In the majority of interview’s I’ve conducted over the last 15 or so years the reporter will typically ask, “Who are your competitors?”
Quite often the answer I hear is, “We don’t have any competitors.”
Rarely is this the case. Just about every product or service has another product or service that does something similar. It may not be the exact same thing, but similarities are enough to consider or classify it as a competitor.
In my experience, most businesses and executives don’t like to admit that they have a competitor or know what a competitor does. This is a mistake in my opinion. From a PR perspective you should absolutely know who your competition is, what they do and, most importantly, what differentiates you from the competition.
I attended the University of Utah. Years after I graduated, the football program brought in Urban Meyer to be the head coach of the football team. Meyer changed the football program and turned it into a winning program that was enticing enough to be persuaded into joining the PAC12. One of the things Meyer wouldn’t do was mention the University of Utah’s biggest competitor, Brigham Young University (BYU) by name.
When the topic came up or when a reporter, booster or fan asked him about BYU, his reference to them was always the same, “That team down South of us.”
While he wouldn’t mention the team by name, he knew all about the program. He studied them and developed a game plan to beat BYU in its annual rivalry game. In his time as head coach he was undefeated against, “that school down South.”
In instances with my clients I encourage them to follow a similar strategy to Coach Meyer’s, minus the refusal to speak their name. Listed below please find three tips for answering the question, who are your competitors?
- Know your competitors: I recommend clients know their competitors names and what they do. The fact that you know this information builds credibility and demonstrates to the media that you know and understand your market.
- Don’t bad mouth competitors: There is a huge difference between knowing your competitors and what they do and bad mouthing them. Disparaging a competitor is easy. Instead of taking this approach, I recommend explaining and focusing on what you do, why you take the approach you do and how it differs from others in your industry. By taking this approach you allow the reporter you’re talking to to understand what you do and draw their own conclusions as to the right approach and make a favorable comparison to your approach versus your competitors’ approach.
- Don’t write about or focus too much on a competitor: Yes, you have competitors, but that doesn’t mean you should focus on them all day every day. Know what they do but don’t draw too much attention to them. If you contribute content or write for industry publications, don’t write about them or feature them in your content. Similarly, don’t write about or promote competitors or clients’ competitors.
While every business wants to be unique and seen as the leader or best in class in their industry, it’s really not feasible to believe you don’t have a competitor. Don’t run from competition, embrace it and know who your competitors are and what they do. By dong this you’ll be able to understand the benefits you provide and what differentiates you from your competition.