Why do you need AR when you have PR?

Drinking from a fire hoseI’m often asked why bother with AR when there’s already a fully-fledged PR team? To many analysts and AR pros, this may sound like a strange question, after all do you ask an electrician to do the plumbing?

However, I’ve seen many times in large corporations PR folks coming to manage AR teams (not always successfully I must say) and in small companies marketing types having to do AR on top of the rest (sometimes very successfully if not consistently).

Many AR pros, when asked will tell you analysts hate being dealt with by PR people. Analysts in fact hate being treated like journalists: sent a lot of content, not deep enough and expected to produce coverage.

For me, I guess the issue boils down in three points.

1. Skillset

Good PR managers can become a good AR pros. What they must have though is product knowledge, which is not always the case. They must also be able to manage projects (such as a “landmark evaluation”) and be able to handle relationships with senior execs and experienced analysts.

As product knowledge goes, it might be worth looking at other profiles when seeking AR staff, such as product management (with people skills).

It’s a good manner to build a strong AR team, but they must be given latitude and empowered (I highly recommend this book BTW).

2. Metrics

PR types are often gauged on coverage volumes (aka “clippings”) and this  leads to short termism, which is not not conclusive to good AR. In other words, goals between PR (an article in tomorrow’s WSJ for instance) and AR (turn around a relationship with a key influencers, which may take over 12 months) can be mutually exclusive.

3. AR maturity model

Treating analysts like journalists, i.e. using PR staff to deal with inquiries because it’s not possible to resource some AR FTE is better than not talking to them at all (although this could be debatable). However, it would only lead to basic gains, not those strategic advantages enjoyed by companies with an mature AR team.

PS: credit to Simon Levin at the Skills Connection for the openening analogy.


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2 Responses to Why do you need AR when you have PR?

  1. EQ Monday 5th September 2011 at 17:53 #

    I have never asked myself this question. The skills sets seem so utterly different, and the number of excellent PR people becoming excellent AR people are extremely few and far-between – and vice versa. Plumbers versus electricians applies. Some echoing and augmentation of what you have written already Ludo:

    * The news cycle is different than the research cycle – timing, flow, depth, distribution models are not even close to the same.
    * The points of influence at least in enterprise IT are quite different. In enterprise IT PR tends to have a reputation impact, whereas AR has direct effect on buying decisions – from short lists to final.

    * Excellent PR folks excel at pitching to generate coverage and stories. AR types better possess some tech/market depth in order to have a semi-intelligent conversation with both spokespeople and analysts, and over the long haul. In many cases if you “pitch” an analyst all you will produce is secret scorn.

    * AR needs to understand market research and handle in-depth benchmark/vendor comparison reports that literally takes sometimes close to a year to complete.

    Just getting started, but that is enough for the time being. All that said, there are reporters/journalists who possess greater knowledge depth and ability to analyze than some analysts, and there are some analysts who really only seemed concerned with news. But these are the exceptions.

    Actually I would flip the question around for Enterprise IT vendors: Why do you need PR when you have AR? Take a look at some of the recent PR debacles of some the larger IT vendors and maybe, just maybe, they would have been better off letting AR handle it.

  2. marc duke Tuesday 6th September 2011 at 08:22 #

    Nice piece, nothing like the old PR/AR debate. I have worked in agency and on vendor side and in my view the key thing is whether the practioner understands the differences between PR and AR as well as those the practioner reports to.

    As with everything there will those that can ‘switch hit’ (sorry for the baseball phrase) and those that can’t. What is clear is that social media has spiced things up and also increased the risk of a one size fits all outreach service to analysts and journalist alike.

    Looking forward to more comment debate on this on.

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