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Flying Under the Radar: A Great Way to Crash and Burn

This article is part of a series of writings excerpted from The Authentic Brand by Chris Rosica. It explores, in depth, how authenticity impacts awareness, credibility, reputation, and brand perception for B2B, B2C, and nonprofit organizations. 

While some organizations understand the power and benefits of proactive marketing, PR, and storytelling – others keep their good work and good news a secret. Chapter 6 of The Authentic Brand, aptly titled “Flying Under the Radar, a Great Way to Crash and Burn,” speaks to that. Here are some highlights… 

Through the years, we have met with and counseled countless executives, at for-profit and nonprofit organizations, who wanted to improve their businesses and gain a competitive advantage. However, when discussing their business and marketing goals, a good deal of them told us that they were reluctant to share their successes, that they’d prefer to stay under the radar. This was even though each had unambiguous, newsworthy differentiators that set them apart from their competitors.  

Despite the fact that these folks met with our public relations agency, whose mission is to disseminate a client’s most compelling attributes, they were fearful that someone would steal their ideas, gain trade secrets that could be used against them, or try to knock them off. We certainly understand the genuine need to safeguard proprietary technologies, and business practices. However, as Jerry Baldwin, co-founder of Starbucks, shared with me, “You don’t want to get shot down [flying under the radar]. There are probably some businesses, especially in the tech field, where you want to get the product established and trademarked before the competition does. Coffee and tea are in the public domain. For us, execution [and telling our story] is everything.” 

However, if a product or service is ready to be sold and a distribution plan is in place, why not get it out there and own a category in the minds of your potential customers? I asked David Neeleman of JetBlue how he would calm the fears of someone who was inclined to fly under the radar.  

“I can go only by my own experience, and it would be pretty hard for me to consider flying under the radar. I’m very well aware that there are predatory competitors that are willing to do just about anything to knock you out of business. However, in the airline business, the most successful companies, such as Southwest Airlines, are quite open about what they are doing.” 

Neeleman is a believer in the idea that one dictates his/her own success. You can worry only so much about what a competitor might do. From our experience working with a wide array of product and service companies since 1980, it is clear that the ones that speak to their customers’ intelligence—and speak loudly—are the ones that command a premium for the extraordinary value they deliver. In fact, we are recurrently perplexed when we meet with a company that wants to compete on price alone. Flying under the radar is something that should not be practiced by the overwhelming majority of organizations today. 

Look for more excerpts fromThe Authentic Brand  and The Business of Cause Marketing  by Chris Rosica on our blog in the coming weeks.  

Chris is president of Rosica Communications, an award-winning national PR, digital marketing, and integrated marketing communications agency that specializes in the nonprofit, education, and healthcare sectors.