Startups 101: Thinking about your communications strategy

26 Mar

This may or may not be the first in a series of posts distilling various lessons I’ve learnt while working on various projects, etc

I’ve spoken to several people recently who are in the process of setting up their own companies. Some of these small businesses have already attracted quite a lot of press and attention; others are deep in stealth mode.

But almost all of the founders and co-founders have either hired or are considering retaining the services of a PR firm or professional. Whether such a move is the best use of cash for a small company may be the subject of another post, but I’d argue that no one should even think about ‘PR’ until s/he can answer the following questions:

1 – How will you define and articulate your company’s ‘voice’ across different platforms?

2 – How will you effectively use those platforms to achieve particular goals and reach a desired audience? What are your benchmarks for success?

3 – How will you ensure you are consistent in terms of the substance of the messaging (“what do you want people to think of when they think of your company?”), if not necessarily the style?

4 – What’s your voice (or indeed, your brand)? Are you snarky, wry, post-hipster? Funny, witty, sarcastic?

5 – How will you engage with your audience? Who is your audience? Why? How big is that audience? What do they care about? Why should they care about you?

6 – Who will you follow? Will you follow everyone who follows you?

7 – Will you be blogging? If so, what about? How often?

7a – Will you allow comments on your blogs? Will these be moderated? Will you be replying to comments?

8 – Will you be on Tumblr? Why?

9 – Will you be on Facebook? Why?

10 – What’s your colour scheme? What’s your aesthetic – design-y? Tech-y? Arts-y? Etsy?

11 – Will you post videos, or mostly quotes? Are animated gifs a thing for you? Can you haz cheezburger?

12 – What are the issues you care about? How will you tackle these?

13 – Who will be running the comms on each of your chosen platforms? Will you have one “official” account or will you allow members of your team to “represent” you? If you have one official account, who will have posting rights? Will you be taking a real-time or moderated/edited approach?

14 – What do you want people to talk about when they talk about you? What do you want people to think about when they think about you? What are your key messages?

15 – Do you want to highlight invididuals, causes or just “the brand”?

16 – Who gets to go on TV? Who gets to do panels? Who has the final say in whether something is “on-message” or not?

17 – How will you deal with criticism and feedback? How will you deal with a crisis or a public backlash?

These aren’t questions anyone outside your company can or should answer for you; they have to come from the founders and the founding team. And they have to be discussed, debated and then applied, consistently.

So, what’s your communications strategy?

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