In the article, there were a few start-ups that spoke badly on Google – which brings me to the first lesson in public relations: never speak badly about competition in the press.
Public relations is about taking the high ground. You want to present your company and yourself in the highest light possible, showing that you are above the board and above the fray of petty fighting. Many, many times, when I was in-house public relations, I would have a reporter try to bait me in saying that a competitor’s products were worse than my company’s products, or something that would make for good fodder to create a press generated fight, that would make for a few good articles. Did I believe my company’s products were better, that we had a better Website, etc? Of course, and I would be able to get that message across … with customer references, or reviews. I did not need to go out and make negative comments about the competition to prove that we were a better company and service.
That’s what is suprising about the NY Times article – here are potential acquisition targets of Google, potential customers of Google, potential partners of Google complaining about … Google. It reminds me of the times that Netscape would complain that Microsoft was evil, and look what good that did that company.
This was also driven home with a post on Bob Parson’s blog, where he refutes, disagrees and tears apart a competitor’s interview in News.com. It’s an interesting strategy, but makes me wonder what the PR strategy was behind the blog post. Yes, Network Solutions is one of the original URL registration company, has new owners, and is making a great push into the business. The company has a long history in the business, and for us older Web people, it has that cache as the original register.
Why was this a bad PR strategy? Well, Parsons just brought Network Solutions to the attention of his blog readers, and possibly radio show if he’s going to talk about the post. Why speak about the competition? Why write about the competition? It’s not about the competition, it’s about why your company/client/product is better, with no real need to mention the competition. By bringing up the competition, you are bringing attention to the competition.
Concentrate on your business and company when you are being interviewed, pass on stories that are going to be hatchet pieces to keep above the fray. That’s the best use of your PR budget and time.