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Understanding analysts & industry research firms

Gartner and IDC offer best practices for working with analyst firms

Media relations. Crisis communications. Community relations. Internal communications. Investor relations.

A PR person can wear many hats… but one hat we don’t hear about often is analyst relations. Some tech companies may have a person exclusively dedicated to analyst relations, but most of the time, it falls to the PR professional to manage a company’s relationships with research firms.

Not everyone in our industry is familiar with how to work with analysts, what it means for their companies/clients or even what an analyst or research firm really is. Never fear, CisionBlog is here to give you a quick introduction…

I interviewed IDC and Gartner this week (two of the world’s largest and most respected industry research firms) to discover some best practices.

Market intelligence firms, industry research firms, industry analyst firms, analyst houses… the fact that many industry research firms identify themselves by different terms may be the beginning of the confusion. I asked on Twitter what most PR people call them and each answer that I received was as varied and unique as snowflakes. For the purpose of this post, I’ll use what Cision calls them: industry research firms.

Industry research firms are made up of groups of analysts. Analysts research, analyze and provide insights and intelligence within a particular segment of an industry like telecommunications or imaging. Analysts provide market descriptions, trends, forecasts and insights. Most analysts specialize in one to three specific industries. The big difference with industry analysts and other analysts is that they examine the overall course and broad development of a particular market rather than reporting on a small trend or one company. Technology industry research firms are by far the most prevalant, well-known and largest in the industry, but there are firms for everything from health to food to the environment.

So what does this mean for the average corporate communications or PR person? Well, analysts gather a lot of their market intelligence through vendor briefings with companies in their particular industry. If you brief research firms on your product and/or company, you will likely be included in the research reports that the analyst produces.

“Why do you want to be included in these reports?” you ask. “I don’t read those reports – does anyone?” The short answer is that a lot of important people read them. In addition to vendors, analysts offer advice and consulting to investors, resellers and buyers in their sector.

And as far as the media goes, oftentimes, analysts are a driving force behind understanding industry leaders, trends, forecasts and more.

I did a quick Advanced Search on Google for mentions of IDC and Gartner at four top tech magazines (InformationWeek, Computerworld, PC World & WIRED) and found over 66,000 mentions – and that’s just for these two industry research firms!

Additionally – and even more importantly – the analyst understands your industry sector better than almost anyone and can offer advice on improvements, changes and advances.

Here are some guidelines and best practices from Gartner & IDC on working with analysts:

CisionBlog: How do you decide which companies to work with for analyst briefings?

Gartner: The decision to research a vendor is based on whether that vendor is relevant to the end-user clients in the analyst’s area of coverage. A vendor can not choose whether they are covered by an analyst or not. Vendors communicate information about their products and services to our analysts through meetings known as “vendor briefings”. Any vendor can request a vendor briefing. That process is clearly documented on gartner.com for any vendor to follow. Last year, Gartner completed more than 7,000 vendor briefings. 

IDC: IDC accepts briefings from all companies that fall within our research coverage areas (and sometimes from interesting new areas that we haven’t yet started to cover). We meet with companies of all sizes, from start-ups to Fortune 500 firms. We are particularly interested in meeting with companies that can move markets, either with innovative or disruptive new products and services, or through the weight of their already established products and services. It is not a prerequisite that a company be an IDC client to meet with an IDC analyst.

CisionBlog: Is it better to request a briefing directly with a relevant topical/regional analyst – or should all requests go through the website?

IDC: For companies that have established relationships with an analyst or team, it’s fine to work directly with the analyst or team to schedule meetings and provide updates. For companies that are new to IDC or meet less frequently with IDC analysts, it’s best to go through the website. This ensures that the request will be routed to all the relevant or potentially interested analysts at IDC.

Gartner: All requests for a vendor briefing must go through the process outlined on gartner.com

CisionBlog: Why does it benefit a company to brief you on their company/product?

Gartner: IT decision-makers trust our independent, objective advice on all aspects of the business of technology, from vendor selection to contract management, from emerging trends to leveraging existing assets more effectively. End users regularly seek advice from our analysts on specific vendors and how their offerings compare to competitor’s or a vendor’s applicability to a specific vertical, challenge or business need. Briefings can be excellent input for analysts’ responses to these end-user requests. 

IDC: Meeting with IDC ensures that a company’s products and services are understood and top of mind with IDC’s analysts.

CisionBlog: What gets your attention when reviewing analyst briefing requests?

IDC: Is the information new, interesting, and/or relevant to what the analyst will be working on in the near term. While analysts will often accept briefings on a topic that they might not write about for weeks or months, the information is most useful while he or she is actively thinking and writing about a particular market. With this in mind, it’s usually a good idea to accommodate an analyst’s suggestion to schedule a briefing at an earlier or later date.

Gartner: The more detail vendors can provide in targeting their briefing request, the higher the likelihood they will have interest in briefings from our analysts. Take a look at the Areas of Coverage and Analyst Coverage lists. See who covers your market space and what they have written lately. Highlight in your request what is unique about your product in the market – and what’s new that you are prepared to discuss with them. Don’t send 50-page PowerPoint decks and try to sell; instead, provide targeted points on what distinguishes your product or service. 

CisionBlog: Are there any best practices you can offer PR/IR professionals when working with an analyst?

Gartner: Be honest: if there is bad news, share it; the analyst will find out anyway. Listen: if the analyst tells you your product or service needs improvement in specific areas, pay attention; even if you don’t agree, a lot of your prospects will. Be available: when analysts are working on a research document, they are often under time constraints. The more quickly you can respond to their requests, the better. Be prepared: During the briefing, make sure you have the right people on the call. Analysts have been known to ask detailed technical questions on these calls, and it’s best if you can answer them live.

IDC: Be flexible and bear in mind the many demands placed on the typical analyst. Working with an analyst rather than trying to bend them to a client’s schedule is always a good strategy.

CisionBlog: If my company isn’t selected for a briefing this year – should I try again in a few months? Only when I release a new product? Never again?

IDC: Analysts are typically looking for something new and relevant to the market. While it’s a good idea to check in frequently, in many cases that is all that’s needed — a check in. If you have real news to share, you should contact the analyst. Likewise, the analyst will contact you if an update is needed (usually because they’re working on something that affects your client’s market).

Gartner: Request a briefing when – and only when – you have something important to share with analysts. This goes back to the “getting attention” point: target your request so the right analysts see what’s new and/or unique about your product. 

CisionBlog: Do analysts ever actively seek out companies to work with when a representative from that company/brand doesn’t contact you first?

Gartner: Gartner analysts regularly contact vendors to learn more about their products and services in the course of their research.

IDC: This does happen when a client needs to know more about a company or product that is moving the market.

CisionBlog: What are your key areas of expertise?

IDC: IDC is largely focused on enterprise infrastructure, applications, and services. While we do cover some important consumer markets, the majority of IDC’s research is concerned with business technology markets and how businesses (including SMBs) use technology.

Gartner: Gartner’s 650 research analysts cover a broad range of topics. Here is a list of our research areas and our analysts.

Have you worked with industry research firms before? Share your stories, questions and thoughts below!

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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