Risky Business: How to Win at PR Against a Giant Competitor
This question comes up frequently among our clients. Suppose your product outclasses a giant industry leader such as Google or Facebook in a highly visible way. Now what? How to win at PR against a giant competitor?
As Soon as You’re Finished Cheering, You Face Uncomfortable Thoughts
- “We should shout this from the rooftops, right?”
- “Maybe [mega vendor] will want to acquire us!”
- “But what if we don’t want to be acquired?”
- “What if our PR gets [Google, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram] so angry they squash us out like a gnat?”
Here’s an example (unrelated to our own accounts) that can provide some detail. Russian developer Artem Kuharenko founded NTechLab in 2015 to create Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms “as intelligent as humans and efficient as machines.” Shortly after launch, they went head to head with Google and around 100 other competitors in the University of Washington’s MegaFace Challenge. They won. So what should they do for PR?
You should handle PR against a giant contender with care.
The valuable benefits of NTechLab’s FindFace.PRO and other developing forms of AI are seemingly limitless (and more than a little scary). Already in use at a growing number of airports, facial recognition technology allows e-passport holders to cross borders more easily and safely. With an accuracy rate of more than 99%, nTechLab is eliminating the risk of travelers with fake e-passports. As the technology becomes more widely adopted, it could make traditional paper travel documents a thing of the past.
Facial recognition is a boon to retailers such as Walmart and Saks, who now use the technology to catch shoplifters in action by matching their faces against database footage and tracking suspicious customers. In an increasing number of cases, retailers are using facial recognition technology to track in-store behavior to improve the user experience as well.
Whether you like it or not as a consumer, retailers can use facial recognition to create a profile of your buying preferences, “dwell times” (how long you spend looking at certain items) and repeat purchases to help them target offers specifically to you. It gives traditional retailers a chance to excel against online shopping sites with an even more personalized experience, both in-store and out.
What This Means for PR
- Mitigate the risks. Perhaps “less PR is more” in a situation where excellent results from a seemingly small and recent newcomer could tempt a well-funded competitor to copy or steal what you’ve got. Generally, the right time for PR is when you are within 30 days of product delivery, or can at least accept and fulfill an order within an agreed-upon date. For B2B innovation, it might be best to unveil yourself in a full implementation with a significant partner, letting their established customer base and marketing help to propel and validate your PR results.
- Turn the negatives in your favor. For some consumers, for example, the thought of facial recognition analyzing their shopping behavior without a chance to opt out is a frightening thing. Be sure to recognize and offset fears your product may create in your communication. Emphasize the increased safety, better efficiency, better deals, and results you’ll receive. Point out the increased ability to protect a child or prevent an abduction. Single out the ways for consumers to be in the know that allow them to protect their privacy in the ways that matter to them.
- Organic PR is a plus. For a company like nTechLabs, a hackathon or challenge is an ideal opportunity to produce natural attention that they didn’t have to chase the publications to seek. Leverage and share this kind of PR when it happens, increasing the opportunity for investors and partners to be coming to you.
- Align instead of fight with big brands. Acknowledge the major brands for giving attention and validation to an emerging technology instead of knocking them for an inferior result. Point out the advantages you bring to the market as a small and focused team instead of a behemoth vendor. Remember that every time your name is mentioned with a brand like Facebook or Google you are garnering SEO and PR benefits as long as your technology and strategy stands up to your PR claims. Instead of fearing the supersize organizations, learn to welcome and leverage these synergistic results.
- Enjoy the position of underdog while you can. While you shouldn’t overuse this status, remember that reporters and readers are accustomed to seeing the largest vendors being glorified so often they are primed to prefer the little-known alternative that can produce an unexpectedly better result. For example, when Google and Microsoft were locked in bitter wars to protect their territory, it was a small and little-known company that allowed the Outlook and Gmail environments to integrate and converse. It was this that got the smaller company, Cemaphore, into the New York Times and spurred investor attention that ultimately got the company acquired, without having to go up against or criticize either of the larger industry players.
Now, going up against a big competitor doesn’t have to be a suicide mission, and nTechLabs proves that you can use this position in the industry to your advantage. For a winning PR outcome, focus on the value proposition you bring to the market instead of railing about the challenge of having an unbeatable foe. And always remember to look for ways to be visible while being your best.