Many people across our industry believe that the role of an effective Analyst Relations function is to get the industry analysts to say and write nice things about their company and its products. I don’t subscribe to that philosophy.Hey, don’t get me wrong -having analysts opine (that was for you, Jim) on the fabulousness of your products and technologies is a good thing, and it’s definitely an expected deliverable from my program here at Cisco. [Disclaimer added for my supervisor's benefit.] But, that’s the hoped-for result of my team’s efforts; not its role.Another thing I’ve never subscribed to is the saying that the ends justify the means. If my objective was to get analysts to wax eloquent on the virtues and brilliance of Cisco, there are any number of ways and shortcuts -most a bit unsavory -that we could pursue to achieve that result. But that would belie the very nature of AR, which is inherently about relationship building, trust and honesty.I see our responsibility in AR as twofold. First, we have a responsibility to inform the analyst community about our products, technologies, customers, markets, strategies and overall corporate direction. It’s critical that the analysts have a clear understanding of our offerings and strategies as well as accurate product data and technology information when doing their research and analysis for their clients. While the analysts will not always agree with a direction we taken or support our product and technology strategies, it’s important that they at least understand why we’ve gone down a certain path and have the correct context to put our activity in perspective.The other half of our job is to take the analyst feedback, input, views and criticisms we receive and bring it back into the organization so we can validate or challenge our messaging, positioning, roadmaps and strategies. When used effectively, analysts can be a critical piece of a company’s strategic planning process. The earlier you get them engaged in a development effort -whether it’s for a new product, positioning around an industry-level issue, or messaging for a key campaign -the more they can help you craft something that will be successful and impactful.This approach allows us to utilize the influencer community as a corporate strategic asset; and not simply as an extension of the media. Additionally, if we execute both aspects of the job effectively, then we put ourselves into a good position to have nice things said and written about us.And while that may not be the role of my Analyst Relations program, it’s sure nice when it happens!