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February 07, 2010

Why our analysts blog at forrester.com

by Josh Bernoff

I'm not a corporate spokesperson for Forrester. But as a prominent social media analyst here, I wanted to comment on the recent discussion regarding our policy on analysts and blogs.

Forrester is and has always been a leader with analyst blogging. Charlene Li started this blog you’re reading in 2004. We love blogging. And many of our colleagues that came from Jupiter, the company we acquired in 2008 are also avid bloggers.

The Forrester management team needed to make a decision about analysts and blogging -- on our site or off. I didn't make that decision, but I did advise the management, and I agree with the decision we made. What people need to understand is that Forrester is an intellectual property company, and the opinions of our analysts are our product. Blogging is an extension of the other work we do -- doing research, writing reports, working with clients, and giving speeches, for example. As Sting said, "Poets, priests and politicians/Have words to thank for their positions." Analysts, too.

Think about other companies that employ writers and creators of opinion and analysis, like newspapers and magazines. Where do you find David Pogue's posts about gadgets? On the New York Times site, since that's who employs him to do those reviews. You won't find Katie Couric's posts outside of CBS , either. Why not? Because of the confusion that would arise. You know when David and Katie talk, their opinions are part of the content they create for their employers, who are in the content business.

Companies in the information and analysis business are not the same as other companies from this perspective. There are many good blogs by executives and other workers in all sorts of companies, and we certainly believe such companies should allow their employees to blog, subject to the usual rules about not disclosing confidential information, etc.

But for Forrester, it serves our clients better to be able to get to all our blogs from one place, and to know the opinions of analysts that they see are part of the other opinions they read in our reports, in press quotes, and in everywhere else we talk.

Forrester does not yet have individual analyst blogs on our site, but that's coming quite soon. This is why it's so ironic to read comments that "We don't let analysts have individual blogs" or "Forrester should read Groundswell." I cowrote Groundswell, and I believe our policy is the right one. Groundswell says that your employees will be blogging -- it doesn't say that content companies should have their content creators blog anywhere they want. If you're creating content for a content company, that company ought to host your blog.

We’re not stopping analysts from blogging about stuff unrelated to our analytical work. And they can Twitter all they want. And they can blog all they want, about anything relevant to their jobs, right here on blogs.forrester.com. I count 23 blogs there. Some of them are pretty good.

Our analysts will still be blogging here at forrester.com. We're improving the platform to make it easier for analysts to have their own space, and we expect more analysts to be blogging here more often than ever before. You're welcome to take issue with our opinions. But rest assured, you will be able to read those opinions, and we can be just as analytical, provocative, and interesting here at forrester.com as anywhere else on the Web.

2/8/10: For more detail, see guest post from Cliff Condon, in charge of social media policy at Forrester.

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Comments

Phil Wolff

Check your citation about David Pogue. He has his own line of books and a web site that are not part of the Times network. Pogue's a counterargument.

Phil Wolff

Forrester’s policy castrates it’s talent.

As you said, they consider it their IP. Your employer has the power to edit, modify, re-attribute, delete, distort and do anything they want with your words/pictures/videos on their site. They can choose to ruin your reputation or bury your online presence as if you were never at the firm. If your employer closes shop or is dissolved following a merger, your work can vanish along with the reputation you’d earned.

This not about Forrester concentrating its brand. It’s about your power over your fate. It’s you controlling how you are perceived in the marketplace of ideas, over the longevity of your online presence, of your ability to promptly respond to comments, to speak in your own voice, the authority to revise and correct posts.

Our worldwide knowledge work labor market requires a well run, living, professional online presence of its workers. Like a gap in your CV, Forrester’s policy shuts down your professional onlife for your tenure.

Martijn Linssen

Hi Josh, thanks for the info

"The Forrester management team needed to make a decision about analysts and blogging" - Oh why was that then?

"What people need to understand" - Oh we just don't understand it then?

"Companies in the information and analysis business" - Mmm that wouldn't exclude IBM, Accenture and Capgemini, would it? Almost 1 million employees right there...

"to get to all our blogs from one place" - Ah so it's just all about CONTROL? Why don't you just say so?

"Forrester does not yet have individual analyst blogs" - Oh so you're also admitting this is a haphazard decision where you want to stop something before you've figured out what you want to start?

"We're improving the platform to make it easier for analysts to have their own space" - duh you just said they don't have one, redefining the meaning of "improvement" & "making it easier" there?

"But rest assured" - Errr do you mean "Make no mistake"?

All sharp comments aside, you guys can't really mean this. You're just making it worse with every semi-offical comment you put out. Where's your PR for crying out loud?

Josh Bernoff

Phil: The NY Times policies let David Pogue have his own site and do TV work, but not blog off of nytimes.com.

Similarly, forrester.com policies let us have Twitter accounts but not blog off forrester.com. It's up to the company to set policy.

Forrester doesn't "consider" what we do its IP -- it IS their IP, that's what the contract we signed says. And we get a lot in the way of support and help from the company. Any analyst who wants complete control over his or her brand can leave the company and blog anywhere they want -- but they lose the benefits of working with Forrester, which includes the company helping us to promote our own brands. This ain't castration, it's empowerment. We have no trouble hiring smart people who want to get known for their thinking.

As for Martin, surely you can't be naive enough to believe this isn't a serious decision for any content company, including Forrester. Of course we had to make a decision. The only reason the individual blogs aren't launched yet is a technical issue.

Our official take is right on the next post. I'll add that link to the end of the post now, to make things easier for you.

Shel Holtz

I'm curious, Josh. Does this mean you will no longer cross-post your blog posts to Social Media Today?

Josh Bernoff

I not only cross-post to Social Media Today, I also post to Advertising Age and write a column for Marketing News. In the past I also have posted to harvardbusiness.org

All of these opportunities were created by Forrester and suggested or approved by Forrester. While they improve my distribution, anyone who wants to follow my blog posts will get all of 'em here at blogs.forrester.com/groundswell

TechnologyPR.com

It's understandable that Forrester wouldn't want more analysts to spin off as other analysts have. Note Forrester still owns this Groundswell blog that former Forrester analyst Charlene Li started. As Josh stated here, "What people need to understand is that Forrester is an intellectual property company, and the opinions of Forrester analysts are Forrester's product.

Brock Poling

It seems to me this is about two things:

1) This is about brand management. As your analysts get reputations of their own (in addition to wearing the Forrester jersey) there is concern if they change jobs, go off on thier own, etc. that much of their fan loyalty base will go with them. I really suspect that this is the primary reason for trying to bring this under the FR domain.

2) There is some concern that the ideas and opinions on these blogs will either be counter to the official FR opinions offered to clients and in reports, or these ideas could be further monetized thus leaving money on the table.

I see two problems with these motivations.

First, when your analysts gain followings beyond the borders of your web site this familiarizes more people with FR and the great work you do. It helps your firm cast a wider net and build more credible reputation.

Second, many of us look to FR as a source of inspiration and a touchpoint for companies that "get it" with respect to new media. When your company reverts to this kind of comand-and-control old world thinking it limits how effective we are at driving change within the clients we advise. Forrester has a lot of market clout and I fear this decision will envoke a response of "well, Forrester did it." when companies are fearful of the looser message controls that social media demand.

I certainly understand your concerns, but I think there were better ways to fix your situation. You should have used some of that creativity your firm has in such abundance.

Paul Chaney

Will the Groundswell blog retain its individual design, or take on the design of other Forrester blogs?

While Groundswell is a Forrester blog no doubt, it has always had its own character by virtue of the design. However, based on what you said here, it would seem that would change to one that fits the corporate look/feel.

Glenn Gruber

Paul beat me to the question I was going to ask. If you go to the other Forrester blogs the branding is very clear. However, unless you look closely at the URL or scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the Forrester logo...which almost no one ever does (which also means almost no one will read this comment), you'd have no idea as a visitor who came through a search engine (as I did) or through a link on Twitter (which likely uses a shortener which means you wouldn't know the domain either). So will this design stand? Was it considered in the policy...or Josh did you 'stack the deck' in your advice :)

Thanks,

Glenn (@ggruber66)

Alison Ramer

As a professional crisis management blogger at www.blog.LookupPage.com, I think that this very dialogue and post proves that Forrester is communicating effectively with it's customers and that analysts are already readily accessible to customer complaints.

On the one hand, individual blogs for each analyst could make the experience more personal, but it also introduces personal brands into Forrester and may be confusing for readers.

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