Communications Strategy

An Introduction to Industry Analyst Relations

By Blair Poloskey


Media relations and analyst relations are very different pieces of a comprehensive public relations program. Try saying that five times fast. The two are often lumped together because of the similarities between building relationships with media and with industry analysts. But the nature of those relationships differs.

Before we dive into our analyst relations guide, here are some of the basic distinctions to keep in mind:

  • Earned vs. Paid – You most likely aren’t paying for media coverage (sponsored content aside). But you should carve out budget for a paid analyst relationship.
  • Pre-briefing – You might pre-brief both analysts and journalists for new products or services you’re releasing. But from analysts, you’re looking for feedback to shape the offering. For journalists, you’re delivering the final information.
  • Briefing Content – You should schedule briefings with both analysts and media. But the content you bring to the table is distinctly different: the former is informational, the latter is news-driven.

So we’ve separated media and analyst relations. Time to design and run a successful industry analyst relations program.

It boils down to two things: contracted engagements and consistent, relevant outreach. We’ll start with contracts.

Paid Analyst Relationships

An analyst is a third-party, unbiased expert on the industry he or she covers – and money won’t change that. But a paid relationship fosters more engagement with an analyst. This means they’ll have a better understanding of and (likely) stronger relationship with your company.

The big firms (Gartner, Forrester, IDC), the still big but slightly less massive players (451, Ovum, ABI, IHS Markit, Moor Insights & Strategy), and the niche players (too many to list) all cultivate and work on paid models. You don’t need to pay every analyst firm you interact with, but setting aside a budget for analyst relations is essential.

Why? Not the reason you might think.

Contracted analyst relationships aren’t needed for your company to be included in analyst reports or placed in a quadrant. Both of those things should be attainable without a paid relationship. You don’t need to pay-to-play, but you should pay-to-engage. Industry analysts have exposure to what your customers are actually looking for and a unique view of the industry: one not influenced by your company’s perspective.

What to Include in Your Analyst Contract

To get the full value out of your paid contract with an analyst firm, insist on:

Advisory Sessions

If your company is looking for a solid strategic foundation for a new initiative, analyst advisory sessions are a great option that leverage both research and expertise. An advisory session can focus on anything your company wants. Typically they’re most valuable if you want to brainstorm ways to capitalize on a new market opportunity, optimize your organizational structure, or help define product roadmaps. They can also be an opportunity to test new brand messaging.

Webinars

Having an analyst participate in your company’s marketing content, such as a webinar, is a great way to provide third-party validation of your stance on a topic. If your audience sees, say, Forrester backing you up, they’ll be more likely to consider you a credible source. An analyst can also add unique perspectives and market expertise to your content, making it even more engaging and forward-looking. The cherry on top? Analysts offer name recognition and can improve attendance or viewership just by being on the roster.

Consulting Projects

If your company has an ongoing project or longer-lead strategic initiative that would benefit from a committed industry analyst, a customized consulting plan may make sense for you. Consulting engagements approach business problems from an unbiased, but knowledgeable perspective. They’re designed to provide clear and actionable solutions based on firm expertise.

White Papers

Launching a new product? You might want to demonstrate the market need for it. You (hopefully) already understand the potential for your offering. But if you’re venturing into a new market or want to build credibility for your product’s potential with existing audiences, a white paper can strengthen your message externally. Whether you’re “wrapping” an existing report with your logo or commissioning net new research, sponsoring an analyst firm’s white paper adds third-party validation to your product solution.

How To Pitch Industry Analysts

Besides contracted engagements, the other key component of an effective analyst relations program is consistent, relevant outreach. This probably sounds a lot like standard media relations. You start from the same place: researching targets and creating a list of contacts. Then once you know who you want to talk to, you introduce your company and your spokespeople. But this is where you should change things up.

What to Include in Analyst Outreach

For analysts, introduce your company and the solutions you provide with greater background. Additional detail could include how you know the solutions are what the industry wants, how you intend to monetize, how you intend to add value to your customers, and how you differentiate from competitors. You can also have analysts sign an NDA to give your spokespeople more freedom to discuss the company.

Speaking of spokespeople – the ones you use for analysts could be very different than the ones who speak to media. Consider bringing out folks who are closer to the development of your solutions, like your product team, to discuss the nitty-gritty.

The Ideal Cadence for Analyst Communications

Talk to analysts early and often. Aim to form relationships with at least three analysts that a client can have ongoing conversations with. Not advisory sessions but ongoing product and business updates. Outside of those top three, get in touch with your entire analyst list at least once a quarter. A newsletter or quarterly analyst webinars are simple ways to reach a large swath of your list.

In short: Your analyst community should never be surprised by a move your company is making.

Which leads us to news. Since you don’t want to surprise your analysts, news announcements should go to them early. The goal with news is for analysts to agree to serve as a reference for your media contacts or possibly provide a quote for your news release.

Best Practices for Building Better Analyst Relationships

1. Participate in Research

Relationships are a two-way street. Once you start building relationships with the right analysts in your market, they’ll start reaching out to you. While requests for participation in market research can be time consuming, they offer you the chance to increase awareness of your company through mentions in analyst reports. They also strengthen your relationships with key analysts. Your efforts will come in handy down the line when you’d like to request something of the analyst.

2. Provide Strategy Updates

Analysts are information hungry, and they want to be kept up to date. If you neglect to inform your key contacts of your strategy, they’ll construct their own interpretation based on other information – which will almost certainly not be 100% accurate. At the very least, your company should provide an annual update on your vision, whether that be through an Analyst Day, webinar, or individual briefings.

3. Designate Spokesperson/Analyst Pairings

Analyst relations means more than just having certain analysts that you can contact when you have news. It’s also an opportunity for your executives to build connections they can leverage for market insights, feedback, or general ideation sessions. Having designated “pairings” between your spokespeople and analysts ensures you are developing relationships that can grow over time.

4. Reach Out Regularly

Staying on an analyst’s radar requires regular engagement. Regardless of your company’s bandwidth for ongoing conversations, you’ll still be able to reach many analysts at once through a regular analyst newsletter or webinar series. This kind of outreach ensures that analysts are kept up to date with the latest from your company. And it helps hold their attention throughout the year.

Analyst Relations Has Changed (Make Sure You Change With It)

Where it might have been possible to simply have a contract with crucial analyst firms in previous years, that is no longer enough. Moving forward, companies have to focus on how they can work with analysts not just for third-party validation but to gain a better understanding of the research and expertise these firms have.

Think of industry analyst relations as collaborative and mutually beneficial. Give analysts information they cannot get through research to round out their vision of the industry. In return, they will give you helpful, strategic guidance and third-party validation.