Monday, September 30, 2002

Competitors who push the limits

Q. What is the best response to a competitor that is promoting the fact that Medicare patients "usually bear no out-of-pocket costs for power wheelchairs" and promotes this fact aggressively through public relations activities?

A.While there should be a level playing field in the Medicare market, there are some competitors that push the limits of the level playing field. It is up to individual companies in a particular market to identify these activities then plan two strategies. The first strategy is to contact the Office of Inspector General (OIG) if you either suspect an activity is not legal or you wish to gain information on the activity in question. The OIG is the investigational arm of the federal government. They are very open to information regarding potential activities that do not meet federal statutes. The second strategy is to plan a counter public relations strategy. It is often helpful to engage a public relations expert to assist with this effort. There are some excellent public relations companies and individual in the U.S. who handle these efforts. Review the competitor's public relations activities then develop a counter strategy that will fit your needs and budget. Public relations are often focused around a particular event or message that you want to get to the public. There are numerous ways to get a message out to the market. These include developing a press release and sending it to print, radio and television media and a wide variety of joint promotional efforts with community groups that may have their own public relations activities. As with all marketing strategies, the response to a competitor requires some thought and strategy development and a commitment to its implementation.

Alison Cherney is president of Cherney & Associates in Brentwood, Tenn. Reach her at (615) 776-3399.