Keeping an eye on the competition

January 11 2019

So, how do you keep an eye on your competitors?


One of the best and easiest ways to keep watch is to audit your competitors’ communications. It requires you (or your agency) to keep an eye on (as well as an ear out) for what they are saying.

The right places to look and listen include their web sites, social channels, podcasts, blogs, annual reports, newsletters, media coverage, advertising, community partnerships and investor updates.

You will be auditing key messages, share of voice and levels of engagement. If their communications are in-sync with their corporate strategy you’ll glean insights into their strategic positioning and core messages.

Better still, you’ll be able to compare the uniqueness of your own voice and position in the market.

Often communications audits are considered to be an internal stocktake of a company’s actions and outputs. Yet, a competitive audit/analysis (such as this example from our San Francisco agency, Landis Communications) is an outward-looking check on your competitors.

An analysis of the findings can tell you as much about your company as it does your competitors.

So, what are a few tips for using a communications audit to seize a competitive advantage?

  1. Identify the competitors which are worth watching

Companies come in all shapes and sizes. Be prepared to rank and audit competitors which hold a variety of insights, representative of your market e.g. leaders, followers, innovators

2. Agree the traits, metrics for comparative analysis

Ask yourself what measures of comparison resonate with your people: message vs promise, tone vs noise, engagement vs reach, influence vs impact. Agree which are the most salient.

3. Select the media, channels (and analytics) to watch

Start with the low-hanging fruit. A scan of the most accessible channels e.g. social media, web sites and blogs is the first step. Use the analytics on each platform to collate the data.

 4. Check what messages people are actually hearing

Message received is not the same as message sent. So, if the budget and time permit, ask your audience what they hear and see in your competitors’ communications (and yours).

 5. Think visually when it’s time to share the findings

A picture paints a thousand words. More people will grasp the meaning in the data if it is analysed and presented using diagrams, graphs, word clouds and/or x-y axis, for example.

So, when is the right time to do a competitive communications audit?

In our work as an agency which specialises in sustainability communications, keeping an eye on our clients’ competition is an essential part of a materiality test. In sustainability circles it’s part of what’s called a “peer review”. It happens every three to five years, as part of a company’s strategic planning cycle.

If you’ve not used a communications audit to keep an eye on your competitors, do one in 2019.

There’s a size of competitive communications audit to match every budget. From a minor desktop audit that reviews online communications to a major review that incorporates qualitative research.

The first step is to contact your trusted communications advisor. Hopefully, they’re a PRGN member.


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