Spot the difference: media interview vs analyst briefing

Image credit: Headway

What’s the difference between a media interview and an analyst briefing? It’s a question that clients have often asked me, and understandably so - the distinction isn’t always immediately clear. In the world of HR Tech, it’s a question that can be especially difficult to answer because the lines between the two are often blurred. We have analysts who write columns on the side for a technology or HR publication, and we have journalists who take on the role of analyst in a bolt-on capacity.

To help clarify what sets the two apart and clear up any confusion, we decided to write a blog about the important (but sometimes subtle) differences between an interview and a briefing, throwing in some helpful ‘do’s and don’ts’ for good measure.

The Media Interview
The concept of a media interview will be familiar to most of us, even those who’ve never actually been involved in one. The dynamic is typically one-sided and involves a journalist asking questions to one or more spokespeople, either via phone or in person, and the spokesperson providing answers that align with the news or messages their company wants to convey. Unless it’s a live broadcast interview, the journalist will then go away and publish the spokesperson’s comments - either as a news piece, or as part of a wider feature that quotes other subject matter experts.

Of course that’s a very basic overview and in reality, there are plenty of occasions when media interviews are significantly less straightforward. An interview taking place off the back of a corporate crisis is likely to be more difficult to navigate than a pre-planned interview about product or market development news, for example. In the case of the former, media training can help to prepare spokespeople, ensuring that common pitfalls are avoided (clue: nothing is ever off the record) and brand reputation is protected.

The Analyst Briefing
In contrast to a traditional media interview which is typically driven by a specific industry hot topic or emerging story, analysts use vendor briefings as an opportunity to gather information and form opinions that they then pass on to buyers, investors and other market participants. Another key difference is that briefings are usually a two-sided affair. An analyst will be seeking to gain an understanding of the vendor’s company and product, but equally, they may wish to brief the vendor on their upcoming research agenda and/or the latest trends in the marketplace.

As a general rule of thumb, analysts are searching for information that supports or disproves a hypothesis. Because of this, vendors should be aware that the purpose of each briefing may be aimed at gathering something different. One conversation may be intended to better understand a technology or market, while another may be seeking to support a key piece of research. With this in mind, it’s important to connect with the analyst in advance and ask them what they would like to be briefed on. Preparations can then be made to ensure the most successful outcome.

Now that we’ve outlined the key differences, we thought we’d leave you with some helpful tips on what to do (and what not to do) in your next media interview or analyst briefing:

Media Interviews: Do’s and Don’ts
Do keep the conversation focused on the issues and news. Journalists will be looking for unbiased, expert comment. Provide this, and you’ll pave the way for a mutually beneficial and ongoing relationship.

Do express opinions (but make sure they align with those of your company). Journalists are often seeking to balance two sides of an argument so don’t be afraid to make your stance known.

Don’t tie yourself up in knots. It’s ok to say: “I’m not sure I can answer that but I’ll get back to you.” Spokespeople are humans and cannot be expected to have all the answers.

Don’t sell your product! Unless it’s a tech journalist who’s requested a demo or wants to know about your product development plans, this is a sure-fire way to put a premature end to the interview (and your relationship with the journalist).

Analyst Briefings: Do’s and Don’ts
Do research the analyst beforehand so you have a feel for their area and can better predict what they will want to focus on.

Do research the analyst firm. Many firms only do work for vendors, while others sell research reports. Some focus on quantitative research, some focus on qualitative analysis, and some do both. Get to know these nuances.

Do talk about your product and product development plans if that’s the purpose of the briefing (which it often is). Most HR Tech analysts will expect a product demo so it’s a good idea to bring your Head of Product into the conversation.

Do provide a brief on your company, its direction and strategy if that aligns with the analyst’s expectations and goals. Typically a CEO is best placed to deliver this, but in larger organisations, other senior leaders often present.

Don’t forget to listen to the analyst. Remember that the best briefings are two-sided conversations so be sure to ask them about their research and areas of focus.

Don’t do death by PowerPoint but do put some helpful slides together and remember to share them with the analyst after the briefing.

If you’d like more guidance on how best to prepare for a media interview and/or an analyst briefing, don’t hesitate to get in touch.