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Given Sunday’s Super Bowl, we’ll start with a football story: When a new offensive coach joined the Raiders during their NFL glory years in the 1980s, he said during a film session, “We need to take what the competition’s defense will give us.”
Al Davis, the team’s late, legendary owner, was in the room. He immediately shot back with, “We’re the Raiders. We take what we want and let the competition worry about what we’re going to do.”
Today’s business organizations should consider a similar strategy. Unfortunately, too many obsess about what their competitors are doing instead of blazing their own path. Don’t get me wrong. You need to stay on top of who your rivals are and what they’re doing. You want to know how they’re challenging you and what deficiencies they present that can be challenged.
But you don’t want to focus on this activity at the expense of deploying your own innovative strategies. After all, you can’t control what your competitors announce or – in the communications industry – dictate what media outlets will provide them coverage. Many communications companies make knee-jerk reactions to competitor coverage or news. Instead of their own story ideas, pitches or news, these organizations get stuck behind other players in the market. With own strategy and initiatives, you can distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Take Apple. No, I won’t “pile on” here with the wealth of nice tributes in light of Steve Jobs’ passing this year, including our own. But what’s key here is that Jobs always followed his own instincts first, and monitored his rivals second. In an age of complex-looking devices that intimidated users – remember how complicated it was to program a VCR? – he came up with something as profoundly simplistic as the iPod. It was just one in a long line of breakthrough products that uniquely defined Apple products as the most user-friendly and intuitive ones.
Rather than following in the wake of your competitors news and momentum, create your own waves by identifying ways for your organization to challenge the market. We’re accomplishing this here at our hi tech PR agency in many ways – all of which have contributed to our recent recognition as “Great Place to Work” here in the D.C. region. When we sit down with a client to come up with a total communications strategy – which involves the full range of blogs, podcasts, releases, social-media engagement and a host of other services – we’re not simply trying to mimic our rivals’ moves. We’re tapping upon the wealth of internal expertise we have on hand and coming up with a custom approach suited for each clients’ individual needs, instead of a cookie-cutter approach.
After all, in our industry, you want to establish clients as influential thought leaders, not followers. The surest way to do that is to create new paths instead of duplicating those taken by others.
Joyson Cherian is an account director at W2 Communications.