[GUEST POST] It’s a Great Time to be in Analyst Relations by Peggy O’Neill

Peggy O'Neill, Senior Director Analyst Relations @ Informatica

If you’re an analyst relations professional in the know, you keep on eye on one of the most popular online gathering places for our tribe – the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations website and LinkedIn Group.

If so, then you’re probably like me, raising an eyebrow these days at the sheer volume of analyst relations job postings that have come through in 2020 so far. Nearly 60 jobs have been posted at IIAR’s job section on the its website (they appear earlier on the IIAR< Member365 extranet) when in previous years it’s normally a fraction of that.

In a year full of sad layoffs and reorgs, analyst relations as a profession appears to be growing quite robustly. Besides the pop in job openings, more agencies and more independent AR consultants and AR contractors in 2019 and 2020 have decided to hang out their shingles, proof that the market appetite for AR expertise is growing.

Why is demand up? I suspect the COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to go back to basics for revenue. Budget and headcount that normally would have gone to public relations or holding physical events have shifted to other channels such as analyst relations. Public relations is having a hard time as the news cycle is dominated by COVID or politics, so companies are cutting back there. For example, PR Week published a story earlier this year saying tech companies should spend less on PR and more on analyst relations.

Even Gartner has decided there are enough of us with budget to sell to, launching a new analyst relations service in 2020. Companies are using technology to adapt to the new normal, so sales are still humming in our sector, along with analyst advice. Even pre-pandemic, tech as a sector has been growing for some time, so the fundamentals for our profession are sound. 

No one has ever taken a census of our community, but The Knowledge Capital Group estimates 1,500-1,700 full time and about another 500 or so part time AR managers worldwide. “There is always a lot of churn in this business,” said Bill Hopkins, founder and CEO of The Knowledge Capital Group. “But the number is up probably 500 or so over the last 10 years. It bottomed out in 2009-2010 and has been growing since.”

Many of the 2020 jobs postings are lower level AR managers, one-man bands, or start up AR jobs. “I think it is healthy that most of the jobs out there are lower level and start-up AR jobs. We are very top-heavy right now. We need to have a pipeline of good, young AR folks that can backfill and replace us old fogeys. I know of at least 50 AR pros that are likely to very likely to retire in the next 10 years,” Hopkins pointed out.

If you’re an AR manager feeling restless at your current company, don’t let the “junior” titles scare you. Have faith in yourself that you can elevate the position at your new employer. The employer may be posting a junior position today because that’s how it’s perceived internally or the previous person filling that job was junior. Bargain ahead of time and say you’ll take the “junior” position, but in six months or a year if you’ve demonstrated to your new employer what strategic, high performing AR looks like, they owe you a promotion, with back pay. Negotiating, after all, is a key analyst relations skill, might as show it off during the interview process! That kind of thinking and confidence is what will differentiate you from other candidates for sure.

In this environment, it’s important that AR managers stress the linkage to sales. How we accelerate deals, help with short listing, provide air cover in the field. Don’t over sell the whole market intelligence angle – it’s presumptive to say you can make colleagues smarter at a company where you don’t work at yet.

There are so many bright possibilities with AR at a new company:

  • If there’s no program you can set the pace, set expectations, create your own metrics. With no previous AR program, there’s no institutional memory you need to overcome of what people think AR should be as they remember the good or bad old days. You’re the expert on AR, so you should exploit that.
  • If there’s a bad program you’re inheriting, there’s a lot of low hanging fruit, and you can be a hero in a short amount of time. In fact, the more horrible the program, the easier the fixes. The fact that the company is still investing in the position means they’re optimistic it can change, take advantage of that optimism coming in and paint a future of what’s possible.
  • If it’s a good program, you improve on it. There’s always room for improvement and you come in enjoying internal support already and you don’t have to do heavy lifting on cultural change and processes. Wouldn’t it be nice to start a job not on an apology tour?

Or you can create your own AR job. If one of your competitors or partners doesn’t have an AR program or a poor one, and you’re restless at your current gig, go to them with a proposal on what you can do for them if they create this position. 

Once you land your new AR job, don’t forget that you start every job behind, so expect that you’ll be stressed for a bit while you get your house in order. But AR is easier the longer you stay at a company as it’s a long-term play. Your analysts get to know you over the years, your execs get to know you, time is on your side if you’re a performer.

As an old fogey who has been an AR manager for more years than I’d care to admit, I’ll observe to the newer members of our clan that analyst relations as a profession has become demonstrably easier in the last decade as there’s more support for the profession now, more external resources. AR is more understood; there are more best practices because the profession has matured over time. And the analysts themselves are easier to deal with because they have become more professional.

I feel so grateful that I stumbled across this weird profession many years ago. It’s great to see continued growth in our tribe!

P.S. See my related posts on what to look for when interviewing

Peggy O’Neill (@PegONeill, LinkedIn) is Vice President, Industry Analyst Relations at Informatica. This blog post is dedicated to my fellow old fogeys in the AR community

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