Sounds dramatic. But it is true.You can tell quite a bit about a company when you analyze their communications program. You can see where it has been, what it is doing today, and where it is going in the future just by taking a close look at their program.
Successful companies leverage their communications strategically. They use their program to outmaneuver the competition and redefine markets in their best interests.
Who is your competition?
So, who is your competition? When we prepare for a product launch we take a close look at both direct competition and alternative competition from a communications point-of-view. Direct competitors are companies that are offering similar solutions to the one we are launching. Alternative competitors are companies that offer a different type of solution that solves the same problem we are targeting. You really need to look at both direct and alternative competitors to truly understand the market dynamics and create an effective program.
7 Things you can Learn from Competitor's Communications Programs
What can you learn about the competition by looking at their communications program?
- Level of investment – We can quickly tell if there is a seasoned pro at the helm of a program. If we see a program – PR, blog, and social - with a healthy mix of tactical and strategic activities with a clear and consistent messaging platform then we know the company has invested in a seasoned pro. We can look at a blog and learn quite a bit at the level of investment in marketing – we can tell if they have an inbound program and a marketing automation platform, we can tell if they have an SEO program, we can look at the content and learn about the company’s emphasis and direction.
- Level of executive buy-in – Does the company have a strong executive spokesperson taking interviews, quoting in industry articles and speaking at industry events? Are they communicating vision or are they just talking about what is going on today? If the company has a strong leadership program than they probably have executive buy-in.
- Level of investor control – When we see companies that use their investors as spokespeople or as quotes in press releases (with the exception of financing news) it raises a red flag. It means that the investors are typically involved in the day-to-day operations of the company which indicates lack of confidence in existing management or a quick flip to gain short term return on investment.
- Who is playing in their sandbox – By looking at partnership announcements – both technical and sales – you can see if the company is pursuing a make versus buy decision, expanding market offerings through partnering, or building a direct versus indirect sales channel.
- Who is on their payroll – Do they have analysts quoted in their press releases? Do they have third party written white papers on their web site? These are typically pay-for-play activities and you can see who they have aligned with.
- Focus of their business strategy – What types of news have they been putting out? Is it a stream of product announcements? Is it partnering news, marketing news or is it a stream of customer announcements? Customer announcements indicates they are at revenue where a stream of product announcements means they have been in development mode.
- Who they are briefing – I mention this because sometimes executives that are active on social media will inadvertently tip off the competition – sometimes it is vanity but other times it is just the excitement of securing a cool interview. Recently we were monitoring the competition on behalf of our client and we noticed that the competitor was on press tour in NYC meeting specifically with one particular reporter. This tipped us off to an upcoming competitive announcement. We were able to notify our client that this was happening, the team moved quickly and our client put out similar news prior to the competitor’s announcement which ended up diluting the competitor’s coverage. To this day, that company is probably unaware how that one tweet impacted their Tier 1 news announcement.
If you really want a 360 view into your competition beyond the features and benefits of your new product or service, look to your PR counsel. You would be surprised at how much they can learn, just by analyzing your competitor’s communications programs.
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