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Don’t Forget Industry Analysts in PR Programs

Even before English economist William Stanley Jevons and other 19th Century luminaries formalized the idea of marginal utility, business people grappled with sustaining customer desires for their goods and services.

While Jevons had commodities in mind, I believe marginal utility is relevant to PR programs, too, especially in our digital world.  Keeping stakeholders informed with fresh, compelling news, perspectives and content is a necessity to maintain their interest and attention.

One key group with which to build and cultivate such relationships is industry analysts.  These influencers are different than traditional members of the media and bloggers, and an organization’s approach to them must be different, too.

Here are six recommendations for building a strong analyst relations program – one that will create third-party validation for a healthcare company’s services and technologies:

  1. Don’t treat analyst briefings and media interviews the same
    • In a media interview, the reporter asks the questions, and the source answers them while bridging to her own messaging and agenda as the opportunities arise
    • A successful analyst briefing, however, is a dialogue, where the client tries to gain as much insight from the analyst as the knowledge it imparts about its company, positioning, and go-to-market strategy
  1. Work with analysts and their schedulers weeks in advance of desired briefings
    • Unlike reporters that expect sources to be available on a moment’s notice for their assignments, industry analysts often work on longer lead times
    • Use such lead times to orchestrate the objectives of your analyst briefing, even scripting what an ideal briefing looks like
    • Follow scheduling protocols; often, analysts require a company to work with scheduling colleagues, and not directly, to secure briefings 
  1. Avoid lengthy PowerPoint presentations in the actual briefings
    • Time is currency, and analyst briefings don’t happen with the same analyst firm frequently unless there is a paid relationship
    • Provide a thorough background on your company from a strategic perspective and with the market clearly in mind, but leave the lengthy presentations as leave-behinds – or better yet, provide these materials ahead of the briefings (a requirement with some firms)
    • Focus on how your offerings address current market needs and elicit analyst feedback; remember, industry analysts are experts in specific market segments, so leverage that expertise to the extent they’re willing to share their views
  1. Avoid making product announcements the sole messaging points in briefings
    • While product launches and technology enhancements are important to keep key stakeholders informed, use analyst encounters to discuss corporate positioning, larger market issues and company strategies
    • That’s not to say analysts should not be briefed on new products, but put those products in the context of the challenges the sector is facing and the problems the new products solve
    • Product details can be incorporated into PowerPoints, or via links to company web sites or microsites, for further study and reference
  1. Gaining coverage in analyst reports should NOT be the only reason for engaging analysts
    • For smaller HIT companies, securing feature coverage is often difficult
    • However, a successful analyst relations program builds trust and credibility
    • Over time, those benefits can accrue by having an analyst drop your company’s name with her own clients as a problem-solver worthy of industry consideration
    • Securing an analyst as a media reference is another worthwhile pursuit, if the analyst is amenable
  1. Don’t overplay your hand
    • Unless there is a paid relationship in place, analysts customarily accept one, or maybe, two briefings from companies they cover in their market spaces each year
    • Instead of inundating analysts with news releases and briefing requests, build a steady cadence of meaningful connections – perhaps even summarizing events in a quarterly e-newsletter
    • Use industry conferences, such as HIMSS, to connect with analysts in-person

Keeping these recommendations in mind, plus the thoughts of my colleague Matt Schlossberg, can produce rich analyst relationships and help companies advance their PR and marketing goals – even when they don’t have the means for paid relationships.

Analyst Briefings Best Practices

Analyst Briefings Best Practices

Earned media bylines and interviews get the most attention in healthcare public relations programs, but in many ways analyst briefings are even more critical to companies navigating a noisy and fiercely competitive marketplace.

Admittedly, analyst reports don’t have the curb appeal of a slick vendor profile in a top-drawer health IT publication. But they make up for it in other ways.

Many of your potential customers use the reports generated by KLAS Research, Gartner, AITE Group, The Advisory Board and others to evaluate vendors and solutions; better understand emerging healthcare categories, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, and how they are defined; and leverage the valuable primary and secondary research to make technology investment decisions.

Analyst reports are also beneficial to vendors. They can be invaluable for testing market positioning, providing clarity on where a given solution type is on the hype cycle, and how close competitors are responding to the ebb and flow of market trends.

If your PR executives are good, they are already researching all of the healthcare-specific analyst firms—and many of the cross-industry outfits—and scheduling briefings. If they are smart, they are helping you prepare to make the most of this opportunity.

This post will assume that your PR firm has secured an analyst briefing and is helping you with strategy and tactics to maximize your opportunity. (If my assumption is wrong, let me know).

Phase 1—Preparation

A good PR firm is going to provide solid guidance on analyst firms to pursue. The 500-pound gorillas like IDC and Gartner seem like no-brainers, but smaller firms that specialize in specific areas of healthcare can be just as valuable. (Long-time Amendola client Health Catalyst has a terrific breakdown of most of the major healthcare and cross-industry firms.)

Once a briefing has been secured, it’s time to prepare—even if the briefing is several week or months out. Preparation for analyst briefings can be resource- and time-intensive.

A media interview may run 15 to 20 minutes and be handled in-person or on the phone. Analyst briefings can last an hour—if not more—and often involve prepared slide decks, input from multiple executives, a demonstration of the solution or platform, the willingness to provide detailed answers to questions about your company’s history, competitors and financials.

Your PR executive should have a detailed understanding of what the analyst wants from this briefing, then help you edit and shape the presentation to align with those needs.

Phase 2—Who’s Invited

Many analyst briefings veer off in the wrong direction because the company hasn’t invited enough people—or simply too many.

We recommend that unless directed by the analyst, no more than three company representatives join the call. Those people should include the CEO, who can provide company positioning and higher-level commentary; the Chief Product/Solutions Executive, who can provide detailed information regarding the solution or platform; and the Marketing Executive, who can ably describe market positioning, customer outreach and information regarding competitors.

Of course, other company representatives are free to join, but they should quickly introduce themselves, then place themselves on mute for the duration of the call. The goal of this briefing is to provide the analyst will a smooth, clear, coherent narrative about your company. That can’t happen with people talking over each other, drawing the conversation down a half-dozen blind alleys, and random background noise intrusions.

Phase 3—The Slide Deck & Demo

Sometimes, companies are tempted to throw the kitchen sink at the analyst, covering every conceivable base from every conceivable angle. The intention is good, but attempting to cover everything since the Big Bang drowns the potential for telling a compelling story.

We encourage our clients to keep slide decks and demos short. Not more than 10-15 slides and a demo lasting no more than 10 minutes. You want to explore the details, not get bogged down in them.

As such, your slide deck should address your company’s most important competitive differentiators; provide a brief history of your company and a brief overview of its most relevant products; and offer compelling, results-oriented client success stories.

Ancillary information that may provide helpful context can be delivered to the analyst pre- or post-briefing, for them to peruse on their own time.

Phase 4—The Presentation

About a week before the briefing, we recommend a dry run. For this exercise, your PR executive and an internal communications manager should stand in for the analyst. Run through the briefing. Here are some useful metrics to judge by:

  • How long did the briefing take? Ideally, you should have left a generous space—at least 15 percent to 20 percent of the allotted time—for questions and conversation.
  • Did the subject-matter experts talk over each other or contradict each other? Were their responses thoughtful without also being epic monologues? Were their answers transparent and sincere, or riddled with meaningless jargon?
  • How was the flow of the presentation? Did anything feel missing, superfluous or out of place?
  • Did the presentation hit on all the agreed upon value propositions?
  • Did you finish with case studies and proof points?

Phase 5—Stick the Landing

After your main presentation is done, the analyst will likely have final questions. This is a key intelligence-gathering opportunity for companies. Unlike media interviews, where the questions go in only one direction, analyst briefings allow for more back and forth.

This is a good time to test your assumptions and theories about your positioning in the market or mine valuable insights from an analyst well-versed in your area of healthcare.

Also be sure to leave your analyst with some takeaways—case studies, white papers and blog posts—that will provide additional context to the presentation.

 

Analyst briefings require a lot of preparation, but done correctly, they can be invaluable sources of information about your market and a rich source of customer prospects.

Industry analysts offer their predictions on hot trends for 2017

Industry Analysts’ Predictions for 2017

HIMSS is now a distant memory and you’re struggling to remember what happened last week, let alone the show’s key takeaways. Never fear, I’ve got you covered! I reached out to several top industry analysts with whom I’ve worked for years, as well a Health 2.0 co-founder, and summarized the key themes. Consider it your industry crystal ball reading for 2017.

 #1 — Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be the bright, shiny object of 2017.

 Barry Runyon, Research VP, Gartner:

“AI, analytics, interoperability and cybersecurity seemed pretty pervasive [at HIMSS17] – AI in particular.”

Sven Lohse: Healthcare IT Services Strategies, IDC Health Insights:

“For the first time at scale, HIMSS17 showcased applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology in the healthcare context with promise for improving operations, finance and care delivery.”

Matthew Guldin, Senior Analyst, Chilmark Research:

“AI and machine learning seemed to dominate as the buzzword(s) of HIMSS17. Finding actual use cases was a bit more challenging, but there were vendors that were demonstrating its potential value around medication refills, pre-visit planning and virtual health coaching.”

#2 Population health and care management/coordination will receive a face-lift with voice assistants, cloud-based platforms and the seemingly ubiquitous AI.

Nancy Fabozzi, Principal Analyst, Transformational Health, Frost & Sullivan

“Voice is the next big user interface for computing and truly something to get excited about for its potential in healthcare, especially voice assistants for care management and patient engagement. Amazon’s Alexa is taking the lead here and many new companies will emerge to support this important trend. Merck’s new partnership with Amazon to support voice-enabled solutions for chronic disease management is a very positive development; we will be watching this one closely.”

Matthew Holt, Co-founder of Health 2.0

“[At HIMSS]…the new cloud-based population health and analytics systems showed promise, if not yet penetration.”

Matthew Guldin, Senior Analyst, Chilmark Research:

“If providers are going to be effective at scaling their present care management programs, a much higher degree of automation will be required with the application of this [AI and machine learning] technology in care management applications playing a critical role.”

Deanne Kasim, Founding Partner, Santesys Solutions

“Regardless of the outcome of “repeal and replace,” value-based reimbursement and better care coordination are here to stay and will only grow in importance.”

#3 Blockchain may be the answer to the interoperability and cybersecurity questions.

 Sven Lohse: Healthcare IT Services Strategies, IDC Health Insights:

“Blockchain in healthcare also garnered significant attention with multiple [HIMSS] sessions highlighting how blockchain could solve such challenges as interoperability, security and making healthcare transactions more transparent.”

Deanne Kasim, Founding Partner, Santesys Solutions

“Look for blockchain to be a bigger topic at HIMSS18.”

#4 Bonus thoughts: TCO & bringing people back into the equation. 

 Barry Runyon, Research VP, Gartner:

“Looking around, I think the TCO of IT is going to become a bigger issue.”

Barbara McGann – Chief Resource Officer at Horses for Sources; FSH Research

“While at HIMSS, I saw an endless variety of technology offerings, and among them, people—physicians, EMTs, nurses, patients, caregivers—all of whom want a healthier society. We need to not only connect the systems for interoperability, but also connect the individuals. IT professionals need to be just as excited as doctors, nurses and caregivers about truly changing people’s lives through healthcare in order to really have an impact.”

Deanne Kasim, Founding Partner, Santesys Solutions

“I noticed more focus on the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH), but vendors have different approaches in terms of what data they have and how it is used. I think the industry is just beginning to tap the potential here of how to access and use this information.”

Finally, my personal prediction: Regardless of your technology, product or service, 2017 will offer endless possibilities for growth if you follow best practices, execute efficiently and take advantage of strategic industry guidance. The A-team is here to help! Contact us at @AmendolaComm or at info@acmarketingpr.com.