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Industry analyst relations and Twitter: The Dark Side

I wrote a post last week about the positive impact Twitter is having on industry analysts collaborating across company boundaries. It seems to me the more ideas we share, the more ideas we peer review, the more we make ourselves available, the better the business will be. But of course- I have bias towards open.

What about those that see the world differently. What is the flip side to my argument? Just ask @merv. He recently wrote a post, that when I read it didn’t surprise me at all, although I have not yet come across the behaviour:

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.

Merv continues:

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.

Well said Merv. I have always found the notion of a private clique defining what is good for the enterprise to be the wrong way to go about things. It already worried me that industry analysts have access to privileged information that we’re not able to share with the market, but which two or three hundred of my colleagues in the analyst business have access to. Considering the amount of expenditure the analyst business claims to influence I have always found the potential for conflict of interest rather too high for the kind of “default to NDA” that is now illegal in the world of financial analysis.

But the behaviour Merv identifies take this chilling effect to a somewhat obscene level. The first rule of vendor briefings is… don’t talk about vendor briefings. That is just crazy. If vendors want to make me third tier and not brief me then so be it, but please be upfront about it. Of course you have resource constraints, particularly in these parlous times, and you can’t invite everybody to everything. I know some vendors are more top down in their messaging, and prefer not to talk to RedMonk – that’s ok, if sometimes annoying. But trying to cajole colleagues at other analyst firms not to say who they are talking to – that way madness lies.

Secrecy has a cost of administration. Why make your life even more difficult by trying to make the analysts you work with keep even more secrets? Its a law of diminishing returns.

Come into the light, people. Its nice out here – with full transparency and disclosure. Really it is.

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Comment Feed

16 Responses

  1. James Governor’s Monkchips » Industry analyst relations and Twitter: The Dark Side http://bit.ly/pNiqo
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. the extra layers of administration will almost always cost more to maintain than the transparency does … life is already complex, we shouldn’t be complicating it as well. And if you are completely honest, you don’t have to track which story you’ve told to whom …

  3. it’s the well known problem when people want to invite some people to their party and others not. the easiest thing to avoid lying is just telling the truth :-)

    Lee ProvoostJune 29, 2009 @ 12:26 pmReply
  4. twittlinks: James Governor’s Monkchips » Industry analyst relations and Twitter: The Dark.. http://bit.ly/X9FBI
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  5. Thanks, James. Well said – and I’ll admit to having been a bit clueless as you and others pioneered the open dialogue while I was still inside a big closed firm with the roof closed. (Little Wimbledon reference there.) It’s good to be in the light.

  6. As a CMO of BoxTone, I am amazed when I hear my peers or their underlings trying to do something like this “silence.” Certainly parts of a conversation might be under NDA and we appreciate how well that is handled. But frankly we want to be part of the larger conversation and any and all mentions helps facilitate the conversation across the community, including those we have not reached ourselves.

  7. @monkchips summarizes well the bright & dark side of tweeting in analyst community http://bit.ly/m4fn8 http://bit.ly/17zsId
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  8. The dark side of industry analysts via @monkchips http://bit.ly/pNiqo & the games some AR folks play via @merv http://bit.ly/YIOKo
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  9. “Secrecy has a cost of administration.” – @monkchips http://bit.ly/pNiqo
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  10. Love your story about pointcast — during my last semester at college, it was pretty much on every computer in the lab!
    I was very skeptical about twitter initially as well. But, after using it for a few months, I think it’s very valuable tool with some limitations.
    I think twitter’s noise-to-substance ratio is very high — i.e. there are a lot of social networking butterflies using twitter. They follow a lot of people, and they get a lot of people following them. But, very little substantive discussion.
    However, I do find real values in twitter:
    1) I used it to get attention from influences. Because the message is so short, the busy/popular/high-powered folks might actually read it, which give you an opportunity to reach out to potential client/contacts.
    2) Unlike IM, it lets me to talk to stranger without fully disclosing who I’m. It protects privacy while allows you to communicate.
    3) Unlike facebook or other social networking sites, twitter let people to automatically follow you without your permission. For me, this has been a discovery tool — I find some interesting business contacts after they start following me.
    In other words, twitter gets people connect without getting too close. Its shortness is also conducive for the short attention span.
    Bill (www.GeekMBA360.com)
    This comment was originally posted on SmoothSpan Blog

    geekmba360July 15, 2009 @ 6:53 pmReply
  11. James,

    You have a few good points, about secrecy, et al.

    But there’s a but. If we, vendors, wanted to tell everyone, then shouldn’t we just lump analysts and press together in a room?

    Don’t you think there’s value in disclosing non-public information to a select group so that they can in turn provide knowledgeable advice to IT buyers and feedback to vendors?

    • Ludovic I have absolutely no problem being “lumped in” with other interested parties. bear in mind, for example, that i am on the SAP bloggers program rather than as an analyst. I really do believe in public information for briefings, and private information being reserved for consulting and advisory. Just as with financial analysts privileged information skews the market in some dangerous ways. As far as I concerned you either disclose or you do not. I don’t think “privileged” information necessarily makes for better advise to either side. You’d be the first to say if analysts only get information from vendor briefings, they’d be pointless. Research means engaging with the market, learning from it, contributing to it. Markets are conversations, and the most powerful, least conflicted, are those where public information is public information.

      James GovernorSeptember 11, 2009 @ 3:53 pmReply
  12. James,

    I do take the point on markets being a conversation, and agree up to a certain point.
    In some cases though, it helps analysts to do their job if we can be more open with them, in a forum where we can discuss things that directly relate to our competitive advantage.

    For instance, talking about a specific implementation, a sales playbook, etc… We would not want to share this openly and help our competitors.

  13. Doesn’t most information provided to analysts in “vendor briefings” eventually — if not very quickly — get released to market through PR/partner/customer/executive announcements?

    Not all analysts react instantly (and publicly) to everything they hear, as is the RedMonk model.

    Some analysts prefer to get the information in advance as it gives them time to digest it, weight in relation to and combine it with other “conversations” they are having with customers and vendors’ competitors, and perhaps create some actionable advice for their end-customers.

    I have to agree with @Ludo’s point on sensitive discussions. What about information that we as vendors provide to analysts in response to their questions?

    For example, when an analyst comes to HP with specific questions about a negative customer situation they have heard from the customer itself or from a competitor. They want our side of the story. And we decide to be open with that analyst with HP’s side of the story.

    Is the analyst then entitled to just broadcast that information all over the place, which was provided in confidence? I’d certainly hope not.

    Cheers,
    Gerry

    Gerry Van ZandtSeptember 11, 2009 @ 6:29 pmReply



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Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] –  Twitter is wide open.  There is no privacy.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  It reduces friction right up until you need to talk about something privately, and then it forces you to go elsewhere.  As Scoble puts it, he craves intimacy at times.  It causes some to actually discourage Tweeting, particularly in the PR space. [...]

  2. [...] 19, 2009 by sagecircle There is an interesting blog post by Redmonk analyst James Governor on Industry analyst relations and Twitter: The Dark Side and a related one by Marketing Strategies for IT Vendors analyst Merv Adrian AR: Tiering Analysts [...]