ARcade » Trends in Analyst Relations http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade Weblog maintained by Hill+Knowlton Strategies\' global Analyst Relations team. Wed, 30 Nov 2011 02:40:13 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Grappling with the Cloud – What the Analysts Say (and why their opinion matters) http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2010/03/05/grappling-with-the-cloud-%e2%80%93-what-the-analysts-say-and-why-their-opinion-matters/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2010/03/05/grappling-with-the-cloud-%e2%80%93-what-the-analysts-say-and-why-their-opinion-matters/#comments Fri, 05 Mar 2010 09:30:29 +0000 Tris Clark http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/?p=167 Cloud. It’s the word that won’t go away in IT circles. If you believe the hype it’s a new approach to technology that will redefine the way we deliver and consume IT. If you don’t, cloud is not a new concept, but a rebranding of various technology services, processes, practices and strategies that have been evolving for several decades. 

 

The top line concept is relatively simple: Exact definitions vary, but Cloud Computing is effectively a metaphor for computing over the Internet. For example, instead of a company hosting their IT on their own PC or sever internally it is managed and delivered by a third party supplier. Effectively their IT is hosted in a virtual ‘cloud’ of external servers.  The IT industry has argued itself silly over various technical definitions, opportunities and problems with the concept of cloud. A lot of communications in the market around cloud has come from the vendors. In quite a few cases we question whether these messages have really contributed to clarifying what these services actually bring to customers.  

 

Where do analysts fit into this debate?

The topic of cloud computing is ripe for debunking. Analysts have been playing a key role in this – constantly outlining the various technical and strategic options for companies – and contradicting technology vendor’s marketing claims when they break step with reality. Analysts are particularly important to the cloud debate for multiple reasons:

 

Firstly, they are advising their clients (IT decision makers of every stripe) on IT matters every day – they are intimately familiar with companies day to day challenges, and how they can be solved.

 

Secondly, they talk with a wide range of technology vendors, and are frequently discussing the various ins and outs of trends. Vendors have a reputation for slinging mud at each other and spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about each other’s respective offerings. The analyst industry originally grew out of a desire to counter the rising tides of vendor hype. If anyone can tell you the real deal … it should be an analyst.

 

Lastly, because analysts gain access to technology developments before they even hit the market (and technology adoption rates can take several years to filter through to the mainstream) they are in the know well before the media. Analysts are rightly lauded for their independence – their influence can sometimes make or break a multi-million pound technology deal. Analysts have too much to lose if they become compromised by hype, so you know they will give you an honest answer to a straight question.

 

Cloud – New or not?

Most analysts have been around for a long time. They have heard it all before. The Application Service Provider (ASP) was the original poster child for ‘IT over the Internet’ back in the early 90s. The technology wasn’t up to scratch, so it never really took off. Prior to cloud many people got hot under the collar over Software as a Service (SaaS) – the same basic concept but delivered on a multi-tenant basis. SaaS has itself now been subsumed within a wider ‘theoretical’ cloud model which also includes hardware, applications and storage.

 

Much of this is a question of vendor positioning. There is an argument that ‘true’ cloud computing is globally scalable in nature – and requires the kind of resources and reach that only the likes of Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! can provide. Although many smaller, and less scalable, vendors would dispute this in their own cloud definitions. It’s also true (up to a point) that here have been several technological developments – virtualisation and web-orientated architecture for instance – that allow Internet resources to be used much more effectively by enterprises. Cloud is more pervasive than most technology topics because it embraces so many IT touchpoints. For example, a recent Inquiry H&K had with Gartner on virtualisation contained a healthy portion of focus on the topic of cloud – due to the role of virtualisation in supporting private clouds.

 

The analyst team at Freeform Dynamics have eloquently made the case that cloud is essentially a slightly tweaked IT approach to the old problems that IT has always grappled with – a view I am very sympathetic to. Dale Vile, Research Director at Freeform Dynamics called a spade a spade when he recently wrote in the Register that,while this discussion about styles of IT service delivery might be new to some, it certainly isn’t to anyone who has moved in senior IT and business management circles.”  His colleague Jon Collins, Managing Director and CEO at Freeform, added, “I think some vendors are being taken by surprise by the fact that Cloud just equates to IT done right.”

 

The good folks at Freeform are certainly not alone within the analyst community in arguing this point, indeed it’s probably fair to say that the majority of analysts arguably support this view. These kind of pragmatic ‘sanity checks’ from analysts are very welcome indeed. Such analytical doses of reality help the IT community to keep its feet firmly planted on the ground – dealing in the world of the possible rather than just focusing on the aspirational promise of tomorrow’s ‘next big thing’.

 

Cloud Adoption – Where it’s really at

More than ever the waves of FUD need to be countered – cloud particularly needs to be put into context. Although it is topping most of the ‘hottest’ technology lists for 2010, caution is justified. Broadly speaking analysts are advising a wait and see approach to adopting cloud services.

 

The analyst firm Gartner produces yearly Hype-Cycles, in effect market barometers which track technology adoption and market penetration. Coincidently, the latest Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies places cloud computing at the ‘peak of inflated’ expectations. This indicates that the technology has become as hyped as it’s going to be. Over the next two years the topic will slide into the ‘trough of disillusionment’ as customers begin to discover problems and issues with the implementation of cloud services.  This doesn’t mean the technology has failed; merely that it has reached the most difficult period in its lifecycle. As a general guide Hype-Cycles are a strong, but not infallible, method of tracking technologies and the right time to implement them. I’ve oversimplified the intricacies involved in Hype-Cycles slightly (but that’s a whole other blog post…)

 

Over the next year or so it will be bumpy ride for cloud computing enthusiasts.  Indeed, the words of caution from analysts have been circling for some time. According to a pan- European and American  survey[i] , conducted by the analyst firm Forrester, 49 percent of respondents recently decided not to implement cloud services due to ongoing security and privacy concerns. More questions are being asked over the ‘pure play’ approach to cloud, this trend will increase.  Such candour is well come as IT decision makers are risk averse at the best of times and rightly want to know their investments are justified (and will pay off).

 

The Real Future of Cloud

This is the part where I own up to having a vested interest in the debate. Several of my clients are actively involved in a hybrid approach to cloud computing which is known as Software+Services (S+S). The S+S model is championed by Microsoft, and other technology partners such as Mamut (a pan European software provider focused on SMBs). Both of whom – I’m very proud to say – are clients. Their approach is an evolutionary one to cloud.

 

In a nutshell S+S is a model which embraces both traditional on premise IT and the functionality provided by the cloud – letting the user decide whether they want to use online or on-premise functionality, or a combination of the two. It’s a salient approach as, in reality, most companies will use a mix of traditional IT and cloud services. Over the next few years the wider IT industry will come to acknowledge that cloud is not an ‘all or nothing’ proposition.

 

Indeed, for many businesses cloud is not an either/or debate – reality is rarely so neat and tidy – and there is a fine line to tread between business agility and retaining resiliency. In most of H&K’s conversations with analysts to date the feedback on S+S has been very positive. Whilst analysts won’t necessarily endorse one IT delivery model over another, many of the analysts the H&K AR team have spoken to agree that the future IT environment will be a heterogeneous beast. In our view, such an environment favours Software+Services. It lets the user pick their flavour of IT at their own pace. And in the end, cloud hype or no, it’s the user’s preference, and the IT facts on the ground, that truly matter.

 

If you are interested in starting a conversation with analysts or would like to discuss technology trends with the AR team at Hill & Knowlton then please do drop us a line.

 


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Great IIAR Event Last Night…Despite the Rain http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2010/01/22/great-iiar-event-last-night%e2%80%a6despite-the-rain/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2010/01/22/great-iiar-event-last-night%e2%80%a6despite-the-rain/#comments Fri, 22 Jan 2010 23:36:28 +0000 Ruth Busbee http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/?p=163 Last night IIAR hosted its first meeting of 2010 in Silicon Valley hosted by Cisco. Despite the torrential rain in the Bay Area, about 25 AR professionals made the trek to network, socialize and hear  Carter Lusher with Sage Circle present on “Trends in the Analyst Ecosystem.”

In addition to talking about the firm acquisitions such as AMR and Burton a topic of discussion was what is an analyst these days with Carter supposing that analysts have contractual agreements with end users and vendors. The group also explored ways to use Twitter in AR programs and several Twitter AR pro’s were there including Peggy O’Neill, Rob Hilsen with Genesys,  Kathleen Schaub with Sybase,  Jessie Freund with Cisco.

The next meeting is in March…watch for an announcement date from IIAR and hope to see everyone there.

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The Complexity of Predictions: Hedging Your Purchasing ‘Bets’ for 2010 http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2009/12/22/the-complexity-of-predictions-hedging-your-purchasing-%e2%80%98bets%e2%80%99-for-2010-2/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2009/12/22/the-complexity-of-predictions-hedging-your-purchasing-%e2%80%98bets%e2%80%99-for-2010-2/#comments Tue, 22 Dec 2009 12:51:09 +0000 Tris Clark http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/?p=158

As another year draws to its close, brows furrow in concentration across the silicon embedded hills and valleys of the technology industry. What’s in store for the year ahead? Which technologies will rise and which will fall? Yes its predictions time once more.

Technology predictions are a tricky call for even the most informed expert to make – so much can go very wrong or very right. For analysts it can be a particularly difficult task – even with all the data they have at their disposal. True, few other individuals have so much privileged access to data from such a wide variety of sources – but then again few other industries are as complex as the technology sector. Analysts have the best view of the industry, but as they and the wider industry knows, they can only hit the nail on the head on so many occasions. Very few things are for sure in the technology sector.

One prominent analyst recently shared the following insight with the H&K AR team, “We are occasionally wrong, but we are often right. Even when we are wrong, it is often because we are a barometer of what our clients think.” It’s a nicely put summation of an analyst’s dilemma. Analysts have their own sophisticated insights on what’s likely to happen – but these views are informed by and built upon layers of data provided by others. Often they can be uncannily prescient, at the same time they are heavily dependent on their client’s experiences. Some have said that an analyst is ‘only as good as what they know and who they heard it from’.  Analyst’s clients are uncertain about 2010 and are looking for reassurance and guidance on their purchasing choices.

Analysts will have many interesting and informed views on the performance of a number of technologies in the market place. Will companies delay their internal server refresh for another year or will they take the plunge and invest in the latest server architecture? Will they turn outwards to the cloud for costs savings or will they prefer to retain their data on premise for security reasons? Will they consolidate their software and licenses or will they look to make IT savings elsewhere in the business?

In 2010, analysts will doubtless make some safe predictions as well as some more risky ones.
We can even make a few of our own – albeit without access to the same data the analysts have. For cost control reasons Virtualisation is certain to continue growing, the continued rise of mobile applications remains a pretty safe bet and cloud will no doubt continue to be hotly debated – even if actual adoption rates vary wildly across vertical markets. But amidst all the wider uncertainties one thing is certain – it’s never been a more challenging, or interesting, time for the analyst community.

If you are interested in engaging with the analyst community, or would like to discuss the possibility of leveraging the upcoming wave of prediction reports, why not get in touch with the team here at H&K.

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Chatting with Gartner http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2009/05/05/chatting-with-gartner/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2009/05/05/chatting-with-gartner/#comments Tue, 05 May 2009 17:58:42 +0000 Jay Andersen http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/?p=84 Last week our US-based analyst relations team spent a lively hour with Jenni Lehman, Group VP in Gartner Research, when she visited our offices to talk about the firm’s research structure, social media policies, and whom to call when things turn south.

If you haven’t met Jenni, she is responsible for research operations including the functions of Research Methodology, Research Agenda Management, Primary Research, Secondary Research, Global Editing, Research Engagement Scheduling, Research Events Programs, Research Workforce Development and Research Business Operations.  Jenni explained how Gartner has six other GVPs of research who have oversight of markets including Servers & Storage, IT Operations, Business Intelligence, etc. while she is charged with creating the framework for repeatable and high-quality research. Yes, her plate is a full one. And yes Gartner pays close attention to how research is created and developed. I might have coined a new acronym when I asked her how their recently launched CCA (Critical Capabilities Analysis) methodology was going. After explaining what I meant (I guess nobody other than me refers to them as CCA), Jenni let us know that client response has been strong and that more than 20 are planned for 2009. We’re curious to hear if anyone out there has had any experience working on a CCA (there I said it again!). She also confirmed that Hype Cycles are one of the most-often downloaded research documents at Gartner.com.

While some have rightly criticized Gartner for being slow to have a blogging and Twitter presence, the firm is now embracing digital. Gartner has established a clear set of guidelines for their analysts to follow including avoid inflammatory subjects, don’t post information and advice for which clients pay Gartner, protect and enhance the value of the Gartner brand, and be personable and have fun. The link for their policy can be found here. As a long-time Gartner client we appreciate the fact that they are respecting our rights and not giving away one of our competitive advantages. Gartner has a number of active Twitterers which can be found here. We are encouraged to see Gartner join the conversation on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Jenni mentioned one interesting side effect of social media; analysts sometimes blog about subject areas outside of their core focus. When they do, they need to be careful that what they post does not contradict what Gartner has officially written on the subject. It might be a good best practice to search across the Gartner blog network to see if analysts you don’t normally follow are writing about your company or market. And finally, Jenni confirmed our suspicion that Gartner tracks blog readership to see which analysts are getting the most hits. A little friendly competition amongst the analyst ranks is alive and well.

And finally we talked about the role of Ombudsman, which Jenni referred to as Gartner’s Switzerland. If a vendor has an issue with published research, including blogs and Twitter posts, they are urged to take it up with the Ombudsman to address the issue. The Ombudsman’s main goal is to be responsive to end-user and vendor issues to maintain the company’s integrity, evaluate research for balance and objectivity, and deliver visibility into Gartner’s research process. It’s a lofty goal and our team has experience with the process. We’d be interested in hearing about anyone else’s experience.

Overall it was a great meeting; as an AR professional with a library research background I found it a fascinating look at what goes on behind the scenes at Gartner research. We’re hoping to meet with other folks responsible for research agenda at other leading industry research firms. Stay tuned!

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Is this the future of analyst relations? http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2009/04/28/is-this-the-future-of-analyst-relations/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2009/04/28/is-this-the-future-of-analyst-relations/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2009 15:53:35 +0000 Ruth Busbee http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/?p=75 Digital AR. I’ve heard that term tossed around a lot in the last few months. We’re asked by our clients and colleagues what analysts are using digital communications channels, how they’re using them, and most commonly – what do I need to do, as an AR professional, to understand and utilize these channels? Good analyst relations professionals need to understand the evolving nuances of how relationships can be strengthened as more analysts engage through digital channels.

There’s no doubt that the role of AR manager is changing as social media is becoming more used by industry analysts. Jeremiah Owyang, one of Forrester’s social media analysts blogged last Friday about When Analyst Relations Get Social. He offered several ways AR professionals are changing and summed it up with “What’s the theme here? The role hasn’t changed that much in the traditional sense, but the AR professional isn’t a gatekeeper, instead they facilitate.”

I think good analyst relations managers have always facilitated and not been gatekeepers.  Social media interactions allow another touch point for AR managers and those they manage to connect with analysts on both personal and professional levels. AR managers need to understand how their spokespeople, customers and colleagues are interacting with analysts through digital channels and provide guidance and guidelines to help create or continue a productive relationship.

The basics of smart AR remain the same-inquiry and listening, engaging in dialogue around issues, prioritizing and looking for efficiencies of scale, maintaining meaningful relationships, and being smart about metrics. But now there are digital options for each, and before you dive in, the first step is to find out how your analysts-and your customers-are engaging online.

While I don’t think Digital AR will replace traditional AR – there is a need to evolve AR programs and increase understanding of this communications channel. How are you evolving?

Here at H&K, our AR team has developed a methodology and built best practices around Digital AR. Please contact me if you want to continue this discussion. You can also follow me on Twitter @ruthbusbee!

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Mastering the Hype Cycle – new book by Gartner http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2008/09/17/mastering-the-hype-cycle-new-book-by-gartner/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2008/09/17/mastering-the-hype-cycle-new-book-by-gartner/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2008 20:42:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/11165.aspx Gartner analysts Jackie Fenn and Mark Raskino have written a book on the Hype Cycle, which is the series of signature research that Gartner’s clients read the most.

Jackie created the first ‘Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies’ in 1995 and has been refining them in the 13 years since. In the original, the “Information Superhighway” was tumbling down towards the trough of disillusionment where handwriting recognition was already languishing and intelligent agents were at their most hyped. At H&K, we reckon Jackie was pretty much spot on.

Jackie and Mark have also started a blog around the launch of their book, which is worth reading as it already contains useful insights relating to various cycles.

Flatteringly, in their latest post Jackie references the Clean Tech Hype Cycle that Josh Reynolds published in June (and which I cross-posted here). As Jackie says, the
hype cycle really isn’t about technology, but about the human reaction
to anything new – in particular the mismatch between expectations and
reality
we couldn’t agree more – we use hype cycles internally as a marketing planning tool in various divisions, whether or not they relate to technology.

We also debate hype cycles with clients who also subscribe to Gartner and can therefore access the reports – used carefully, this really helps both sides to understand the real business goals and to match communications objectives accordingly.

Personally, I can hardly wait to read the book, which I’ve had on pre-order for weeks now!

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Cross-post: Clean Tech Hype Cycle http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2008/07/28/cross-post-clean-tech-hype-cycle/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2008/07/28/cross-post-clean-tech-hype-cycle/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2008 10:50:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/10976.aspx As followers of H&K’s tech practice will know, Joshua Reynolds was recently promoted to Global Technology Practice Director. At the start of the month, he published the following short article on the Hype Cycle that we have produced for clean technology, largely because it didn’t already exist. Clean tech is an area that is extremely important to H&K and you can expect to see much more posted in the coming months as we demonstrate our credentials.

Given the attention that Carter and others have given to Hype Cycles in the not too distant past, it seems very appropriate to cross-post Josh’s article on ARcade.

I plan to run an afternoon/evening session for clients and friends of H&K shortly that focuses on Hype Cycles, why they are important, what you can do with them and how you can influence them. Contact me for further information.

– 

Clean tech is the latest boom industry. Global investments in clean energy are conservatively estimated at US$148 billion in 2007, with year-on-year growth rates of 60%. But this entrepreneurial frenzy brings with it a commensurate degree of hype. And it is hype—and how we navigate it—that determines long-term winners from losers.

Fortunately, we have a diagnostic tool that helps us predict waves of hype, separate legitimate innovation from fads, and enable us to become the voice of reason in a crowded and confused public dialogue.

Years ago, international technology research firm Gartner developed something they called the Hype Cycle. It plotted various technologies from various sectors along a market maturation curve that was divided into five sections:

  • Technology triggers were those innovations that had been invented but not yet broadly marketed—or tested.
  • Innovations at the peak of inflated expectations are those that are broadly publicized but often misunderstood as people rush to deploy them without first understanding their limitations.
  • In the trough of disillusionment, as people gradually realize that new innovations don’t live up to their over-hyped reputations, the industry goes through a period of general disappointment.
  • At the slope of enlightenment, wiser heads prevail and realize ways to achieve meaningful ROI from their investments with minor modifications in deployment.
  • And finally, a technology reaches a point where it has become so ubiquitous all the risk is gone, as is all the innovation. This is the plateau of productivity.

Originally, Gartner meant for this tool to help its clients determine levels of risk associated with buying or investing in specific technologies. And as Hill & Knowlton has discovered, this tool can be easily adapted to construct (and de-construct) marketing strategies not only for new technologies, but for other sectors, as well—including clean tech. Gartner has not yet produced an official clean tech hype cycle. But based on our own research and analysis, we have constructed a rudimentary one of our own (see illustration), which remains a work in progress.

Technology Trigger: Here we tell “next big thing” stories. Even if we don’t sell technologies in this phase, we make industry predictions about the long-term impact of new developments on mature markets. And we offer counsel on how to avoid becoming obsolete in the wake of fresh innovations. In the world of clean tech, this includes new long-life batteries and energy storage architectures for clean energy such as solar, wind and wave.

Peak of Inflated Expectations: Here we counter industry hype by running “mythbuster” campaigns that challenge commonly held misperceptions. We seed the market with the top five questions to ask your vendors, partners or senior management before investing in this area. And we offer counsel on how to mitigate risks associated with these new fads. In clean tech, commercial grade solar energy is often over -hyped. We can boost our credibility by challenging false assumptions around cost, energy storage and ease of deployment.

Trough of Disillusionment: Here we provide a counterpoint to industry skepticism. We offer counsel on how to achieve ROI from existing investments, and promulgate best practices for deployment. And we can offer expert views on “lessons learned” that position us as the wise ones in a down sector. In clean tech, people are extremely disillusioned with “greenwashing,” which involves a company trying to portray itself as environmentally conscious without accounting for the true environmental impact of its policies.

Slope of Enlightenment: Here we candidly address industry maturity and market consolidation and commoditization. We celebrate customer heroes who had the vision to see the long-term value in a new innovation. And we offer counsel on where the industry goes next. Energy efficient appliances, and intelligent power consumption in hardware and data centers, have long been promoted as good ideas. Now we can share best practices for others to follow.

And at the Plateau of Productivity, where you find things like energy-saving florescent light bulbs, it’s time to find something new to talk about.

In the coming months and years, clean technology will become an increasingly prevalent topic. The space will become crowded with visionaries, industrial giants, and general embellishment. The best way to stand apart in a space like that is to be the voice of reason, know where you are on the hype cycle, and speak accordingly. As we continue to learn more, this hype cycle will continue to evolve—and so will our marketing strategies.

Although Gartner currently only publishes hype cycles for technology, media & entertainment, supply chain and natural resource industries, this hype cycle methodology works just as well for other sectors, too. The clean tech hype cycle is just one example of a home-grown diagnostic tool used to bring immediately applicable insights to a burgeoning market. By putting our clients’ communications into a broader strategic context–regardless of which sector they’re in–we can enhance their thought leadership propgrams and executive profiling. But even more than that, we can anticipate the next big thing–or next big flop–and literally get them “ahead of the curve.”


 

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Latest news from Twitter: Forrester hires a Senior Analyst http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2008/06/27/latest-news-from-twitter-forrester-hires-a-senior-analyst/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2008/06/27/latest-news-from-twitter-forrester-hires-a-senior-analyst/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2008 11:32:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/10866.aspx Peter Kim tweets that Forrester Research has filled a vacant position and will soon be announcing an analyst to cover social computing. Who says Twitter is useless?

Carter’s Analyst Twitter Directory currently lists 104 analyst accounts and that doesn’t include the AR folks who also use the medium.

Personally, I find Twitter to be a very useful tool for my work – it allows me to loosely follow several analysts whose work is highly relevant to my clients, thus keeping an eye on their current research interests and allowing me to flag interesting developments. I’m then able to act where necessary using more traditional communications methods (is it correct to refer to the phone and email as ‘traditional’, I wonder?).

Yes, it’s not all serious, yes I admit that I do tweet about rugby matches that I’m watching and yes, I have been known to tell my 81 followers what I’m eating. No, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.

Nobody’s forcing to anybody to sign up. All I’m saying is that I find it helpful. 

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Flat News Earth Debate - http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2008/03/07/flat-news-earth-debate/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2008/03/07/flat-news-earth-debate/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2008 07:09:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/10374.aspx I had an interesting evening two nights ago at the Flat Earth News Debate organised by the Press Gazette following the launch of Nick Davies’ book. The topic for discussion was “Is a culture of “churnalism” destroying real journalism in the UK?”

Top marks to the Press Gazette for attracting a high profile panel that included the author, several very established journalists and editors as well as H&K’s UK CEO – the book is being widely discussed within the PR industry and it’s important that we take part in the discussion.

The full list of panellists was:

  • Nick Davies – Guardian writer, former British Press Awards reporter and feature writer of the year and author of Flat Earth News
  • Andrew Gilligan – the former Today Programme reporter whose investigations into the office of London Mayor Ken Livingstone have prompted a police inquiry and the suspension of one of Livingstone’s closest aides
  • Malcolm Starbrook – editor of the East London Advertiser, a former editor of the Croydon Advertiser and member of the Press Complaints Commission
  • Peter Preston – Observer media columnist and former Guardian editor.
  • Michelle Stanistreet – President of the NUJ and a journalist with the Daily Express
  • Sally Costerton – UK chief executive of PR firm Hill & Knowlton
  • Dominic Ponsford – editor of Press Gazette

The debate did get somewhat sidetracked into a discussion of bad pay within UK journalism, but as this is part of the problem that Nick Davies describes in his book, panellists and audience-members were allowed to run with this theme.

I’ll come clean and admit that I haven’t finished reading Flat Earth News, so my opinions are liable to change somewhat over the coming days, but in short Davies is saying that ownership of newspapers has shifted from benevolent patriarchs who were interested in power and influence to commercial organisations driven by the profit motive.

According to Davies, commercial pressures have led to journalists having to churn out up to ten news stories a day, leading to a failure to check facts and consequently to the publication of many untrue stories.

The situation is exacerbated by a reduction in the number of journalists which results in their taking announcements from official bodies such as courts and the government at face value. To make matters worse, the Press Association, which Davies describes in his book as “the primary conveyor belt along which information reaches national media in Britain,” has replaced a network of local staff reporters and freelance hacks who used to cover news around the country. Davies asserts that the Press Association is woefully understaffed and frequently resorts to passing on information unchecked, only for this to be taken as fact by journalists in the nationals.

The other main argument is that editors are faced with enormous pressures from, for example, the government to publish or not to publish stories. The example of Prince Harry’s recent tour of duty in Afghanistan was cited as a powerful example of press collusion – interestingly a show of hands revealed the audience at the debate to be split down the middle as to whether the press were right or wrong to do so.

While the discussion was largely interesting, the debate was effectively snuffed out by the author himself: several of the panellists, including Peter Preston, Andrew Gilligan and Francis Ingham challenged the factual basis upon which Davies builds his Flat Earth News arguments and it was hugely ironic that he batted away these accusations of poor fact-checking by saying that it was “boring” to get bogged down with the detail. A classic case of do as I say, don’t do as I do…

Hats off to Ingham for the night’s best soundbite: “PR isn’t that powerful, journalists are not that lazy, and the public are not that stupid.” Quite.

What does all that mean for PR agencies like H&K and Influencer50? Well, here’s the hard sell: any erosion of the influence of journalists means that other parties can muscle in and grab mindshare among the customers of our clients’ products and services, so from a selfish perspective it’s good news for PR practitioners who engage with non-media stakeholders.

While we absolutely condemn the plight of journalists and absolutely recognise their lack of numbers, it highlights the importance of identifying ALL the actors that carry weight on purchasing decisions and working to align their agenda with that of our clients for mutual benefit. In other words, less ‘Media Relations’ and more ‘Public Relations’ in its true sense (or ‘influencer marketing’ if you must). In short, it puts a multi-specialist like H&K in a particularly powerful position as we frequently combine our deep expertise in disciplines as diverse as Public Affairs, Change Management and Analyst Relations with sector knowledge in Financial Services, Healthcare and Technology, etc. When combined with top class media relations, the result is a truly powerful marketing communications campaign that reflects directly on clients’ bottom lines.

My colleagues Guy and Niall, being more dedicated bloggers, have already posted their own takes on the debate – the latter demonstrating his note-taking skills by reproducing a good summary of the panellists’ positions.

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H&K UK Strengthens Analyst Relations Offer http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2007/11/22/hk-uk-strengthens-analyst-relations-offer/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/2007/11/22/hk-uk-strengthens-analyst-relations-offer/#comments Thu, 22 Nov 2007 16:13:00 +0000 Dominic Pannell http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/arcade/9873.aspx As I mentioned previously, we’ve been working hard in the London AR
team and that’s reflected in the fact that the team is growing – we’re delighted
to announce the appointment of Marc Duke and Agnieszka Augustyniak.

Marc joined the team as a senior consultant in
September and has been bringing his analytical skills to bear on several
accounts. With ten years AR experience gained working at both vendors and agencies,
he is well-known and highly respected in the AR community, having excellent
contacts and broad experience. Marc will be instrumental in continuing to build
our business and is helping us to expand the AR practice into a broader
influencer proposition enabling it to cross-sell into industries outside
technology.

Agnieszka also joins the team as a consultant.  Agnieszka joins H&K from the AR team at Tata
Consultancy Services (TCS).  Agnieszka
will help to ensure H&K execute AR programmes across existing accounts.
Moreover, her first-hand experience of working in a major outsourcing company is
already proving invaluable with our current client base.

H&K UK will continue to expand the proposition and
to convert business from existing PR accounts, working closely with the rest of
our global team.  The practice aims to
hire another full-time dedicated AR consultant early next year.

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