I am a big believer in always having your finger on the pulse, knowing what is going on in your industry, what’s shifting and what isn’t. So I decided to attend the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Summit at the end of last year. What better place to find a thousand or so end users, our clients’ end users, and find out where they go when they want to keep abreast with the latest industry developments? When they want to find out about trends, new products and other market info?
Over the course of the day I ‘interviewed’ 53 delegates. I’m using quotation marks here because I tried to take as little time as possible with each respondent so it was really a one-question interview (although quite a few people were kind enough to let me clarify a few points). They had paid a rather handsome price for a ticket to this event so I didn’t want to take too long with each conversation. The (opening) question was ‘when you are looking for information and news about the industry, where do you go to source this?’ Each respondent gave multiple answers to the question, outlining their priority order for each response.
The respondents I spoke to were from organisations including AXA, Bayer, BNP, Carrefour, the City of Bradford, Dixon Carphone Group, Jaguar Land Rover, the National Bank of Belgium, the Ordnance Survey, Scania, Standard life, Telefonica and the University of Birmingham, to name a few.
The job titles and roles of the respondents included CEO, CIO, CTO, DevOps lead, director of product engineering, enterprise architect, head of infrastructure/tech team, IT director and similar. But mostly these were senior technical professionals.
One important thing to bear in mind before we look at the results is that this is a survey of a specific category of respondent: in this case technical professionals. Hence the responses are likely to be different from those that sales, marketing or corporate executives would have given.
So where do these people go to find out about the industry? Are they still reading the press? Are they relying on newsletters? Are they watching videos? Are they going on vendor websites? Are they reading blogs?
As it turns out the media is still the main source of industry news and information for these end users. The outlet most frequently mentioned was The Register, possibly because of its regular coverage of the latest tech and industry developments, its writers’ knowledge of the subject matter, the level of depth of its articles and therefore its overall credibility. Other titles that were also named a few times are Computer Weekly, Forbes and other heavyweights that tend to have a global reach, either directly or via its publisher e.g. TechTarget for Computer Weekly.
However, what is interesting is that quite a few respondents said that the reason why they end up finding information in the press, is because those are the results they choose to follow when they look up particular topics in Google (which in fact scored very highly). This is a significant point because it means that while a news outlet might be respected, it might not get as many eyeballs as a competitor with less credibility but better SEO. Have a look for yourself: type ‘data storage’ in Google and select the news tab. Which outlets do you see come up? Any surprises there?
This is a critical point for vendors or anyone in IT with a PR programme it’s important to bear in mind how outlets fare in search engines (although Google is the only one these respondents mentioned) when building a list of relevant publications, blogs, etc. It’s essential to review this list frequently and regularly to ensure you are aware of where eyeballs are falling.
Unsurprisingly, linkedIn came second in our poll. Given that the number of vendors with an active linkedIn presence is growing daily, this is a platform that is becoming an increasingly influential educational tool. Gone are the days where it was just a job-hunting site and app. Today it’s an important source of news, research and general information about the IT industry among others. Groups were mentioned as a particularly relevant resource.
That being said, linkedIn is not the only social media platform that end users rely on to keep up to date. Twitter and Xing (in Germany) are also important resources. The former is the most popular social platform after linkedIn. However, most of the respondents who use Twitter said that they rely on it to stay up to date with trends rather than to follow specific individuals.
Behind social media in the ranking came analysts (unsurprisingly Gartner fared higher than other market research organisations among our respondents, as most have contracts with this firm) and events. The latter is seen as a great source of information but in today’s reality where we are all short of time, it is difficult for end users to attend many events.
Two responses I found interesting, for different reasons, were ‘peers’ and ‘IT suppliers:’  I would have thought peer-to-peer information exchange would have fared higher. After all, as a communications professional I know the value of case studies only too well. Not just from a PR point of view but from a commercial standpoint. There isn’t a time when I am part of a business development discussion, where the client sales team is not telling us how valuable case studies are to their jobs. I wonder if the difficulty in actually speaking to peers at other companies is what makes this response not fare higher.
On the other hand, I was surprised to hear how reliant end users are on their IT suppliers to provide information on the latest technologies they should be looking at and possibly evaluating. The senior manager of IT operations at one of the companies we talked to, said ‘I ask my IT suppliers because I know they wouldn't recommend unsuitable products. They are strategic partners for us and they know that if they were to push something that isn’t right, the relationship wouldn’t carry on.’ It makes perfect sense, but I was still surprised by this position.
One final response I wanted to highlight was about vertical media, e.g. outlets focusing on banking, finance, M&E technologies, etc. While it might not be as widely read as general IT titles, for organisations in that space those outlets are much more valuable than any other, because they focus on the products, trends and issues specific to that one industry.
To close, below are some comments by the respondents that I believe PR and marketing professionals will find useful:
• I do read vendor blogs – but they have to be by an individual not the company
• I look for technical articles in the media that were written by vendors and analysts
• Vendor-sponsored events such as dinners can be a good way to source information and exchange ideas with peers and suppliers
• One of the advantages of a Gartner subscription is that it gives me lots of info without the spam
• We check out the Gartner MQs to see which vendors we should contact
• The media must be independent. Those [where editorial content is] swayed by money have no credibility.