The battle for positive public relations can be fierce, but there’s an upside to having competition. If you know who your main rivals are, there’s much to be learned about how to maximize PR for your own company or brand. All it takes is paying attention and knowing what to look for.
Here are eight questions to help uncover things you can learn about PR from your competitors.
Who are the media outlets and contacts covering your category? In many ways, earned media is the holy grail of good PR. Monitoring media reports not only helps PR practitioners stay abreast of industry and competitor news, but also to discover new and different media outlets who cover the business. Journalists are known to move around, so take note of names and publications and make sure media lists are constantly updated.
What topics are your competitors covering? Ask this question for earned media as well as thought leadership pieces like op-eds and other bylined content penned by competitors. What kind of space are they carving out for themselves as an expert voice? Is there a way you can distinguish yourself from the general category? What can your brand own?
What content drives the most engagement on social media? Maybe a competitor has tens of thousands of followers on Instagram, but has lackluster performance on Twitter. Basic social media monitoring should be part of daily PR activities to make sure you’re not missing any angles that are relevant to target customers.
Where do they show up to speak and schmooze? Conferences and events are an important part of a PR program, whether it’s an opportunity for thought leadership, media exposure, networking, or all of the above. These are the places where your target audience congregates, so you don’t want to be absent. It can also be an opportunity to learn what not to do. Case in point: one of our clients was booked to speak on a panel at a recent event for tech startups in New York, along with their main competitor — who simply failed to show up. It was a chance for our client to own the topic and the entire event, and he did.
Is there paid advertising? That might tell you something about how leads are being generated, and if earned media coverage is impacted as a result. Are they paying for conference keynotes? Then it might be time to launch a “guerrilla” promotion at the same conference. For early stage companies, consider a mix of paid and earned media on key social platforms, due to precise targeting ability as well as lower costs in comparison to traditional outlets. Use of a paid media amplification service like Taboola can also be a budget-friendly way to amplify branded content.
What are they missing? Do they tackle the controversial aspects of your industry but fail to address the basic questions about how something works, or what problem is being solved? Sometimes looking for what competitors are not doing creates an opportunity to jump into the conversation to fill the gaps.
What are they doing that you do not want to be doing? Likewise, watching the cringeworthy behavior of the competition can be helpful in refining or reinforcing your own mission and goals. Use those observations to refocus: smart PR programs will remain focused on the type of exposure that’s most valuable for your goals.
How can you join them? Is a competitor gobbling up the spotlight for a some hot topic or cause? Perhaps there’s a way to join the fray. PR by association can be a powerful thing, and being looped into the same conversation as a behemoth like Apple or Facebook can burnish your reputation. A well-timed pitch mentioning a major competitor is sometimes appropriate, and as we previously covered here, “newsjacking” is one way to win attention for your own story.