One of the biggest mistakes most start-ups do is ignoring the need for early communications with their publics. The result is a knee-jerk reaction at an advanced stage when they realise they need some media attention. The reality is that Start-ups need support from as many avenues they can, more so from the fourth estate.
Most often, PR is defined as ‘media gateway’ alone instead of a comprehensive communication strategy partner. Most start-ups are too focussed towards building their business and PR falls low on their list of priorities since the results of this function are not tangible. As a result, communications and PR become a function of their budgets, which invariably fall short as this is low on their list of priorities and hence no budgets are allotted for the same.
Start-ups also do not identify the need for communications in their early days. Needless to say, this can prove more harmful in the long run. In the case of the former instance – some beliefs need to be debunked – that having a communications function can be ‘prohibitively expensive’.
It needs to be understood that PR yields much higher ROI over a period of time than many other marketing tools can. A quality PR campaign can help position the company correctly, create more awareness and help build its brand equity from the start. Plus, having an active dialogue with editorials in media outlets brings in an irreplaceable trust factor and third party validation. The fact that these results are not as tangible as other marketing tools can deliver is also the reason start-up company heads do not consider PR a priority exercise. But it is a priority and the advice here is to start small, with limited objectives to drive certain short term and long term goals.
PR is not about number of exposures, or placements; it is about directing the voice of your company and finding your share of voice in your markets. Your communication must be clear, must identify with your end users, while at the same time being differentiated from your competitors.
While entering crowded markets, start-ups need to be able to show why they are better. If it’s a disruptive company, and is going to change huge things, then they need to get out there ahead fast. There can be no ‘one size fits all’ plan in the PR & Communications field. There can be no single effective turnkey media strategy for any entity, which also emphasises the need for an early communication strategy to be in place.
Start-ups need to ask themselves questions like – Is the goal to attract a lot of customers or users? Do you want to raise more capital or VC interest? Is there a need to attract good talent? These will shape your approach and your story. Different goals usually mean you need to go after different outlets, stick to one overriding key message that is tweaked to appeal to different outlets.
Dozens of start-ups launch each day and journalists are bombarded with pitches every day. Many of these fail every day as well. Hence, the media is sceptical about who they want to cover. Nobody will want to write about companies that are here today and gone tomorrow. Effective media attention can be gained only after the company has enough to talk about. But getting the company in the media mindspace is what your PR partner can do.
It is vital to have a realistic view of PR. There are a lot of people, who think PR is a ticket to getting thousands of customers at launch, and they couldn’t be more wrong. It isn’t the media’s job to get you sales or a customer base; it’s their job to tell their readers a compelling story.
(This article was first published in Small Enterprise magazine – March Edition)