PR do or die for Foursquare

Today at approximately 4:30 PST,  Foursquare will experience what hundreds of other start-ups have endured — an announcement by the market gorilla that they are entering your space.

Yesterday TechCrunch looked at whether Foursquare can survive Facebook’s expected announcement of location services:

So Foursquare is dead, right? Don’t count on it.

As we’ve been saying for months, it seems highly likely the Facebook is going to take a platform approach to location. That is, they’re more likely to federate other location streams (such as Foursquare’s) while they themselves remain fairly cautious with their own location services. You can probably expect a bare-bones check-in functionality on their mobile apps (as we spotted months ago).

That possibly gives Foursquare some breathing room. But unless Facebook has given Foursquare a preview into what they are announcing, Foursquare is left in the tough position of preparing to communicate its story without truly knowing what it is communicating against.

It’s not that unusual a communications challenge, but it does take preparation and good, strategic planning. If Foursquare has been doing the right prep work it has already done some of these steps, all of which I would have recommended:

  1. Envisioning every scenario and coming up with messaging points that can pulled together quickly into a statement. Foursquare looks like they may see a point to push around privacy.
  2. Do some selected preliminary meetings with media before the announcement to reinforce Foursquare’s value. They’ve already done this one.
  3. Do a round of briefings with all relevant media and bloggers to ensure they are up-to-date with Foursquare’s business and market strengths.
  4. Do touchbases with industry analysts most likely to comment on the Facebook announcement to ensure they are up-to-date on Foursquare. Sometimes these analysts have been pre-briefed on the gorilla’s announcement. While they are under NDA, they will have had a chance to digest the news a bit so ensuring you’re part of that digestion process is crucial.
  5. Have third-party spokespeople including financial analysts and investors aligned with your intererests lined up to speak to media, bloggers and analysts.

There are other things they’ll have done or will do, of course, but these are some of the key ones.

Anytime Facebook makes an announcement it is news, but in this case Foursquare is part of the reason for the news. By using the interest before the announcement to shore up their story and then leveraging the actual announcement, Foursquare may generate more awareness than it has to date.

This strategy is one any company can use. When I was working with an emerging leader in the storage space, we regularly leveraged imminent announcements by the market’s gorillas. By being proactive we were able to insert ourselves into the speculative stories and the news stories. And then we would go back and generate a new round of reaction stories.

 

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