My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

A minor tempest in the research industry teapot erupted today on Twitter and elsewhere.  A SageCircle blog post entitled "Forrester tells analysts no more personal blogs with interesting implications for analyst relations"sparked a fair amount of dialog about Forrester and the rights and independence of analysts.  SageCircle shared rumors that a change to Forrester blogging policies would prevent analysts from having personal blogs and would aggregate analysts’ posts into Forrester-branded role-based blogs. 

I thought I’d share a few thoughts from my perspective as a newish Forresterite and a long-time blogger.  First of all, the term “personal blogs” deserves a bit of definition.  Forrester is not interested in limiting employees’ involvement in Social Media or their ability to blog on personal subjects.  I can blog to my heart’s content about travels, cats, politics, music, movies or any other topic of a personal nature. 

But there are changes coming to the ways analysts share information, ideas, and observations about the areas they cover.  Forrester is still developing its policies, but it is in the process of rolling out a new blog platform and will ask analysts to share their industry-related thoughts within this new platform.  So, there are elements of truth to SageCircle reports, but there’s more to the story.  For example, SageCircle speculated that the aim of the policy was to “restrict analysts’ personal blogs works to reduce the possibility that the analysts will build a valuable personal brand leading to their departure.”  This would be incorrect on a couple of different fronts. 

First of all, Forrester analysts will all have their own blogs within the new platform, and this will continue to furnish a platform for sharing our insights and building our individual reputations.  I will have my own Forrester blog, the contents of which will roll up into a blog focused on the needs and interests of Interactive Marketers. 

More importantly, the hint that Forrester might want to restrict individual brand building is quite the opposite of my own experience during my first three months in the organization.  If anything, Forrester demonstrates a strong and active desire to have analysts build their reputation and brand;  for example, there are discussions about how analysts can best “build their franchises.”  So strong is Forrester’s vision for its analysts that at times I can feel more like a self-employed specialist working within a loose collective than an employee;  I like this feeling, and it is one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about Forrester thus far.

Am I thrilled at the prospect of giving up Experience: The Blog, my personal/professional blog?  Well no—it’s become part of my digital identity and represents thousands of hours of time and effort.  But I also understand Forrester’s reasons for the changes.  There are obvious benefits to the company of aggregating intellectual property on Forrester.com, including Search Engine relevance and creating a marketing platform that demonstrates the breadth and depth of analysts’ brainpower and coverage. 

Furthermore, it would be silly to believe that readers will recognize and understand the distinction between Augie, the guy who shares thoughts about marketing on his personal blog, and Augie, the Forrester analyst who covers the marketing industry.  There is only one Augie, and the thoughts I share on my blog are now based upon the research I do, the people I meet, and the information I am given access to thanks to my role at Forrester.

I’ll be sad to see Experience: The Blog go, but I’m also looking forward to digging into the new Forrester blog platform.  There, I will continue to do what I’ve been doing for years on my personal blog:  Sharing news, offering insights, connecting with others, asking for input, and—most importantly—continuing to build my reputation within my field.

Comments

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Thanks for sharing your viewpoint. Personally, I find it almost ludicrous that various people are commenting on Forrester's actions without actually asking opinions of the analysts who are affected directly.

Any thoughts on what appears to be Forrester's attempt to shift the balance of power back to the mother ship and away from individual star analysts?

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

I hope when you say that you'll be sad to see the Experience: The Blog go, that does not mean you will be deleting the site completely, but just suspending updates... right?

Your personal blog had such consistently high quality content that it must have contributed significantly to your securing your position at Forrester. It would be a shame to lose that great article archive. I am encouraged to see that you cross-posted this article on Experience: The Blog, so there appears to be some hope that it may survive.

I suppose one downside is that there is the potential for editorial pressure from Forrester to suppress the sharing of some insightful perspectives and reserve that analysis solely for paying customers.

There must be a line established that cannot be crossed. The question is where is that sweet spot that maximizes the external creation of Analyst brand value, while protecting the value proposition of the organization and its revenue streams.

That is potentially an interesting balancing act - and hopefully, the type of subject that you will still be able to share freely with the broader community on the Forrester blog.

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Michael,

I won't lie--there is some diversity of opinion about blogging policies within Forrester! But in the end, I don't see this as an attempt to "shift the balance of power back to the mother ship and away from individual star analysts." Forrester LOVES star analysts--they drive syndicated revenue, report views, attention from traditional media, and consulting demand. From my perspective, Forrester is trying to find a way to permit analysts to assertively develop their individual brands while still benefiting from having all that individually-identifiable content in one spot for the benefit of the company.

Thanks for the comment!

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Robert,

Thank you so much for the kind comments!

I think the actual fate of Experience: The Blog is TBD. As I mentioned, some of the policies are still under development at Forrester.

As you point out, there is a line that we cannot cross as analysts--between giving away insight for free in blog posts and locking up that insight into reports for paying subscribers. But I don't think that's really the driving factor behind the changes in Forrester's blogging policies. Instead, the company is (IMO) doing its best to balance the goal of encouraging analysts to promote themselves and the goal of aggregating IP within Forrester.com (with the obvious benefits that brings.)

I appreciate the comment!

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Thanks Augie, this does shed some light

You do speak for yourself at crucial points, which is good and bad at the same time ;-)

It IS a tight squeeze, anyway you look at it. But Forrester trying to forbid their employees having a personal blog is just making themselves look ridiculous over the course of history when we look back 1-2 years from now

We're moving back to people being the centre of attention again, not companies. It's just the way it is whether you like it or not (I love it, by the way)

Why bother about blogs? Great assets have always extended themselves outside the companies frontiers, that's what pricefighters do. Emails, presentations, conferences, events, public speaking, books, come on Forrester, don't be silly!

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Augie,

Thanks for offering your perspective and explaining what's going on from an insider's viewpoint. As always, I appreciate the clarity of thought you bring to the conversation.

Personally, what matters most to me is that we (other industry professionals) continue to have the benefit of your insights and thoughts. For all those bellyaching about personal vs. professional brand, I would ask whether it truly matters whether you're reading Augie Ray at forrester.com, experiencetheblog.com, socialmediatoday.com, or your own RSS reader. In the end, I would argue that it matters not all that much.

...Michael

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Augie,

Respectfully, I disagree with your assessment of the power dynamics. I think Forrester has a love/hate relationship with star analysts.

As you correctly pointed out, star analysts drive a disproportionate share of revenue and attention back to the firm. However, at the same time, these same folks establish their own gravitational force which pulls attention away from the company.

I realize it's a complex issue, but I'm not sure Forrester has yet come to grips with the best way to balance these competing goals.

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Martijn , Michael & Michael:

Thanks for the input. This clearly is a sensitive, complex and subtle issue. It involves not just a question of blogs, but also career management, personal brand development, compensation and independence. So, I understand why the topic has received the attention it has.

I'll share a realization I had while considering all of this: I'm the same guy I was three months ago, before starting at Forrester. I've seen some great unpublished research and have been given the brainspace to give deep thought to issues of influence--but I'm still the same guy with the same ideas and passion as I was before becoming a Forresterite.

But there is one big difference between Augie circa November 2009 and Augie today: Access. In the past three weeks, I arranged a meeting with Twitter (which is notoriously difficult to make happen) and had a one-on-one meeting to discuss Social Media metrics with the CEO of a $100M company. I could not have enjoyed this access three months ago, even though I'm the same guy with the same brain; this access comes because of the Forrester name and the fact they give me a paycheck.

So, how would I separate the IP that is "personal" from that which is "professional"? Can I claim some portion of my ideas as personal when those ideas are developed on the job and as a result of the access to info, data, and people Forrester affords?

Forrester isn't in the widget business. It lives or dies on the value of its IP and the perceived value of its people. While there are some areas where the desires of the individual and the company may come in conflict, there's also a WIDE area where the two are in harmony. I'm focusing on how both Forrester's and my long-term interests can be served by allowing me to build my reputation within Forrester and a Forrester blog platform.

Thanks for the thoughts!

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

I'd like to second Augie on this one.

Forrester produces and sells information, analysis and advice. It's entirely understandable that the company wants to protect its intellectual property and maintain it within the Forrester brand.

When Forrester employs an analyst it’s because of what’s in his or her head. They pay well to leverage the IP an analyst produces and it seems entirely reasonable that they would want analysts online IP to appear under the Forrester brand.

While I have to admit my initial reaction to this was that it was an infringement on rights of free speech, upon reflection it made complete sense. Forrester will soon be providing analysts with their own personal branded blogs, so every analyst will have a blog under their own name.

It seems to me that this is the opposite of Forrester preventing analysts from blogging – this is Forrester providing a branded blogging environment where readers will be able to follow individual analysts just as easily as if they were publishing their own blog outside of Forrester. I expect this will result in more and more blogging analysts. What’s more, it will be easier for everyone to find other analyst’s blogs that may be of interest.

I think we’ll need some time to see how it all plays out but I personally believe this will ultimately be better for analysts and for everyone who enjoys following analyst generated content.

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Was surprised to hear of this new policy by Forrester. A fairly significant number of analysts have left the firm over the past year or so. Was that all due to social media? Not entirely. Much of what I have read by ex-analysts in their new roles repurposes what they did at Forrester.

I believe Forrester has a right to ring-fence the IP, but they may be overlooking one thing. People may not want to share their thoughts on the company blog. Having personal blogs makes it, well, personal. And can attract followers and contributors. Not exactly like a double-agent, but certainly useful.

Nonetheless here it is. I will be interested in watching how it unfolds.

Steve

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

I for one have always been a none too silent critic re: the lack of "real world" time Forrester analysts spend outside the ivory research tower (ask Josh...).

Personal blogs are certainly one of several good ways in which you and your colleagues can keep your thinking a little closer to the marketing street.

So, yeah, just say no, Augie ... the credibility of their brand amongst key industry thinkers is at stake. They'll get it. Be firm. Stretch. Take a chance. Repeat. ;>

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Steve,

Thanks for weighing in!

I think you raise a good point worth exploring, and I wanted to share a story. My first thought upon hearing the news was that I sometimes blog some fairly random and philosophical stuff (such as how Paul Revere used Social Media to succeed in business: http://www.experiencetheblog.com/2009/10/marketing-is-not-changing-just-....) My concern was that Forrester would want only fact-based, research-oriented thoughts on their blog.

So, to test the waters, I purposely wrote a "big" thought piece with a heaping side order of controversy: "2010: The Year Marketing Dies" (http://blogs.forrester.com/marketing/2009/12/2010-the-year-marketing-die...). I figured this would push the envelope and would prove a good canary in the Forrester blogging cave. I shared it with others for feedback, figuring if they balked this would demonstrate a problem with the merging of "personal" thought and "professional" coverage area.

As it turns out, the canary lived. Not only were there no concerns, but David Cooperstein asked me to cross-post it on the Marketing Leadership blog as well as on the Interactive Marketing blog.

My point is that, since I will be blogging under my own name and on my own blog (within the Forrester blog platform), and since Forrester has demonstrated a willingness (heck, a desire) to let me be me, does it make a difference where I blog?

Thanks for contributing to the dialog on this situation. It's interesting to be part of the case study rather than observing it from the outside.

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Thom,

I appreciate the comment, but what "ivory tower"? I've never felt so connected to the marketing world and the marketer! In the last week, I've spent 6 hours on the phone with marketers discussing their challenges, two days at a conference talking abut Social Media and online metrics, and 5 hours talking to vendors about how their products and services solve problems for marketers. The number of hours dedicated to pouring through surveys and research? Just two.

My plan is to make my Forrester blog no different than my "personal" one was, so I hope you and others will continue to engage me on the "marketing street."

Thanks for joining this conversation.

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Augie,

I'm not sure there's a right or wrong. Forrester has the right to make policy any way they want to. But...

To Michael's point, though, I'd lean a bit more social libertarian.

As an old-timer in my industry, I get hired (or more recently, investors invest in my company) because of my pre-existing knowledge, reputation, et al...and then I've got to have the integrity to help them build/sell a company, and part in an ethical way as my knowledge and reputation go with me.

One tension for Forrester is the new-and-moving-target-in-most-companies challenge of acceptable outside-the-company behavior when it comes to social media. We know what happens if you get drunk at a company function and wreck your hotel room or if you're caught stealing boxes off the dock. IP, admittedly's a bit fuzzier.

Another tension is that company-vs-individual brand. In the financial services industry, it's known that an established broker likely takes 1/3 of their "book" with them when they leave. Some people buy people rather than company brands. I confess I lean that direction myself.

I guess I'd hope for you (and all thinkers) that 1) your employer would WANT you to go build your brand and that 2) they'd realize that as your personal brand grows, they benefit. Every company should be so lucky as to have employees out actively promoting thought leadership that ties back to the success of the company.

They'd also have a shifting landscape of what it takes to keep you on board as your market value grows. Like a pro athlete, like a stock broker, like a partner at a legal or pro services firm.

And while a slight hyperbole, whether that's bane or boon probably depends on whether the decision's made in accounting/legal or sales/marketing.

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Thanks Roger. Good points, and I certainly don't disagree. In the end, I just don't see this move as being a barrier to personal brand and reputation development. I'll still have independence to blog under my own name (albeit on Forrester.com), ability to build my brand, and the opportunity to shine.

Been an interesting dialog. Thanks for weighing in!

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Augie: Thanks for sharing the explanation and insights on the policy changes at Forrester. I've heard from other analysts (Forrester and non-Forrester) as well and I appreciate the thoughts, the perspective and the outlook.
I wish employees at any company were given the opportunity to make a choice of what they want to write about in their so-called "free time". For example, if Forrester asked for X # of blogs/month from you, you should be able to write as much as you want in your own time (as an "independent view"). I enjoyed your personal blog as it's just that - personal. An opinion or vision of what you feel is important, compelling, and on occasion - provocative. While I'll definitely be following you on the Forrester blog, I will miss yours and many others' independent views. Also, does that mean you can't participate say in a LinkedIn discussion? What about if Forbes, Wall Street Journal, or a large community asked for a contributed blog or article - you'd have to say "No"? That would be a huge missed opportunity for both you and Forrester. I truly hope that Forrester will continue to re-visit and re-evaluate this decision.

re: My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

Dan, you ask good questions!

I still come back to the basic idea that Forrester is in the IP business and that means the situation is different than in different types of firms. Would Lithium let someone work 40 hours on its community platforms then use that knowledge to build and launch their own community platform on their "free time"? Since I'm in the business of sharing insight, news, and analysts on marketing, it's hard to separate the Social Media IP that would be "mine" versus "the companies," don't you think?

As for Forbes, WSJ, LinkedIn and Twitter, it seems there is no interest on Forrester's part in preventing me from actively connecting, getting involved, or promoting myself. But, I'm sure there will be plenty of bridges to cross in the future as we continue to develop and adapt to changes in Social Media.

Thanks for the thoughts!