Late last week, it was reported that Forrester Research had implemented a policy under which analysts with personal blogs related to the technology markets they cover at Forrester would be required to ditch them and instead publish their blogs on Forrester.com.
The move raised eyebrows since some of Forrester's analysts and former analysts are well-known bloggers in the markets they cover.
Critics of the move think Forrester is being short-sighted. Dennis Howlett of ZDNet called Forrester's decision an "epic E2.0 fail" and wrote that "Forrester is showing itself as hypocritical". As Howlett sees it, Forrester is making a killing on the back of 'rock star' analysts and this is just a way to control them further. A number of Forrester analysts, such as well-known social media analyst Jeremiah Owyang, have built personal brands of their own and left the firm.
SageCircle, which broke the news, also suggested that this is about trying to keep talented employees under the firm's thumb:
Forrester CEO George Colony is well aware of that savvy analysts can build their personal brands via their positions as Forrester analysts amplified by social media (see the post on “Altimeter Envy”). As a consequence, a Forrester policy that tries to restrict analysts’ personally-branded research blogs works to reduce the possibility that the analysts will build a valuable personal brand leading to their departure. In addition, forcing analysts to only blog on Forrester-branded blogs concentrates intellectual property onto Forrester properties increasing the value of the Forrester brand.
Karyl Levinson, Forrester's VP of Corporate Communications, provided a statement to SageCircle that pretty much confirms this analysis:
We believe we can best serve our clients in their professional roles by aggregating our intellectual property in one place – at Forrester.com. Make no mistake: Forrester is committed to social media, and the number of our analyst bloggers is increasing, not decreasing. Analysts will still have the ability to blog outside of Forrester on topics not related to their coverage areas.
To be honest, it's not hard to understand Forrester's position. Forrester analysts gain experience, insight and relationships while on the job. The firm is obviously not hiring analysts and paying them so that they can take what they gain at Forrester, build up a personal brand and leave for greener pastures. So when analysts utilize information obtained and work product produced at Forrester as the basis for content used to grow 'personal' blogs, it gets complicated. After all, the content being distributed may contain information developed for Forrester clients and if blog posts are being written during business hours, Forrester probably has a legitimate legal claim to that content.
While Forrester's move may look bad, the truth is that Forrester is grappling with an issue that many companies will have to deal with, and that many companies have already had to deal with in other contexts. Perhaps Forrester could have tried addressing the issue in a more nuanced fashion, but that's particularly tough in the analyst industry, where it's possible to argue that the individuals who work for firms are more important than the firms themselves. In my opinion, these firms may eventually want to rethink their compensation models because of this.
In the meantime, companies need to understand that they can't control everything their employees do. Truth be told, they shouldn't want to. On the other hand, employees need to understand that their employers aren't selflessly subsidizing them while they build up enough name recognition to develop more lucrative opportunities. If you want to be a hired gun or build your own firm, don't expect an employer to support your efforts while you're on the clock.
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