Analyst and advisory firms can be forgiven for wanting to leverage their relationships with high technology solution providers: they are almost all run for profit (I think only IDATE has non-profit roots). However, there are real and implied conflicts of interest when influencers asked to be paid to hold up their side of the conversation in a briefing.
Many analyst relations professionals have the experience of organizing a briefing, and discovering that the influencer’s salesperson is pushing them to hold back on feedback. I have seen firms’ salespeople ask for up to $10,000 for their analyst to write up their thoughts and recommendations after being briefed by an analyst.
While that might leave a bad taste in the mouth, it is even worse if the firm actively solicited the briefing. It means that either the influencers were serving the needs of another client by gathering the information, or that they are reaching out to new clients merely to upsell briefing feedback.
This way of selling has some apparent conflicts of interest. If you pay an analyst to write up their thoughts on a briefing, then that report is undoubtedly going to be used internally, and parts of it will be reworked as a publication by a productive analyst. That is paying for coverage, and it is the sort of activity that, through the ICCO Stockholm Charter and the IPRA Charter for Media Transparency, many public relations professionals have signed up to oppose. Such payments are becoming a compliance touch-point in many well-run firms, especially those listed in the USA.
However, there are some specific issues for AR people: will the firm in question continue to proactively request briefings if the provider does not pay for feedback? Will the niche player who never pays be taken seriously by the influencer? Will it incentivise the analysts to focus more effort on the vendors who pay?
Our advice has always been: don’t pay for briefings. Briefings are a necessary part of gathering data. The analysts are engaged in a free and fair exchange. If they need to be paid to turn up, then they are not interested in recommending you to their clients. Moreover, inevitably, a smart analyst will want to probe, question and clarify. An analyst who allows themselves to be kept silent in a briefing is hampering their ability to understand better the people they are interviewing. Not only should clients oppose these limitations, but also analysts should too.
Have you had any experience in this context? Feel free to contact the author anonymously.