Does it frustrate you when your TV screen fills with your competitor's face as he relates pertinent industry insights studded with self-deprecating chuckles? Do you sit there, fists clenched, teeth grinding, thinking, "Why didn't you interview ME?!"?
Take action, and those bad feelings will dissipate like the angry smoke that once puffed from your ears.
Your competitor's time in the limelight is over and done with. Move forward by using his or her media coverage to boost your own visibility.
Follow three simple steps.
Step 1: Find Your Competitors' Coverage
"Know your enemies and know yourself,
and you can fight 100 battles without disaster." —Sun Tzu
We're not saying your competitors are enemies, exactly; still, it's wise to know what those competing for your target market are up to. An easy way to do that is to set up completely free Google Alerts (which you should be using to find out what's being said online about your own business, too).
Make a list of 3-5 of your closest competitors and then go to www.google.com/alerts and fill in those names, one at a time, in the field there. You can have an unlimited number of alerts.
Remember to use quotes around the name so you don't get Google returning every possible combination of the words "Joe's Pork Barbeque and Pizza" in media mentions out there; the quotes around the business name ensure you get an exact match.
You will need a Google email address first, but that, too, doesn't take much time. When you access your Gmail account, all mentions—across the Web—of competitors' companies, your company, your industry, or any topic you entered as a term will drop into your Gmail. Use Google as your spy.
Step 2: Muscle in on your competitors' story
Check that Google Gmail account daily. Once it delivers up a genuine story covered by local media... act.
Find the story on YouTube or the news outlet's website, and comment on it. If you assume that no one is reading the comments, don't forget about the journalist, producer, or station manager; you can bet they're reviewing how their story "played" in the public.
Also, other news consumers scan the comments but often don't comment themselves. Commenting on the story gets your name in front of this already-interested audience, as well.
Avoid disagreeing with your competitor's comments outright. Instead, add to the conversation by saying you agree with something mentioned, then provide additional useful information. Don't link directly to your site.; the bio you create to make the comment in the first place will provide enough information to let people get in touch with you if they're so inclined.
While one comment isn't going to get your phone ringing off the hook, commenting regularly will increase your visibility, contribute to awareness of your brand, and also make the journalists and news staff aware of you.
Your next step is to go to the news station's, newspaper's, or journalist's Facebook or other social pages or profiles to see whether the story is covered there. If so, make sure you're using your business's social account (rather than your personal one, where you chat with pals), and comment. You want your business's link under that story in the comments area so that curious lurkers can click to your Facebook page if they want.
In keeping with the saying "If it bleeds, it leads," a big problem is usually the focus of a news story. Chances are your competitor is providing a solution to such a problem, so one-up them to impress the audience. In the comments, write something like, "Interesting/helpful piece! We've found that such-and-such fixes the problem, too."
Consider, too, being brave enough to share the post to your own social stream or news feed—provided you write your own take on the topic as you share. Again, just as the job seeker should never badmouth a previous employer, do not badmouth your competitor. Hopefully, there are enough clients to go around for everyone or your niche or approach differs enough to attract a unique audience.
Step 3: Seek out the journalist or producer who interviewed your competitor
Once you determine the name of the journalist, check the news station's website for his or her Twitter and Facebook handle.
As a breaking or "instant" news platform, Twitter helps these professionals "Tweet their beat" while creating an online, easily searched repository of their stories. While not as up-to-the-minute, Facebook, too, serves as a place to connect with news stations and reporters.
Start by following them, sharing and re-tweeting their stories (that's hugely appreciated.) After a few weeks of commenting, liking, and sharing, send a direct message stating that you saw their story, that you are an authority in the space they covered, and that you are available to provide useful insights to their viewers or readers.
News professionals can work around the clock. The spate of journalism scandals that cropped up five years ago or so surely resulted (at least in part) from reporters' struggles under impossible deadlines. Make their jobs easier by providing quick comments and even photos, data, and graphics. Prepare and have all of this "fodder" on the ready so you can shoot it to them when they need it.
Also, make sure to stay current with the news. If you have a good research source or even your own business survey that can shed some light on a breaking trend or sudden scandal, reach out to the journalist and mention it. Don't get offended if he or she doesn't return your email or Twitter Direct Message immediately. These folks are stretched to the max.
Still, if you're determined to make your statement, these two tactics may work:
- Find the journalist's (or the editor's) email address (or Twitter handle, for direct messaging) and volunteer to write a counter-argument to the article or video. Make sure you state your credentials and qualifications. You never know: Your additional (and free, let's remember) "content" may be of value to the station or publication.
- Contact the reporter or editor, mention the piece (say something positive) and offer to act as a resource should the topic come up again. Tell them that you are easily reachable and will make time for them. Do not push your company; instead, act as an authority, relating the solid information you have. You may get a plug if the journalist mentions your name and your business in the article or broadcast.
Make the media market for you
Though large companies flood journalists with press releases and "friend requests," you can stand out, too, if you act as a partner to the news professional rather than a pushy nuisance focused on your own business.