So I got an email this morning from a reporter wanting some quotes for a story on the upcoming conference. And like all good reporters, this one offered me an open invitation to trash the competition. After running it by the PR Department (that would be me), I’ll pass, thank you very much.
As a long-time freelance reporter, I know how much an editor loves a juicy quote that pits one business against another. One has only to look at recent headlines to see the kind of press that is generated when two major CEOs like Steve Jobs of Apple and Shantanu Naraye of Adobe slug it out in the public eye. And while free press is coveted by startups, weathering the ensuing storm from saying something underhanded about the competition doesn’t come quite as easily to the little guy as it does for the corporate giants.
Now don’t get me wrong. I checked out the competition. A lot. And I know the ways my company puts some of the others to shame and which ways they have a real jump on what I’m trying to achieve. And I have no problem detailing areas where we shine and where we need to grow. But what I won’t do is give an editor their headline for tomorrow before I ever have a chance to tell the story of my company through my words.
When I was writing about companies for the local newspaper, the most common question I was asked is if I would allow the company’s PR department to review my text before it was printed. And, of course, the answer was no. That’s not news – that’s PR. But I did understand their concerns. Reports skew things out of context, misunderstand a quote, or miss an important nuance within a quote all the time. Retractions correct those mistakes, but the article is still left intact with the inaccuracies living on in infamy on the internet long after the retraction is issued.
In fact, the anxiety of CEOs and Presidents about my story of their company helped me develop the suite of tools my company offers to businesses. I know how important it is to take control of the story, and my city guide app lets companies do just that. It isn’t what some travel guide decides is important about a business or even whether an editor thinks the business deserves the ink space. Through options like listings that start at $60/year, I made sure that companies put themselves in front of consumers in a way that they maintained control of their own message.
And so now I set about the task of carefully crafting a reply to a reporter that both answers the questions asked while avoiding the pitfalls of trashing the competition. I’ve run it by my PR Department, and the unanimous decision was a resounding no thank you.