How Nortel AR went from 16th to 1st

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Analyst relations was a big part of Nortel Networks‘ huge success during the 1998-2000 tech boom. In 2000, I became head of AR for Brodeur Worldwide, Nortel’s agency. The team’s accomplishment was so remarkable that we were delighted to get Nortel’s permission to produce this case study in 2002 about its success in Europe, where the firm rose from 16th to 1st in the analyst attitude surveys produced by Efrem Mallach.

Objectives
European industry analysts covering the telecoms and Internet sectors are key business
influencers -prospective customers turn to analysts for advice before buying products
and journalists draw upon third party comment from analysts when writing articles.
Gaining their support is key to any PR programme.
Before the Analyst Relations programme began in March 1999, analysts at organisations
such as IDC, GartnerGroup and Ovum had limited exposure to Nortel Networks.
In contrast, two of Nortel Networks’ main competitors (Lucent and Cisco) were already
running comprehensive analyst relations programme and had good relationships with
the analysts. According to a 1998 study by the Kensington Group, Nortel Networks
ranked sixteenth in the world in terms of its analyst relations programme.
Based on this situation analysis, the objectives of the programme were to:
• Move from 16th to 6th position in the Kensington Group’s annual analyst
relations ranking
• Educate the key European industry analysts on Nortel Networks’ strategy and
product portfolio
• Position Nortel Networks’ executives as industry commentators and strengthen
individual relationships between them and key analysts
• Increase the number of analyst reports containing reference to Nortel Networks

Application
The foundation of the analyst relations programme was a Notes database of contacts
in the European analyst community that Brodeur built from scratch in early 1999.
The database proved to be a key knowledge management tool and has helped the
team to target the right analysts with the right information and to easily identify gaps
in Nortel Networks’ education of the analyst community.
From August 1999 onwards, the Analyst Relations programme consisted of the
following activities:
Changing the client’s mindset
Brodeur persuaded Nortel to start pre-briefing analysts before major announcements to
the press under a non-disclosure agreement. This has two direct benefits – first it helped
build trust between Nortel and the analyst community. Second, improved
communications between each party as well as creating a safe environment to test
messages and strategies before going to the market.
Targeted press release distribution
Analysts, like journalists, do not want to be bombarded with unnecessary press releases.
Brodeur set up a system whereby press releases were sent to analysts who covered the
subject area – and interviews were proactively set up for those analysts likely to require
further detail.
Report tracking
A key element of the programme was tracking what reports analysts were writing and
proactively contacting the authors to set up interviews with Nortel Networks’
representatives. The analyst houses tend not to provide lists of planned reports, so
much of this work was about building relationships with the individual analysts
Event organisation
The team organised regular face-to-face briefings for the analyst community, on themes
such as “Internet Telephony” and “Creating the Optical Internet” These events were
well-attended and received positive feedback from the analysts. Of particular note was
an Analyst House Tour in November 1999, which 15 analysts at GartnerGroup attended.
Analyst helpdesk
As Brodeur became widely recognised as the dedicated manager of Nortel Networks’
European Analyst Relations programme, the number of incoming analyst enquiries
grew. The team set up a Help Desk for analysts to enable them to respond effectively to
these enquiries.

Outcome and evaluation
Nortel’s primary objective was to move from 16th to 6th position in the Kensington
Group’s annual report. At the beginning of the programme, measurement was divided
into three key areas: improvement in relationships between Nortel Networks’ executives
and individual analysts; awareness of Nortel Networks to be measured by the number of
reports in which the company was cited; and feedback from the analyst community
about the programme.
1. Improvement in relationships Prior to the Analyst Relations programme, Nortel
Networks’ contact with the European analyst community was “ad hoc”. The initial
research and development of a comprehensive database paid particular dividends as
the team was able to target analysts with highly relevant information that attracted
them to attend events and led to requests for one-to-one interviews for reports they
were writing. In the nine month period, Nortel Networks executives briefed 74
European industry analysts. A large number of these analysts had several interviews
with Nortel Networks during this time.

Interviews between Nortel Networks and European industry analysts
(August 1999 – June 2000)
Attendees on conference calls 25
Telephone interviews 43
Face-to-face interviews 80

2. Number of reports A number of the interviews listed above was for specific reports
that the analysts in question were writing. Prior to the Analyst Relations programme,
there was no system in place for tracking the number of analyst reports for which
Nortel Networks was interviewed for or in which they were featured. It is, therefore,
impossible to measure this activity in terms of improvement. However, the fact
that Nortel Networks has appeared in a minimum of 12 reports and that the
company is now aware of these reports is a massive improvement. The reports
are an important sales, marketing and PR tool which can be used by Nortel Networks
as valuable collateral.
3. Analyst feedback In the 1999 Kensington report, Nortel had moved from 16th
position to joint 1st place with Lucent Technologies as a company which provided
the most effective and comprehensive analyst relations programme. Some analyst
quotes have been included below to illustrate the improvement:

  • “Nortel analyst relations in Europe is now among the best that there is. Previously it was
    difficult to understand Nortel’s strategy given its large complex structure. With Brodeur’s
    help Nortel is now much more proactive in the way it communicates with analysts.”
    Eric Owen, programme manager, European telecoms, IDC
  • “Brodeur’s Nortel analyst relations programme is one of the top two or three I have seen.
    Brodeur has greatly improved my awareness and access to Nortel.”
    Emma Whitten, managing director, CIT research
  • “As far as I am concerned, Nortel has the most active and useful analyst relations
    programme of them all”
    Tim Johnson, director, Ovum
  • “Changing analyst perception was key to our communications programme. We set
    Brodeur a clear target to get us into the top 6. They made us number 1 with a really
    defined and enthusiastic programme.”
    Amber Byrne, analyst relations manager, Nortel Networks

 

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