcon, flying high and taking in a much larger view of the world.

A journalist is paid to attract eyeballs. The job is about luring people in to see paid-for advertising that sits alongside the articles and provides the content producer with its ultimate source of revenue. Getting eyeballs means creating controversy or stretching points to stimulate debate and generate a buzz. The goal is the production of topical, readable content.

Analysts, on the other hand, are trying to understand your company. They need to know how to talk about you when speaking to their customers, and they need to be pretty sure they’ve got it right. No analyst can afford to be taken by surprise, to be made to look stupid or ill-informed. Analysts need to be very confident about their knowledge of you before they will stick their necks out and take the risk of recommending you or validating your suitability for a particular buyer. Their goal is to be seen as trusted advisers and they are being paid for maintaining this informed engagement all year round.

Right now – or all the time?

Journalists need stories. They need plenty of them and they need them right now. They work to deadlines. The story or quote they want from you is a major concern today. But it will be forgotten – or certainly relegated to the background – tomorrow, when they move on to their next story.

Analysts are different. The analyst doesn’t just need to know about you for a single published report. He or she needs to know enough to talk about you in response to an inquiry tomorrow or six months from now. Analysts need to know enough to be able to comment about you with authority in the presentation they are delivering next week and in the webinar they are hosting in eight months’ time. And they never know for certain when they might need that knowledge. They have no idea when one of their clients might ask them about you or about your specific market. Ideally, they need a fully updated knowledge of your company and its products that they can draw on at short notice, whenever it’s needed.

Different needs, different perspectives

Press releases and stories about new products and product versions are a great fit for the journalists’ needs. The journos are looking for news, for controversy, for a hot new idea or some great disaster that will make for readable copy. An article on a new release or a feature-by-feature comparison of latest versions is useful bread and butter material. News of a major new client or a story about a complex, difficult implementation is all grist to the mill.

Some of these matters will also interest the analyst – but not in the same way. For the analyst, these things are only one piece in a much larger puzzle. That new feature you’re so proud of is not worth the analyst’s time for a briefing; it’s just a note that can be read and filed away for future reference. The news about your big new customer is not worth a call; it’s simply one more data point to add to a list.

Items that are urgent for a journalist are rarely urgent for the analyst. Indeed, from my years spent on the other side of the table, I know that being bombarded with too many general purpose press releases soon becomes annoying and often numbs you to their content. If the focus is always on these essentially journalistic news items, the analyst is likely to be starved of the insights that are really needed – and nowhere near confident enough to validate your suitability or make a recommendation.

It’s all too easy to waste your money

So should you be avoiding PR firms? No. Don’t get me wrong. That’s not what I’m saying.

If you are lucky and your PR agency has a dedicated analyst engagement team that has real experience under its belt, that knows the needs of the analyst and that has lived in that world, you should certainly get some valuable help. But if you are using the same PR team to try to reach both journalists and analysts, as most companies do, you’d probably be better off saving your money.

In the end, it’s simply too hard to kill two birds with one stone. And it’s virtually impossible when the two birds are flying in such different directions.