Confessions of an araholic

Every professional can look back and pinpoint a moment in time when their work perspective – the markets they operate in, their peers or their career approach – changed or was shaken to its core.

I can trace this back to when I read an article written by Theo Priestley, tech visionary and my favourite Twitter king, published in Forbes titled, Why Start-ups Need Analyst Relations More Than Growth Hacking. I’ve always admired Theo. He brings a fresh perspective on otherwise complicated topics, so I was expecting to agree with him 100 per cent.

But I didn’t. Theo gives a clear, structured and informed definition of the value of analyst relations and the need for education around the discipline. This has always been one of my favourite discussion topics (to the annoyance of peers and friends). I agree with most of the points Theo raises, including the incredible value that strategic engagement with the analyst community offers. However, I disagree with one of his take-aways (and it’s a vital one): the argument against external agency support for analyst relations.

But, why do I disagree with him?

Because it advocates that an in-house AR specialist is far more valuable than external agency teams (arguably only related to start-ups). His thoughts sparked my interest in discussing the overall value of industry analyst relations at more length, and specifically it turned my head toward the agency AR versus in-house AR professional investment debate.

In his article, Theo makes the point that employing an in-house AR specialist leads to the right type of relationships with analysts, something that may not be achieved when working with an agency. Of course, there’s always the risk of not getting the right support, and this article correctly identifies some of the most common pitfalls. These include the perceived lack of senior strategic guidance in AR agency teams. This is likely in the Top 5 misjudgements about AR (the equivalent of “All PRs are spin doctors”). However, the (very few) EMEA based agencies that have an AR specialism are headed up by seasoned professionals who have worked with a variety of clients across different markets. And they must be to be able to understand a vendor’s goals, collaborate with other streams seamlessly, identify opportunities and run programmes that complement PR and marketing investments.

An agency Head of AR works with and leads a team of professionals at all levels – and just like any other business, each role serves a strategic purpose. And this takes me to my next point: one of the most important advantages of working with the right agency AR practitioners is that it enables vendors to scale AR activity more efficiently and cost effectively than growing the capability in-house. It’s also a great way to get fresh perspectives on best practice.

By choosing this option, a vendor has the benefit of gaining the combined knowledge and experience of an established team and of adding enhanced ability for nurturing relationships with analysts. After all, building mutually-beneficial relationships with analysts is what matters most, right? Agency teams have the advantage of leveraging opinions and best practice from versed professionals, adding further depth and breadth of experience to analyst programmes. Whether it’s for an up-and-coming start-up trying to seek customers and investment, or an established enterprise player looking to diversify and find the right influencers, consulting a team of seasoned AR professionals brings valuable results.

Nonetheless, Theo’s arguments made me better understand how essential investing in and developing a tailored specialism can be. It also made me doubly aware of the need to approach each client as if I’m an extension of the in-house comms team. This may seem like a cringe-worthy line delivered by an overzealous, buzzword-quoting, typically fluffy communications expert from a Silicon Valley episode –  but I’m willing to take that risk, especially when starting in a new job.

A new role can bring new opportunities, and I am excited to have joined the AR team here at CCgroup, bringing along experience and knowledge that will no doubt help grow the practice. I’m also bringing along a lot of energy and positivity, as well as bit of sarcasm and an unhealthy obsession with podcasts. I can’t wait to build upon the outstanding results already achieved by the team.

Being an AR professional can at times be challenging, but working as part of clients’ teams and delivering results that help achieve their business goals is a key indicator of success.

That’s why Theo’s article is extremely important for the wider B2B marketing industry: because no progress, innovation or recognised best practice has ever stemmed from professionals and experts agreeing with each other on everything. But we all agree on something: the immense influence of analysts and value that a seasoned industry analyst relations practitioner can deliver (both from the agency side and in-house).

Written by Duncan Chapple


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