The role of a good AR: does it change during a crisis?

Analyst relations nightmares (IIAR)Although crisis situations can at times feel out-of-the-blue, AR nightmares can usually be solved by adhering to a simple to follow maxim: it’s all about communicating what you can, when you can.

However, in an escalating crisis of epic proportions, it’s important to ensure that you, as an Analyst & Influencer Relations specialist, tend to your priority analyst relationships first and foremost.

Here are three simple tips for how to survive your first crisis as an AR professional working within an escalating crisis, or in a PR nightmare scenario where you’re asked to give advice on how to inform the analyst community. It can be anything from a briefing which has gone off the rails to an issue in a local market that mushrooms into a global performance or critical security flaw.

No matter the issue, there are ways as guardians of the relationships our Vendors have with Industry Analysts, that can be replicated across most B2B technology and marketing companies.

3. Communicate wisely

This is a personal view, but I think many other members of the IIAR (and the wider Analyst & Influencer Relations) community would agree with me, but largely our role is increasingly about “relationship management”. But often, and this may not be all of the time, but you are duty-bound to wait to externally relay details on a crisis until your team has all of the facts.

Don’t be premature and send out a statement to the analysts that track your company that is premature, hasty or that may give out damaging or misleading information.

Agree in advance with your team what you can, and cannot, say. And make sure that you have approval for what you do say.

Ensure that you don’t operate a ‘walled garden’ strategy to PR, AR, and Comms. Know what you can communicate, and ensure the rest of your wider Comms and strategic comms teams are all in unison about what it is you are disclosing externally.

2. Work closely with your IR team

If you work as an AR for a large, publicly traded company, a Mega-IT Vendor or a nimbler one that’s about to IPO, it doesn’t really matter really: but you should be transparent with your colleagues that you are preparing to issue an announcement publicly.

Work with your Investor Relations (IR) team closely in times of crisis. Ensure they are completely ‘au fait’ with what is at stake, and what the company proposes to tell analysts, management consultants and wider industry influencers.

It’s critical to ensure you have complete unity, but at the same time, only reveal what you are prepared to say. And especially wait until you have all the facts.

A typical holding response might be…

“This is a developing situation, and we will come back to you in the next 2-3 days when we have more information”

Our developers are working on the issue and expect to have live services up-and-running in as soon as…”

We are aware of this performance related issue, and are taking steps to address it”

By all means, say what your IR team is willing for you to disclose but do not feel under duress to reveal more than you are prepared to.

1. Ensure you have Board-level commitment to communicate

This is true of any time when you are engaging with the industry analyst community, but it goes without saying: ensure you know, and that the Board is fully aware, that you are preparing to say something to the analyst community.

It’s of no use after the fact to go back after the fact to analysts, consultants and partners, to note that you were not authorised to give that information in writing, the same way you can’t stop a journalist from writing something potentially damaging about your brand.

As a member of the MarComms organisation, you are often charged with being the “mouthpiece” of your organisation.

But do ensure you are permitted to communicate a message: one that conveys understanding, calm, and transparency. By all means, make your CxO team available for urgent requests, but analysts should understand that they may be very busy during times of crisis, so have a company FAQ prepared on what you have agreed you can communicate externally.

It’s interesting, but often the best analyst and media “relations” develops out of a crisis. Responsiveness is a key tenet of our profession, and we would do well to remember it.

If an analyst has requested a briefing or interaction and you know this thorny issue may rear its head, agree with your C-suite and spokesperson well in advance what you agree to cover off, during a preparation call.

That way you avoid doing damage to your ongoing AR and influencer relationships, and that you continue to enjoy a good camaraderie and sense of fair-play with your key analysts!

 

Suzannah Archibald (LinkedIn, @suzannah_a) is Head of Analyst Relations at CCgroup and is based in London and part-time in beautiful Porthleven, Cornwall UK. She is also a new-Board Elect responsible for Operations & Membership with the IIAR as of 2018/2019. 

 

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