The role of the analyst today is very different from the role of the analyst 10 years ago. Analysts have always been plugged into the market – after all they’re paid to be experts – but over the years their role has evolved and expanded dramatically. They used to create predictable schedules of content and pump out a never-ending cycle of reports (and yes, that still exists with reports like WAVES and MQs). But today, analysts are also great influencers, which makes an analyst relations program vital to your overarching PR and communications plans.

Not only are analysts retained by outside companies to help them evaluate technologies, services and solutions, but they’re providing strategic information around product roadmaps, go-to-markets, channel strategies, branding, and much more. And here’s where the shift has really happened: analysts used to be pulled in by journalists to comment on topics for articles, but today, analysts are card-carrying journalists themselves. They write editorials and trend pieces, conduct reviews, and write opinions for leading publications up and down the content food chain. They’ve also mastered the power of social media, with many wielding large numbers of followers. They influence by commenting, sharing reports or editorials, nudging brands, participating in social media events, and more.

Because of all this, analyst relations can be an incredibly valuable part of any PR program. It can give your organization the opportunity to educate these experts about your products and services, as well as offer up a perspective on important trends and opportunities in the market. The new goal of the vendor is to not only be top of mind in reports, but in an analyst’s hype-cycle.

But developing a thriving analyst relations program involves careful research, planning, and follow up. How do you start or hone this journey? Here are six best practices to consider:

1. Zero in on Expertise and Influence. Each analyst has a slightly different coverage area, meaning they will be interested in different parts of your business. For instance, if you offer a fraud detection solution for e-commerce companies, you might want to speak to an analyst that specializes in fraud prevention strategies and another that specializes in e-commerce trends to get the most comprehensive feedback and increase your chances of being included in multiple reports.

There are a couple different ways to identify the right analyst to speak with. The first option is to go to the analyst firm’s directory and filter the search results by coverage areas that align with your organization. From here, it is useful to read the analysts’ bios and review their recent coverage to ensure they are a good fit. This is particularly useful for large firms with many analysts to parse through.

Another option is to search for keywords on the firm’s reports page. Once you identify reports about topics your organization can comment on, look to see which analyst wrote the report. From here, follow the aforementioned steps of reviewing their bios and recent coverage. For smaller firms, it isn’t uncommon to have just one or two analysts to target, but for larger firms, there can be half a dozen or more depending on the type of solution you offer. Don’t worry if you haven’t identified every possible match; analysts will often invite colleagues with similar focus areas to join briefings too.

If you have limited resources for your analyst relations program, also consider prioritizing firms and analysts based on their overall influence. Analyze how often they publish reports, write editorials, are active on social media, and participate at industry events.

2. The Power of the Vendor Briefing Form. For analysts at smaller firms, you can email them directly to offer a company introduction or update (just like you would a reporter). Usually, you want to touch on the highlights of what your organization is doing (or what you’ve accomplished since your last briefing), and it’s even better if you can tie your efforts to broader industry trends.

However, if you try to pitch analysts at some of the larger firms, you’ll more than likely get re-directed to fill out a vendor briefing form. To save yourself the headache of duplicate efforts, bypass directly pitching analysts at larger firms and instead fill out one of these forms first: Gartner, Forrester, and IDC. They all vary slightly, but the general approach is: Who are you? Which analyst do you want to speak to? About what? And when? If this is your first time filling out a form, you will be asked to create an account, but this will make it easier to submit future forms.

3. Stay on Track with a Deck. Once you’ve scheduled a briefing, it’s helpful to create a PPT deck (or Keynote if that’s how you roll) that you can use to guide the conversation. This ensures you cover everything that you planned to and gives the analysts something to look at while you’re speaking.

In the deck, you’ll want to cover who your company is, what you do, and your founding story (if applicable). It’s also a good idea to give an overview of your products and any recent successes your company has had (expansion, product launches, funding, etc.).

I also recommend sharing your deck with the analysts and thanking them for their time after your briefing. Briefings can be up to an hour long, but more often run for just 30 minutes (which can go by quickly), so you should also ensure that you’ve addressed any questions you didn’t have time for in your follow up.

4. Separation is in the Preparation. Analysts will have different questions based on their expertise and coverage area, but there are common questions that tend to pop up, especially during an introductory briefing. These include: Who are your current customers? Who are your current partners? How is your solution available (SaaS tool, API, etc.)? In which markets is your solution available? Are you a global company? How do you generate revenue? What plans do you have for the future? Do you have any new products in the pipeline? What is unique from the competition?

It’s best to plan for these common questions when creating your deck, but if you don’t explicitly state the answers, be prepared to speak to them during the briefing.

Finally, consider asking the analyst if they’re working on any upcoming reports that are applicable or any editorials that require expert commentary. Also, before the call is over ask them what they thought of your presentation and the technology.

5. Get a Routine and Dig Deep. Most analysts will accept briefings with non-client companies every six months, though some will make exceptions for larger company announcements. To maximize the frequency of briefings, set a reminder for yourself to reach out to each analyst six months after your last briefing. It’s also helpful to create a calendar for your analyst relations program and track the timing of each briefing, as well as what you discussed. This way you don’t waste time reiterating the same information during your next conversation and can dig a little bit deeper into your strategy and offerings.

6. Make Friends at Industry Events. While most events these days are virtual, in-person conferences and events are a great opportunity to connect with analysts face-to-face and continue building relationships with them. These meetups are typically less formal. They can be focused on a new product you are announcing at the event, trends you witnessed during the sessions, or perhaps just an opportunity to get to know the analyst on a more personal level.

Engaging with analysts helps you gain deeper insight on industry trends (and sometimes before the findings are even published), make new connections, and receive additional exposure through analyst reports, articles, and social media. To be successful, all you need is an understanding of the process, some thoughtful planning, and an eagerness to share the exciting things your company is doing. Looking for some help creating and implementing a high-impact analyst relations program? Let’s chat about the best strategy for you.