Ten reasons why your competitor is getting more coverage than you

Companies get different amounts of media coverage. For everyone but the top dog this is a cause of frustration. Normally that frustration earths itself in the PR department. Questions are asked – what is the source of this injustice? Well, here are ten to start with:

1. It doesn’t have to be fair – Media interest in a company does not have to reflect commercial success, technical innovation, charisma, managerial excellence or track record. Your widget may indeed be better, but the media is not duty bound to reflect that. That’s no its mandate or raison d’etre. You’re making a mistake if you think all press coverage must be objective in tone and volume, and that an injustice has been done to you if you’re not getting your share.

2. Fortunes wax and wane – there will be times when you get more coverage than your competitors. Around a big announcement for instance. At other times, when they have the news, it’ll be their turn to shine. Don’t compare your trough with their peak – take an average over time, say six months to a year.

3. Some companies are bigger than others – the bigger the company, the more news it will have in general. There’s just more going on. David shouldn’t complain that Goliath’s clothes don’t fit. Now, I don’t mean a small company can’t get a disproportionate amount of press attention. Far from it. But recognize that has to be the exception not the rule.

4. Some companies are better than others – this is a hard admission, I know, but regretfully some companies are just better than others. They have a better product, they’re more organized, they have a sharper message, better spokespeople. Sometimes your competitor kicks your butt in sales because it’s faster, cheaper, better. Same in PR. Leaving the Kool Aid behind, in the cold light of day – are you really as good as them?

5. Some companies put more effort into PR than others – all things being equal, your competitor may win the PR war if they simply allocate more resources to the program. More staff, more PR spend, greater attention, more commitment, a higher priority. If they do that, they should get more coverage. If you do it, so should you. Do you know what their PR spend is for instance?

6. They started sooner – as a rule, you’ll get more coverage in your second year of a PR program than the first, and for every year thereafter as your profile increases. In the PR race, some companies start their investment earlier than others (perhaps they were founded 12 months prior) and so they reap the rewards of those efforts. Not to say you can’t catch up, but just recognize the race didn’t start under the same starting gun.

7. They have a press magnet – regardless of corporate performance, some people are more press-friendly than others. There are people who naturally use soundbites, are personable, have vision, are great connectors, make themselves available and just have that ‘it factor’. If your competitor has someone like this – try to poach them and you’ll win that magnetism. Meantime, recognize that this is as much about the person, as the company. And congrats to your competitor for hiring them.

8. Your message is wrong – you might have all the ingredients of a great campaign, but you’re firing blanks. Take a look at the press releases, pitches, web site – does it resonate with what the media is looking for? Are you current? Are you giving the media what they want or just what you want them to hear? A good indicator of a problem here is if the interviews you hold, don’t ink. You’ve got the opps, but you’re missing the target.

9. Your mechanism is wrong – it could be that you’re saying the right thing, but in the wrong way to the wrong people. The PR engine may be misfiring. Take a look at how long it takes to get a press release written, approved and out the door. If you’re looking at more than a week, including the icy finger of legal review, that’s a warning sign. Ditto for arranging press interviews – if you’re not booking them sameday and then find you repeatedly re-arrange, that’s a problem. Your PR engine is generating heat, not light.

10. Your team is wrong – some PR departments are better than others, some agencies are better. It could be that you have the wrong team implementing the right program. If your competitor has a better agency, and all else is equal, they’ll win. Thankfully the signs here are fairly clear in terms of understanding, speed of response, accuracy, availability, team churn, media contacts, and quality of counsel. This is often the starting point when there’s an issue. Sometimes, the cause is right there, but sometimes, it’s worth looking a little deeper – even if that’s uncomfortable.