"What do we do when the media calls and wants a story about all the crap that is happening in our market/industry? Or when a blogger emails and says our competitors are bad-mouthing our startup?"
That is going to happen to your startup, so get prepared. Here are some tips from serial entrepreneurs who have fought media wars and won.
Try this: You conduct a media war by getting a convincing message (which is newsworthy) to the media. Your customers read the media reports and thus receive a (more) believable story (than what they hear from your competition).
If you divert your basic message (of your positioning) by reacting to sudden industry and basic economic blips and burps (sounds of competitors attacking or drowning; recession continuing), you will confuse the media ("What is the story I should write about YourCo?").
Positioning messages that are attempted with messages like "We are great, they are lousy" fail because they are not newsworthy. Complaints are boring. People are tired of complainers. Even if the facts warrant complaining. A story about a complaining company does not sell to the readers and thus neither does it sell (the media company’s) advertising.
The glass-half-full opportunity for YourCo lies in being creative about how to stand above the mud and mess. That is positive and begs the question "How do they do it?" (That lets YourCo remain clean that while others are up to their ears in muddy messes they created). That is the opening for the positive story (without trashing your competition).
Your job is to tell YourCo's stories of mostly (don't get arrogant) clean work that has brought the company great progress, because of how well you executed A + B + C (the basics of what makes up your marketing message, i.e. your positioning statement). This enables you to put industry phenomena into context, speaking in response to media questions about the latest flames in the industry, with a story that reinforces the basic positioning message of YourCo.
BOTTOM LINE: Stay focused on your positioning messaging. Use industry messes and competitive misinformation as opportunities to get the media to carry your basic message. Take credit for executing well during the crazy times. Give the bloggers a story about something positive. Deliver the glass half full because you executed very well your basic strategy (positioning). That is how you reinforce your company's unfair advantage.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!