AJ co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s sales operations.
Back in the olden days, before the Internet, I worked for a company that sold a satellite-based service to deliver commodities market news to traders and other interested parties. Believe it or not people placed dedicated hardware at their location for the specific purpose of getting timely information about the price of pork bellies or soybeans. While generally reliable, the software that powered the solution would sometimes bog down and start to fail. Little bits of data hung around in the memory beyond the time they were needed and slowed everything to a crawl. It was amazing how often our customer service team was able to solve the problem by simply suggesting a reboot. The reboot cleared the memory and let the system focus only on the bits and bytes it needed today.
As PR professionals, sometimes little bits of old data get stuck in our memories as well and we operate on assumptions that are no longer valid, getting bogged down in the past and missing current inputs. This is particularly true when it comes to competitor analytics, because we don’t control the competitors or have first-hand insight into their strategies and our responses are always based on artifacts of their activities. So, it’s very possible that your competitor analytics strategy needs a reboot. If so, you can accomplish that by going back to the drawing board and asking these questions with fresh eyes.
Who are our competitors?
You may be thinking, “What a silly question. Of course I know who my competitors are!” Perhaps you do, but it is worth asking again because market conditions change. The competitors that you are positioning against may not actually be the ones who are costing the company business. When is the last time you asked the sales team which companies they are seeing in deals and which are taking business away? You may be surprised at the answer. Also keep in mind that for many companies, “Do nothing” is the biggest competitor. If this is the case for your brand, you need to treat that as if it were a competing company and craft PR messages that elevate the advantages of taking action.
What are their key messages?
Part of your competitive analytics strategy should be to look at your competitor’s key messages in a couple of ways. First, you want to understand the messages that each competitor is trying to deliver to the market. For this, you look to their owned media, such as their website, blog and press releases. This will tell you exactly what they want the world to know about their products and brands. Next, consider their earned media and social engagement. This will give you insight into how well those messages are being received. Is there alignment between the two? If so, the competitor’s tactics are worth a closer look and may reveal a more effective strategy for communicating your own brand messages. If not, you may find an exposed weakness that can be exploited.
Is there message in harmony with yours?
Using competitive analytics to understand your competitor’s key messages also helps you identify any overlap in their messages and your own. If your messages are the same or very similar, you might want to consider a change to either the story or how you tell it. Harmonic messages are boring. You might need to sing out of tune a bit to get some attention.
Which channels are working?
These days, there are numerous earned, owned and social channels for reaching audiences. Understanding which are working well for your competitors might help you identify more impactful ways of engaging prospects, influencers and journalists. Smart competitor analytics looks beyond just mentions and reach and considers engagement as a key indicator of a channel’s effectiveness.
You may find that you were exactly right about the answers to all of these question all along. On the other hand, going back to the beginning may reveal a different path to effective competitive positioning. You can’t reboot your mind as easily as you can your commodities information satellite service (is such a thing still existed), but this approach is a pretty good substitute.