I work with many industry analysts on behalf of technology clients who want to either hire experts like Gerry Purdy, or brief them in advance of major media announcements. As the Principal Analyst with MobileTrax, Gerry is a rock star in the mobile and wireless space. He was doing this when companies like GRiD were innovators, Tandy was the mass marketer, Nokia ruled the world in cell phones and the Palm Pilot was a foreshadow of things to come. Gerry really knows his stuff and he is quoted everywhere.
In this guest post, Gerry elaborates on what he calls the Press-Analyst Cycle- words of wisdom for both PR practitioners and clients so they may better understand the role of experts like Gerry and the process that is so valuable.
The Press Analyst Cycle
By Gerry Purdy
As an industry analyst, I conduct over 500 mobile and wireless ’briefings’ every year, sometimes conducting as many as four or five in one day. These briefings allow senior mobile and wireless industry executives to talk about their company and their latest product or service. Often, I sign a non-disclosure agreement so a vendor can share information about a pre-announced product, and, naturally, I never disclose any information until the product or service is announced. However, based on these briefings and my other activities in the mobile and wireless space, I obtain a good understanding of where the market is headed, both in the short and longer term. There’s quite a formal process in order to arrange for these briefings. I call the process the Press-Analyst Cycle, but it’s really more complicated than that. Here’s the inside scoop on the way that vendors, PR agencies, analysts and press interact. This cycle drives much of my time every week, day-in and day-out. First, the vendor has something important or exciting they want to share with prospective customers. The analysts and the media (press) become a communications channel with the obvious goal of positively influencing a prospect’s decision to buy that product or service. The mobile and wireless vendor hires a public relations (PR) agency with relevant experience in mobile and wireless to arrange a number of briefings, first with the appropriate analysts and then with the appropriate press. Most PR agencies, especially the ones who specialize in a certain area, already know the target media. There are a number of databases available with directories of analysts and the press. These are leveraged to supplement a core list of media and analysts with new contacts, vertical or niche media/analysts, etc. PR agencies develop a list of press and analysts that cover the topics relevant to the vendor’s product or service. Thus, if the PR agency has a client who is focused on SmartPhones, the agency personnel produces a list of analysts and press that cover SmartPhones. The PR agency then discusses the list of analysts and press with the vendor’s management. They select a target list of those individuals with whom they want to conduct briefings. The agency personnel first contact industry analysts since they often become important third party references for the product or service providing members of the press (print, online pubs, bloggers, etc.) with expert points of view about the market and the vendor’s product or service.
With the agreed upon target list in hand, the PR agency pitches a news briefing to the analyst. Once the analyst agrees to meet, a briefing is set up. The typical briefing lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The company presents the important facts about their mobile and wireless product or service, and the analyst asks questions to make sure he or she understands. I know I have to ask lots of questions to make sure I can clearly understand the main thesis of the product or service so I can remember key points when I either write about it or are called on by a member of the press to provide commentary. When you do over 500 of these briefings a year, it’s easy to get them confused (or, perhaps, it’s a sign of aging – smile). Verbalizing back what you heard or asking questions about competitive differentiation helps you remember later the important points that were discussed. Once the briefings are completed with the analysts, then the PR agency personnel set up meetings with the press. Sometimes, the PR agency schedules analyst and press briefings together to save time or to satisfy a vendor executive’s hectic schedule. Analysts like me prefer to be briefed ahead of time so I can do a good job giving different perspectives to press who call about a specific mobile and wireless product or category of interest. Typically, when the vendor and PR agency representative talk with the press, the journalist will ask if there are specific analysts available for reference that maintain expertise on the specific mobile and wireless product or service they are discussing. The PR agency will provide the journalist with a list of analysts that have been briefed & who they believe will do an objective job talking about the company and the product being introduced. Journalists like to talk with analysts about stories they are developing. The analysts give different points of view and allow them to pull interesting stories together that are factually correct but give some analysis as well. Analysts who have been briefed about a product are not limited to only saying positive things about a product. Analysts will often be able to describe the product or service and then discuss the different strengths, challenges and opportunities. I often provide the names and contacts of other analysts who I think might know about the product or service and may offer some different opinions. My ‘commission’ for helping the media with their article is a quote. The press is then left to write about the product in a number of different forms including such things as a product review, blog post, feature story, company profile, technology insight (covering a number of products in a sector), etc. My aim is to help the journalist write great articles. I absolutely prefer to be quoted in well-written articles. Vendors have to live with the results of the writings of the press and analysts like me. Often, positive stories greatly influence the decision to buy that product or service. A number of bad reviews or stories can also hurt. However, with the Press-Analyst Cycle, vendors are most often able to maximize the awareness and build credibility for their mobile and wireless product or service. So, the next time you see a story in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times or another great publication that is well-written and has a quote from me, realize there’s often a formal and sophisticated process going on behind that article the journalist is writing.