Two Rules and One Strong Suggestion
I’ve noticed in briefings with some emerging companies recently that things have gotten too casual. The vendors set up calls but then show up with nothing to say. They almost dare me to interview them and expect that I’ve spent a half hour on their websites learning all about their solutions. I haven’t. You haven’t given me any reason to believe you are the next Salesforce and you need to if you want me to write about you.
If you are an emerging company this post is designed to give you a few basics on how to deal not just with me but with the analyst community in general.
Your Slide Deck
You have to have one. Introductory calls are rough without them.
Let’s face it slides are a terrible form of communication because they are informationally incomplete; they are often useless without someone narrating. But slides are very good at prompting memory and discussion — memory for the presenter to simply remember to tell a specific anecdote of how a customer succeeded with a product and discussion by giving me something to ask about. Also, they give structure and order to the meeting rather than letting it turn into a ramble. Without slides a briefing lasts about 25 minutes with them it goes an hour. Wouldn’t you like to keep me engaged for the full hour?
I just took a briefing from Jon Ferrara, CEO of Nimble. In his previous life the founded and ran Goldmine. He’s a pro and his presentation was top notch. You should take his briefing sometime. But I digress.
In a conversation stream it’s easy to forget a point and hard to say back up if there’s nothing to back up. Also, slides with graphics are good at conveying complex concepts like the business processes you have a superior solution for. In short you have to have a few slides, they are your credibility and table stakes for grabbing an hour of my time. A slide deck is a way of saying you give a damn.
Please Identify Your Location on Your Website
I’ve also noticed that some of the newest social companies have decided to convert the world to social wholesale. They do this by failing to leave any clues about their non-cyber identity or location — how to contact them via more conventional modes of communication like the telephone (so 19th century) or email (so 20th century) or snail mail (so pre-Cambrian). It’s not even on their Websites where it really ought to be. Minimally, putting this stuff in your email signature is smart business.
I recently arrived at a social company at 6 PM only to find that the building’s doors were locked. I had no way of contacting them to get in. I called information to get a phone number and quickly found myself in phone hell. I tried texting but that didn’t work either and there was no identifying information on the email that I had received. The meeting didn’t happen.
So, much as you might think your social technology will change the world (it might) in the meantime would you please adorn your Website and other materials with all that other redundant old school-retro identifying information?
PR Firms Need to Pick Up the Phone
If you called it email relations I could understand but frankly the idea of trading a half dozen emails to set up a meeting is a big waste of my time. I know you are busy with other things but any labor-saving benefit you get from emailing rather than calling me simply transfers the work from you to me. If you want my time, please invest some of yours.
In the old days, when we had face-to-face meetings, PR people would call and request an appointment and we’d dicker for a few moments over dates and times but then it would all be resolved. Today, though, we have this weird dance that goes like this (in email):
We’d like to brief you, got any times?
Sure I take briefings after 2 PM ET most days.
Can you suggest some times?
It’s a first come basis but Tuesday has openings right now.
We can’t do it Tuesday.
The old way worked because the executives you were representing had to go on tour, which meant blocking out time out of the office in their calendars. The PR people got the block of time to fill up and the only thing they had to be concerned about was how long it takes to get from Framingham to Boston at 2 PM on a Wednesday (I don’t think you can). Today, the PR people get a directive—get me some briefings — and they can knock them off from their conference rooms so scheduling is more fluid and more difficult.
In this more nebulous approach PR people seem to need to check every date with their clients because they don’t have a block of times reserved, I assume. Unfortunately, I can’t lock in 2 PM on Thursday, for instance, until I hear back from you because that can take a while and I need to manage my time better than that. That’s why you need to come locked and loaded with specific dates and times when you email me or it’s possible we’ll never synch up. Calling is best because we can nail the appoint right then and there if you have a block of availability to work with.
Vendors, PR people and analysts are all in the same business. We’re interested in communicating truthful information about business ideas. But we need to work together and to think of the other side and the downstream effects of how we interact.