On the radio yesterday was a senator talking about a bill he was sponsoring in the Ohio senate. Since the DJs on the station I listen to in the morning know everyone, they tend not to repeat peopleâ€™s names much so I donâ€™t know who he was and heâ€™s probably glad right now. The bill is to prevent TV and radio stations from playing 911 tapes. Period. Thatâ€™s it. They are still a matter of public record and anyone can check them out if they follow the rules.
Iâ€™m not interested in discussing the merits of the bill, but how he presented â€“ or marketed â€“ this particular issue. He started out just fine. Stated what it was about and that the reason it was important was because, according to his sources, people do not report crimes to 911 because the recordings may be heard through the media. The DJs questioned this pretty strongly because the information is still available as public record so was it really the media coverage that caused the problem? Now here is someone who obviously felt strongly about his cause, but couldnâ€™t articulate his arguments. First he said if a person is worried about retaliation, they are less likely to report a crime. In fact, a professor at a local school reported a crime and that night received a call from a group of people calling from the front yard of his apartment building to let him know they knew who he was and that he made the call. The bill-sponsor was then asked if the individual a. reported that incident (no) and b. was his 911 tape played through the media somewhere? (no). So that lost his point.
He then went on to say that â€œsmart defense attorneysâ€ get the 911 calls, give the information to their clients and then the clientâ€™s friends make sure the witness wonâ€™t testify. So now, not only did he not persuade a voter in this state that he is spending his time wisely, but went on to insult every defense attorney in the state of Ohio! I donâ€™t know many defense attorneys, but I am willing to bet many of them are very good people who would never intentionally put someone in harmâ€™s way. To say that â€œsmartâ€ defense attorneys do this, was just completely upsetting to me. And thereby absolutely lost any hope of me paying attention to his cause, argument or probably things he says in the future.
So where did he go wrong? First, he didnâ€™t understand the problem his â€œproductâ€ was solving well enough. He clearly wanted to solve a bigger problem but his product doesnâ€™t do that so he came off foolish at best. Second, he bashed someone else in a very broad stroke. Weâ€™ve all heard â€œdonâ€™t bash your competitionâ€ but it is an easy thing to do. If he hadnâ€™t made all defense attorneys out to be bad people, I would have tried to listen to him more. Third, while he did a gutsy thing going to the media to help raise awareness for his cause, he wasnâ€™t prepared for them to be a little defensive about it and ask the tough questions. He seemed caught off guard that they were concerned.
And now the lessons â€“ first, know the exact problems your product solves. If you solve just a small piece of a bigger issue, know that up front and be ready to answer why you canâ€™t address the rest (in this case, the Constitution is a great fall back for why his bill doesnâ€™t address bigger issues). Second, DONâ€™T BASH YOUR COMPETITION. It is just tacky! Not to mention you donâ€™t know who knows whom, what they think of your competition or what they think of you. If a customer does it, they are welcome to do so and thank them for the information. But donâ€™t jump on that bandwagon. It isnâ€™t going anywhere good. Finally, know your audience. When you are talking to someone, know what their company does and how. Understand their industry. Donâ€™t just go in and figure theyâ€™ll see the benefit without doing your research. And remember, everything can be a marketing opportunity!