I was recently contacted by a colleague and fellow Enterprise Irregular -- not a specialist in Spend Management -- about whether or not it would be worth his while to take a briefing call from Ariba. It turns out that this expert-in-question was not the only other blogger that Ariba recently chose to reach out to. My advice, of course, was that it can't hurt to learn more about the overall procurement and sourcing sector, and if he found it interesting, it might be worth digging into the area some more. After all, just about the worst thing for us would be to not get new voices into the Spend Management debate.
The good news is that there are other bloggers who are willing to learn more. It looks like Jon Hansen, the author of the above-linked post and a blogger in our sector, decided to not only take Ariba up on their offer to brief him, but to investigate the firm further after his initial discussion. According to Jon, "I went into the first of what became three separate interviews [with Ariba] over a two week period with both an open mind and a flexible ear. Joined on the call by a member of the PR Firm, and an in-house PR representative, I listened to the executive’s responses to my obligatory questions involving the new contract. While interesting to a degree there was very little said that would stand out from any other vendor interview. In short, and to no ones discredit it was another infomercial."
What Jon found suggests to me that getting to know bloggers can be difficult. In addition, I'd wager that executives are typically gun shy about disclosing the same level of non-financial detail to bloggers that they'll disclose to industry analyst where an established relationship usually exists. This is not a knock on Ariba's PR efforts -- quite the contrary, considering that they're one of the only vendors I know of making a major push to talk to bloggers. But it does suggest to me that the best contact for bloggers -- if a firm does not have a dedicated blogging relations function -- is probably the person tasked with managing the analysts.
Why? I'd say that bloggers are more likely to ask the hard questions (just as Jon did). And it will come back to bite vendors who don't fully answer them. In my experience, analyst relations professionals usually disclose more from a technical, product and strategy perspective in their briefings than PR/communications specialists. And it's this level of detail that bloggers are looking for when they write (at least the ones I put any stock in). The first thing that I tell prospective firms who want to brief me is that I expect an analyst-level of detail in our discussions. In other words, I'm happy to talk to PR-types, but I tell them to be prepared for questions that most journalists won't ask. If a discussion ends up being at a traditional PR level, I can just about guarantee that I won't be writing about the topic or firm in question.