An American colleague working from Lighthouse’s London office today had what he called “a classic English moment”.
London is not a hot city in any meaning sense of the word. Today is one of the hottest days of the year, yet we have just 88 degrees Farenheit and 31% humidity; it is less comfortable in New York. In the reasoned opinion of my American colleague, however, the country’s television is in the grip of deep fear.
On the BBC television this morning, a sagacious expert gave the government’s advice to employers on dealing with the heatwave:
- Encourage employees to wear informal dress.
- Allow employees to draw blinds and open windows.
- Drawing the blinds is not enough: a fan may also be useful in circulating air.
- Fresh water has a cooling effect.
In my colleague’ opinion, this is all quite amusing. He arrived at work in a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. Needless to say, the collars are neatly buttoned behind the neckties of colleagues in surrounding offices.
It’s another example of the greater weight of hierarchy and tradition here: many of the tips given to employers are common sense. However, few office managers will take the initiative to dress down, open windows or bring a fan — and even fewer office workers will do so.
All of this is important for analyst relations, because it says something about the process of decision making in European firms. Organisations with research processes that are more formal and highly specified are harder to shift. The correct strategy to change those organisations is to address them in their own terms: instead of advising workers to wear cooler clothes, the British government asks their employers to suggest that they do. They are working with the grain, rather than against it.
In the same way that employees will take actions to cool themselves when government works through management processes, analysts will change their opinions when vendors work through research processes.
The right term for this is reverse engineering. Analyst relations professionals should address themselves to the categories, taxonomies and vocabularies that each influential analyst firms uses, rather than attemping to directly move analysts onto the vendor’s buzz-words, messaging and positioning.
This reverse engineering is unfortunate for some: while your corporate brand advisors will encourage you to occupy “white space” and present your firm as doing something new, the reality is that the most effective way to win analysts’ confidence is to match yourself to their categories as closely as you can, and differ from them when only when necessary.