Newsletters Struggle To Gain Analyst Mind Share

For Allen Weiner, when it comes to worthwhile communications with the PR community, analyst newsletters just don't do the trick. "I'm into speed and accurate information with good contacts and follow-up that's sent to me personally," says Weiner, research VP for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. "I'm not interested in group stuff. That goes to the bottom of my list. If I have time, I'll look at it - but I never have time." Weiner adds that, as they stand now, newsletters don't catch hs eye and won't until PR executives "put them in a format so that in one glance, I, as a busy analyst, can see what's in there." Making newsletters time-sensitive, succinct and personal sounds like an easy-enough request in terms of analyst relations, but PR pros still miss the mark, overloading (and underwhelming) a sector that is increasingly integral to their success. As the trend of PR/analyst communications grows, execs more and more rely on electronic newsletters to serve as conduits between themselves and the analyst community and - here's the rub - to get analysts to cover your company and maybe even mention its name in research reports and consulting projects. But before one can forge such a relationship, PR managers must crack the code of how to keep away from the "delete" button. "PR firms in general need to increase their understanding of the analyst business. Analysts are like an extremely technical, discerning end of the press, but on steroids," says Stephen England, president of Austin, Texas-based Knowledge Capital Group (KCG). "They will not take any form of PR puffery or superlatives seriously. They live in a world of provable factoids." Analysts and senior PR managers alike admit that getting the attention of analysts - both financial and industrial - is a tricky business and requires a trinity of successful newsletter characteristics: frequency, content and, perhaps most important, landing in the right hands. "Rule 1 is to target the right analysts and to pull the top analysts out of the pack. Don't ever treat them with a newsletter," England says, stressing that, for the top analysts, newsletters seldom make the grade. "It just doesn't fit with the kind of communications system you should have in place with those folks." Rather, macha analysts should be contacted directly to promote an open dialogue. According to England, "In the analyst world, a newsletter forms a very useful communication for those analysts who don't make it into the top five or the top 10." Once the A-List analysts have been removed from newsletter mailing lists, the logistics of putting together a useful product commence. The frequency is dependant on the specific industries covered, though many PR agencies say quarterly or bimonthly releases suit them and analysts best. Stick to a schedule, as analysts will come to expect a newsletter and respect those that are most reliable. "You have to measure the frequency against the overload factor because, if they're receiving too many bulletins, it begins to be counter-productive," says Shawn Whalen, senior VP of technology and healthcare at PR firm Schwartz Communications (Waltham, Mass.). "You want to make the analyst's job easier. You want to make [them] look smarter, so if they get asked a question about X, Y or Z company, they have a document handy that they can pull from their files." Analyst-newsletter content depends on the audience, and sending a personalized issue to each recipient - or group of recipients - requires attention to his or her specific needs and wants. For Weiner, whose "laser focus" rests with media, a newsletter directed at healthcare specialists or financial services will do nothing but soil his impression of the PR professional - and send his or her product directly to the cyber-trash heap. But rest assured: There is a basic checklist of items that should receive attention, no matter the end user. The must-haves? "An analyst is only going to recommend something that has case histories behind it," England says, classifying case studies as a priority. It's also wise to include the "news behind the news" instead of recaps, as analysts are just as capable of monitoring the wires as the rest of us. For John Howlett, senior VP of Ruder Finn's Chicago office, giving the perspective from the CEO certainly adds value. "As a PR professional, it provides a great opportunity for corporate interaction and engagement," he says. It's also a must to keep the information succinct; it's the only way to convince analysts to come back for more. Provide the first few lines of an important press release or case-study summary with a live link. "Read further" is another effective way to minimize information overload and still get the point across. The necessary inclusion of so many different elements may sound more like babysitting than communicating, but it marks the growth - however stunted it may be - of analyst/PR relations from being reactive and transactional to becoming relationship-based. For senior PR managers, solid two-way relationships with analysts can lead to mentions in research reports and conversations with clientele as well as a more productive internal relationship with the CEO. While it helps to foster analyst relations, newsletters should not be the only communications vehicles; perhaps they are just the first of many steps to create a better dialogue between PR execs and analysts. "It is part of an armory, but it's not a primary weapon," England says. "A newsletter should make an analyst say: 'That sounds like an interesting case history. I want to know more.'" Contacts: Allen Weiner, 480.585.4614,; Stephen England, 512.334.5943,; Shawn Whalen, 781.684.6538,; John Howlett, Respondez, S'il Vous Plait It may be a common courtesy when it comes to social functions and certain business transactions, but for analyst newsletters, the consideration of responding with feedback is practically nonexistent. How, then, in a climate of increasingly important PR/analyst relations, can senior PR managers obtain analysts' coveted comments, questions or concerns regarding their newsletters? "It's a collaborative process," says Shawn Whalen, senior VP of technology-and-healthcare PR firm Schwartz Communications. While mastering the process has yet to become an exact science, there are a handful of tools that curb the learning curve. John Howlett, senior VP of Ruder Finn's Chicago office, uses ExactTarget, an e-mail marketing tool that provides insight and intelligence on how the newsletter is used and what sort of articles resonate most strongly. The concept of such effective feedback-collecting devices is seductive, but Stephen England, president of Knowledge Capital Group, warns against thinking of them as a panacea. "In general, analysts are not going to react very favorably to a scorecard behind a newsletter," he says, though he admits to using ExactTarget-like tool Survey Monkey. "The end game of a newsletter is to cause a two-way interaction. It's not to get a piece of information across. It's a teaser."

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