TAMPA, FLORIDA – Good writers are like Pavlov’s dogs when it comes to a great story idea – they get so excited about sharing the news, they can taste it.
As a writer, there are few things more disappointing than having a client tell me about something phenomenal they’re doing that would create a favorable opinion in a potential customer’s eyes, only to have them say, “But don’t write about that – we don’t want our competitors to know what we’re doing.”
Writing about what our clients are doing is the cornerstone of Millionairium’s work to increase ranking for those clients. Our clients’ articles and press releases primarily are written for their websites and distribution sites. They serve a couple of purposes: we want them to be educational for readers, and we want them to improve our clients’ organic SEO.
Using these assignments to improve SEO is easy. They will look good to search engines as long as the content is original and the keywords are there. But for them to attract a human’s attention, they must be engaging, interesting, helpful or newsworthy.
Sometimes the most interesting and newsworthy information happening in clients’ businesses is the very information they hold close to the vest, for fear of their competitors finding out and replicating their ideas.
I recently reached out to two leaders in the public relations field to get their opinions on this misguided belief that stating publicly what you do and how you do it harms you and empowers your competition.
“Any time anyone says to me ‘my competition is going to find out,’ they have to understand no one gives a crap about that they do,” says the always-candid Richard Laermer, CEO of RLM Public Relations and author of eight books. “You could be curing cancer and no one is paying attention.”
The reason? Most people are so self-absorbed today, Woody Allen needs to rewrite his classic line to: “80 percent of success is just showing off.”
The days of the competition watching you like a hawk and attempting to replicate what you’re doing are over, Laermer says. We live in a much faster paced world. First movers get the credit. Even if another person steals the idea, they’re likely to be laughed at for stealing. That’s because people are savvier today.
Fear of competition results in shortsighted thinking. It limits how much a company reaches, educates, shares and engages with its own customers, says Deirdre Breakenridge, an author and CEO of Pure Performance Communications, a strategic communications and consulting firm in New York.
Trying to hide the specifics of your marketing efforts is an exercise in futility. The competition can easily find information about you.
“They just have to use competitive intelligence and analysis, and listen to what people are saying,” Breakenridge says. “The fear of ‘don’t do this because others will catch on’ just means you’re losing market share.”
Some business owners like to argue that because they’re in a small town and it’s easier to find out what the competition is doing to market themselves, it’s even more imperative to not go public with what they’re doing. Wrong. The damage you cause by withholding information is the same whether you’re a small company or a large one, and whether you’re in a small town or a big city.
To use a large company as an example, Breakenridge asks, “Can you imagine if Pepsi did the whole Refresh Project but didn’t tell anyone why they were doing it?”
Addressing the “why” and “how” in a press release are important because they often become the most interesting parts of the story. Writing a press release on the fact that your business recently donated toys to a nonprofit organization that caters to children but not explaining why, or sharing that you chose the organization based on a contest you held is silly. No purpose is served by being elusive.
“It’s not like you’re sharing proprietary information,” Breakenridge says. “I think there’s a big difference between a food company giving recipes and helpful ways to use its product, versus sharing what is in your secret sauce.”
And if your competitor sees what you’re doing and replicates your program, so what? Now multiple nonprofit organizations benefit. Isn’t the purpose of your community outreach efforts to help the community? In the event that it’s important to you, trust me – people eventually will figure out who did it first.
Here’s the truth: as a business owner, you need to have faith in what you do. You need to do it – whatever “it” may be – better than anyone else. When you’re the one doing it first and in a heartfelt manner, the competition – even if they had a roadmap – isn’t likely to do it better than you.