Analyst relations (AR) and influencer relations (IR) have become vital components in an integrated marketing approach, and each can play a valuable role in driving measurable business results. But there is a lot of confusion about how and when each should be used as part of a PR strategy. Here, we’ll clarify the distinctions and provide tips for leveraging each (or both!) for maximum impact.
But first, why?
It’s widely known that product reviews strongly influence purchase decisions for both consumers and business buyers. AR and IR strategies allow you to get your message in front of audiences who are ready to buy. The third-party validation and credibility these trusted sources provide help in driving sales, increasing share of voice and establishing your brand as a leader in the space.
AR versus IR: Which is right for you?
Analyst relations (AR) is best suited for B2B companies and involves building and maintaining relationships with market research firms that rate, evaluate and recommend business software and products. These analysts are deeply trusted sources of information for business buyers who consult their reports and recommendations before making purchase decisions. With AR, the goal is to build relationships with analysts to get your company or product featured in a report and in ongoing recommendations to buyers who seek analysts’ counsel.
While most people think of the “big three” analyst firms – Gartner, Forrester and IDC – there are also smaller firms that address specific vertical markets, such as HR or fintech software.
As an added bonus, AR can provide essential input for shaping new products and services and overall go-to-market strategy. Analysts are valuable sources for insight and feedback that can help you tailor product features and strategy to address market needs.
Pro tip: Partnering with big players like Gartner is effective, but it can also be expensive and time consuming. It may be more effective to start by engaging with top analysts at niche firms who speak directly to your target audience.
Influencer relations (IR) has traditionally been leveraged by B2C brands, and as the marketing strategy has seen widespread success, more and more B2B brands are tapping in. IR involves partnering with popular users on social media, then compensating them in exchange for promoting your product or service via their personal platform. Influencers wield tremendous power when it comes to audience buying decisions: Single influencer posts have crashed entire ecommerce sites by generating a flood of traffic and orders.
Pro tip: Find the right influencers for your brand and your budget. So-called mega or macro influencers are the big hitters — think the Kardashians, Emma Chamberlain and other celebrities with millions of followers — while micro-influencers have a much smaller, but no less engaged, following. Many influencers are niche and reach specific markets – anything from foodies to TruckerTok.
Where AR and IR converge
While analysts and influencers aren’t the same, there are instances in which there is overlap. Some analysts have become extremely influential, especially on LinkedIn (Josh Bersin in the HR space, for example), where they offer expertise to a large following.
There are some instances in which a company might engage in both AR and IR. For example, a travel platform that caters to consumers and also works with hospitality vendors to set up deals might use AR to position its platform with hospitality tech analysts and use IR to promote its platform to consumers.
Pro tip: Running AR and IR campaigns requires time, specialized research, negotiation and networking skills, and a poorly run campaign can lead to wasted effort and money for little reward. Consider working with an agency that offers these services, allowing you to leverage its expertise, dedication and existing relationships for the best chance of success.
In most cases, both AR and IR will be pay-to-play and you should expect to sign a contract. Most analysts will take introductory briefings at no cost but require an upfront fee and likely a retainer arrangement for ongoing consultation. You should also be prepared to pay someone to read full research reports or promote them externally.
IR can be a bit less formal, with some micro influencers willing to promote products without monetary compensation in exchange for free samples. Macro influencers, however, will expect to be paid (some quite handsomely) and likely have detailed contracts.
Pro tip: Cost can be a huge factor in both AR and IR. Consider starting small with niche players and working your way up to those with greater notoriety. Especially in IR, be prepared to experiment a bit to find the right influencers and message.
One of the key advantages of both AR and IR is the ability to track results, allowing you to justify the initial and continued investment.
With IR, it’s relatively easy: If included in the contract, most influencers will allow you to access data on their social post engagements to measure audience reach and demographics. Offering a coupon code to an influencer’s following allows you to track sales from each post and monitoring comments can provide valuable audience feedback.
Pro tip: Not all engagements on influencer posts will be positive, but you can use negative comments as feedback to improve your product or an opportunity to demonstrate outstanding customer service. Never argue publicly with naysayers; instead, offer to send refunds or new products. As others notice your attention to customer satisfaction, it will help you win over skeptics.
Quantitative measurement is a bit tricker with AR. Inclusion in analyst reports gives your company validation and is considered a big win. Some analyst firms provide subscriber numbers, so you know how many people receive those reports.
There’s also a more abstract, equally valuable, aspect to AR. Consistent briefings with analysts and access to upcoming research provides expert insight into where you fit in the industry landscape. Further, the trusted recommendations analysts provide to buyers with purchase intent can save your marketing team a tremendous amount of time they’d otherwise spend chasing down potential leads and nurturing cold contacts. And, if you’re looking toward an IPO or acquisition, an analyst on your side provides validation for your product and can help you find the right partner.
The Bottom Line
Pursuing an AR or IR strategy can offer tremendous value to your brand’s marketing and sales strategies. They’re similar to media relations in that it’s all about tapping into the right contacts, nurturing relationships and building a mutually beneficial partnership.