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February 08, 2010

Guest Post: Forrester Wants More Analysts Using Social Tools

Cliff-Condon Note: This post is from Cliff Condon, Forrester's VP in charge of our social media efforts, and represents the company's official position on the topic of analyst blogging.

Wow.  There are a lot of comments flying around about Forrester’s yet-to-be released blog platform and associated policy – some accurate, some not.  The blog posts from Forrester analysts like Josh Bernoff  and Augie Ray have had the most accurate information to date.

Since my job is to lead many of Forrester’s social initiatives, including the new blog platform, I thought I would weigh in.  So let me add some clarity to what we are working on:

  1. Forrester wants more analysts using social tools because it makes for better research.  The research we write for clients has always depended on a rich two-way conversation with experts and practitioners in the marketplace.  The rise of social tools like blogs and Twitter allows analysts to extend that conversation with more people in the marketplace.  The more smart people our analysts interact with, the better our research will be.  That’s the basis of the Groundswell.  Therefore, Forrester is investing in building social tools and associated best-practice training for our analysts so that more of them get involved.  
  2. We are building a new blog platform to provide each analyst with a personal blog.  Our platform today supports team blogs based on the professional roles we serve – such as the Forrester Consumer Product Strategy blog.  The new platform we are building will allow our analysts to also maintain an individual blog on their coverage area.  We are doing this so that our analysts can have direct conversations with key players in the marketplace and so clients have the flexibility to engage at an individual analyst level or a team level. 
  3. We want to make it easy for our clients.  Our clients rely on us to help make them successful.   They have told us that they are starved for time – they subscribe to our services in part because they conveniently get the insight they need from us and others who join in the Forrester conversation.  Therefore, we can best serve client needs by placing all of our blog content in one place (at blogs.forrester.com), and put it in context alongside the rest of our data and analysis. 
I hope that adds some clarity to what we are working on – I’ll share more as we move closer to roll-out later in the quarter.  However, I felt it necessary to add to the conversation now since there has been discussion about analysts’ brands and the Forrester brand.  The fact is we want to do everything possible to give analysts a high degree of visibility. Giving every analyst a personal blog is a step toward that goal. Our analysts’ reputation and our own are tied together.  Our new blog platform is being designed to boost them both.

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Comments

Tac Anderson

Cliff,
Thanks for the update. I've been a long time client (both at HP and now at Waggener Edstrom) and I was shocked when I heard the announcement. I still have several questions (the devil's in the details). If it's just for convenience of your customers why not just aggregate their relevant blog posts? I can't help but feel that there is an overarching motivation to control the exposure of your individual analysts. It concerns me as a larger business trend.

Marion Guthrie

I believe these efforts are an attempt to position the Forrester brand in prominence over the growing celebrity fame of the individual analysts. Much like pruning in the garden, Forrester must be focusing on managing the growth so it promotes its own business. Afterall, it is a business, and that means income, ROI, sales.

Martijn Linssen

I'm a big fan of Forrester BUT (keeping it short here):

There are a lot of questions and assumptions out there at the moment Cliff that you could -and should, IMO- have addressed at this point. Leaving them unanswered only gives way for one conclusion: more assumptions which will have gained credibility by Forrester not addressing them now

A huge missed chance. Huge, really

fbaud

Hi Cliff,

I'm backing Tac's comment saying that customers' interest could certainly be served through other technical solutions, so thanks for us, but that's not so convincing.

Then I have a question, that I already asked through Twitter, but didn't get an answer yet. If you're OK with analysts building their personal brand, then would you accept having them post on other research groups' blogs on other subjects than their area of coverage.

This is interesting for us (your client organizations) to see how you handle this redefinition of your employer-employee contract and how you address compensation on the relationship your analysts develop outside your company, because we will soon face similar kind of questions.

Phil Wolff

What are your in-house blog policies?

Do you reserve the right to delete a blog post?

To edit a blog post?

To delete an entire blog?

To remove or change links within a blog post?

To shut out an employee from his blog?

To move the blog content to another site?

To change the blog's attribution?

To moderate over the objections of a post's author?

You'd only have these abilities on blogs you operate.

David Berkowitz

I get why Forrester's doing this, but there's a huge risk in doing so. Many of the best Forrester analyst candidates are likely to blog already and would prefer to continue to maintain such blogs. So you run the risk of attracting a second-tier crop of talent - namely, those that want to build their identities through Forrester but aren't their own brands already. So Forrester in turn becomes more of a farm system instead of an All-Star game, which is fine - but it's not going to win the World Series.

Cliff Condon

Hey folks. I want to respond to your comments. Here goes:

Tac asked why we just don’t simply aggregate the content at Forrester. Well that doesn’t really get at the heart of the issue for us. Actually the issue is that I don’t have enough of the analysts blogging so I feel it’s up to Forrester to help more analysts start blogging by providing them a platform for doing it (rather than creating it on their own), offer them training, and help them raise their visibility through our marketing activities and so forth. We want analysts to become stars – and historically, we’ve been good at it.
It’s only a small subset of analysts who are blogging externally now, so I will ask these people to migrate their blogging to Forrester’s platform for the client benefit. We produce A LOT of content, including blog posts, data sets, research documents like the Forrester Wave, market forecasts, ROI tools, etc. -- we want all of it to hang together in a simple to use offering for our clients.

Phil asked about our in-house policy and what we control etc. Let me be clear -- the blogs are a place for our analysts to have an individual voice, test their thinking in the marketplace, and connect with smart people. Their blog content is an input into the documents and tools they produce for clients. I do expect the blog content to be factual – that’s my big thing. But it’s highly unlikely we would go in and change a post – we’ve already written over 1,000 blog posts on Forrester blogs and there is no “vetting by management” step that the posts go through. It’s the analyst’s voice.

The final point I’d like to address is David’s and his comment about our ability to attract talent in the future. I will tell you that it hasn’t been the case so far – we did inform Augie prior to joining that we were moving in this direction. He saw the benefit of being part of the Forrester team. I’m encouraged by that. But I think you have a valid question – will Forrester be able to attract established social stars in the future. Here’s how I see it – it’s difficult to attract big established names (with or without blogs) to an analyst firm because these folks have already established themselves as a single voice. Don’t get me wrong – we would be happy to talk to them about being part of the team (email me at ccondon@forrester.com)but it can be a challenge. My primary focus is to find the best thinkers in the industry and to help them become stars. That’s where our history lies with people like Josh Bernoff, James McQuivey, and Ted Schadler.

Regards, Cliff

fbaud

Hi Cliff,

I really do not feel lucky. After being un-noticed on Twitter, it seems my question escaped your list of answers to the comments on your post.

So let me ask the question again, because as the saying goes, there are no silly questions.

"Would you accept having your analysts post on other research groups' blogs on other subjects than their area of coverage with you?"

Cliff Condon

Frederic,
Forrester analysts are part of the broad social conversation and you'll find their comments and posts on many sites -- wherever they think they can add value. I think it makes sense for them to focus on their coverage area since that is where most can add the greatest value. Cliff

Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist

My concern can be illustrated using your own words from this guest post.

First, let's look at point #2:
"We are building a new blog platform to provide each analyst with a personal blog."

You use the term "personal blog."

You then go on to explain:
"The new platform we are building will allow our analysts to also maintain an individual blog on their coverage area."

In your explanation, the term "personal" is now characterized as "individual."

I write an "individual" blog on behalf of my company. It is not a personal blog. (My company does not prohibit me from maintaining a personal blog, I just don't happen to do so.)

Your subtle change in terminology may seem inconsequential, but for me, it speaks volumes.

Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist
http://community.ca.com/blogs/theitgovernanceevangelist/

Cliff Condon

For clarity:

1. An employee can have a personal blog outside the company on areas the company doesn't cover like gardening or wine.
2. If they want to have a personal blog on their coverage area we will provide a platform for them. These blogs are a place for them to have their own voice -- posts aren't vetted before they go live.


Cliff

Brindey Weber

Hi Cliff,
Why is it easier for analysts to blog on this new platform? Will it be more like the IBM blog network? Will "blogging" be moving into job descriptions?

hosting

very informative post on social tools

Generic Viagra

The new platform we are building will allow our analysts to also maintain an individual blog on their coverage area. We are doing this so that our analysts can have direct conversations with key players in the marketplace

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