Negative press from competitors, when handled properly, can be diffused when attacked smartly. Here are ways to handle the heat.
There have long been two schools of thought when it comes to bad press from competitors. The first is to go on the offensive and fire back by stating your case with facts, and then avoiding a range war if at all possible. The second way is to ignore your competition, let your products speak for themselves, and continue undeterred on your marketing path.
The reasons for the negative publicity, your overall market share, and the strength of your product or brand will dictate the appropriate response. Many companies choose to never respond to these types of attacks.
Our Product is Better Than Your Product: A Case Study
We typically see this type of negative publicity from companies in competitive marketplaces who rely on large numbers of customers to overcome razor thin profit margins. Sometimes brand loyalty isn't enough for these companies, particularly when the release of new, competing products hits breakneck speeds.
DIRECTV recently filed a lawsuit against Dish One, a DISH-owned retailer, of illegal sales ploys. The lawsuit claims the retailer, with DISH's approval based on citing its majority ownership, coerced unsuspecting customers into switching from DIRECTV to DISH based on a lie that the two satellite TV providers merged companies.
In response to the allegations, DISH did what many large, well-established companies do in these situations and said very little while still saying something. Here's the entirety of their response.
"We maintain high standards of integrity for ourselves in our interactions with customers, and expect our retailers to do the same."
It's a powerful response in that it's accurate, it doesn't condone dishonesty, and leaves DIRECTV with no real ability to respond because to do so would be superfluous.
Whether your company is big or small, if you're faced with this type of negative publicity surrounding the viability of your product, you're faced with the decision of responding or ignoring. In both of the situations, the companies were quick to respond and rectify the situation as best as they possibly could.
Responding to Negative Press about your Products
If the decision is to use press releases, YouTube videos, or mass media advertising to state your product's case, the number one rule to follow is this: don't let your emotions cloud your objective.
Sometimes an immediate response is necessary, but in most cases you'll have a window of opportunity from a few hours to a few days. In any case, do the following:
- Get as angry as you want.
- Blow off all the steam necessary.
- Don't write a single word or issue a marketing edict until the first two have run their course.
Remember, you designed or chose your products to compete in a certain marketplace, and you spent plenty of time touting the features, benefits, and advantages versus theirs. It is this information that must guide your response.
State the Facts and Don't Mince Words
Do you have a base of customers who love your products? State that authoritatively by saying how x number of customers choose your product. This is a fact and can be backed up with empirical data and isn't emotional.
Does your product have a distinct, verifiable advantage compared to your competitors? State this emphatically. Tell why your customers prefer a certain functionality or feature of your product over that of your competitor.
When you respond with a level head, restating why you designed and created the product in the first place, you take control of the conversation. When you use verifiable customer data to further your case, you're letting the world know-including your existing customers-how much their loyalty to your brand or products matters.
Brand Mangers and Public Relations Experts
So, who writes the responses? Do you need outside help? How will you formulate your overall strategy? A truly nefarious attack campaign could exceed you or your company's ability to respond effectively. If your company has a brand manager, responses should originate here.
A brand manager has the resources and information necessary to provide the facts and figures used to establish the marketplace. This person, however, may not be the proper resource to actually craft the response and disseminate it. If this is the case, consider professional assistance from an outside source.
Public relations experts with brand experience can:
- Provide expert advice and a calming presence
- Help formulate an overall plan for immediate execution
- Write the response and create collateral material
- Distribute the information to the market sectors that ultimately matter
Negative press from competitors, when handled properly, can be diffused when attacked smartly. It can also backfire on them if consumers believe they're being unfair. Ultimately, it can strengthen your brand when you respond smartly and with authority. After all, you're reminding customers and competitors alike why you're in business in the first place.
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