In response to my last post that showed how Hilary Clinton's "Red Phone" ad is based on a common media sales technique, I got a question, "What should I do when I am on the receiving end of the "fear card" or similar attack?"
When a competitor attacks...say. "Thank you!" Often they have handed you a gun to shoot them with. Whether the attack is the "fear card" or another approach the steps to respond are they same. The bigger and grander the attack, the bigger the advantage has been handed to you.
First, get a document of the attack; a promotional brochure, email, web post etc. You will need it so you can go line by line as you counter it.
Second, Initially, you need to react emotionally. Why emotionally? Because if the "fear card" is emotional, and you cannot rationalized emotion away. If you respond without feeling, on some emotional level you are saying the fear or criticism is OK.
Also, at the heart of every successful media sale is the passion for what you sell. No passion, no sale. If you are passionate about your media and someone takes a shot at it, if you stay completely calm how genuine does that passion look? Don't display any anger that feels unnatural. Your reaction needs to be genuine you, no forced hysterics. I use a simple, "They said WHAT? Do you know how CRAZY that is? I can't believe they would tell you that!"
From the campaign trail, Bill Clinton has recently been ridiculed in the press for his "angry red faced finger wagging" responses to perceived attacks. He may look odd on on the news clips but his technique is sound. I fear that Barack Obama's cool response to some of Clinton's early attacks may not serve him well long term.
Third: ask about the damage. Ask if the "fear card" or criticism changed their attitude or raised concerns about your product. The "fear card" only sticks where they are doubts. Ask your client to share those doubts. Now, counter them.
Fourth: Now, respond to the doubts rationally. Take the print out of the attack and go line by line and show your side of the argument. You need to win over your client or, at the very least, prove that your side has at equal merit.
Fifth: Now, go offensive. Label your competitors approach as "sales technique" designed to manipulate feelings. No buyer likes to feel manipulated or played for a fool. Raise questions as to why a competitor might do this; desperation? Disrespect for the intelligence of the media buyer?
Sixth: Now, depending how well you have turned this around, see if you can't build some emotional resentment in your client from the attack. If you really have won over your client, ask, "Now that you can see the other point of view you can see how manipulative this was. (With a smile) How dumb to they think you must be to fall for this?"
No buyer likes to think of them selves as having been "had" by a manipulative sales attack. If you can win them back they will often harbor resentment for the competitor who initiated the attack and be suspicious of them for a long time.