Miller Brewing Company and Anheuser-Busch have long fought tenaciously over the US beer market, employing a wide variety of tactics. In 2006, Miller came up with a new idea: the firm hired a beer reporter named James Arndorfer to focus on Brew Blog, www.brewblog.com, to cover news in the beer industry, according to the Wall Street Journal front page article, “For All You Do, Bud, This Blog Is About You,” April 24, 2008.
While officially the site covers all beer competitors, Mr. Arndorfer tracks every detail he can find about chief rival Anheuser-Busch, blandly telling the WSJ, “They’re the industry leader. And they’ve been making a lot of news.”
The WSJ reported that, “In March, Mr. Arndorfer was rummaging through an online database when he noticed that Anheuser had received government approval for a Budweiser American Ale label. Breaking the news about the offering [in March 2008], he evoked recent Anheuser ads that disparaged ale-style craft beers.”
“Trade publications and Anheuser’s hometown paper quickly chased the scoop.”
The blog allows Miller to control the spin on news about its rivals while usually, but not always, reporting positively on Mr. Arndorfer’s employer Miller to maintain creditability.
“’They are trying to aggressively go around the gatekeepers’ in newsrooms and the trade press, says Stephen Quigley, an associate professor of public relations at Boston University. ‘It’s something you couldn’t do five years ago,’ before the proliferations of blogs.”
Some companies have been using competitive information in their publicity for years--I’ve done the research for many of these campaigns—but more should be since the practice allows firms to:
• Position its products and/or services more favorably against those of rivals
• Be more specific in claims for its products against those of rivals
• Plants seeds of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about competitors
So go have a Miller beer with co-workers and brainstorm about how your organization can more effectively leverage competitive intelligence in communications campaigns.