Scaling up: Evolving PR strategies for growing startups
In the dynamic world of business, startups can be visualised as young saplings, full of potential, aspiring to mature into towering oaks. Their journey from a fledgling idea to a robust enterprise is riddled with challenges and opportunities. Central to navigating this transformative journey is the role of Communications and Public Relations (PR). Far from being mere tools in the promotional toolkit, they serve as foundational elements underpinning success, facilitating growth, and ensuring that the brand message resonates with the intended audience.
The early days: Harnessing ingenuity
Every early-stage startup faces the daunting task of carving out its niche, establishing its services, and making its presence felt in an often crowded marketplace. These initial steps are crucial, setting the tone for future growth and market acceptance. However, despite their soaring ambitions and the pressing need to make an impact, many startups grapple with financial constraints. Traditional advertising and PR campaigns, with their associated costs, might be out of reach.
This is where the power of innovative PR comes into play, acting as the catalyst for growth. While these nascent companies might lack substantial financial resources, they are invariably rich in ingenuity, passion, and a drive to make a difference. There are numerous cost-effective ways to garner media attention and generate buzz. Guerrilla PR tactics, for instance, can create a significant impact without a hefty price tag. Directly engaging with journalists and bloggers, crafting compelling stories about the brand, and leveraging platforms like social media can amplify a brand's visibility without draining its resources.
Take the case of AirBnB, a company that now stands as a testament to the power of creative PR. In its formative years, AirBnB sidestepped traditional marketing avenues. Instead, it employed ingenious, cost-effective strategies to generate buzz and build a loyal user base. They harnessed the potential of user-generated content, coupled with compelling visuals, to narrate authentic stories and foster a sense of community. According to AirBnB, hosts equipped with professional photos can potentially earn up to 20% more than their counterparts. Their strategic use of social media, particularly through the hashtag #airbnb, cultivated a vibrant, engaged community around their brand, driving organic growth.
Thought leadership: Building trust and credibility
Central to any effective PR strategy, especially for startups, is the nurturing of thought leadership. By positioning key team members as industry experts and sharing unique insights, startups can cultivate trust and credibility not just with partners and investors, but also with their target audience. This strategy not only bridges the trust deficit inherent in new ventures but also propels sales and fosters loyalty.
Two instrumental avenues for establishing thought leadership are guest blogging and speaking engagements. Guest blogging on reputable platforms allows startups to disseminate their insights, showcase expertise, and reach a broader audience. Speaking engagements, on the other hand, offer a more personal touch. They allow startups to interact directly with potential clients, partners, and industry peers, forging valuable connections and positioning themselves as industry frontrunners.
Transition and transformation
As startups transition from early to mid-stage, they encounter a new set of challenges and complexities. The narrative and strategies that once served them in their infancy must evolve to address the demands of a burgeoning customer base, heightened competition, and the multifaceted challenges that accompany growth.
While some companies might instinctively seek to expand their PR teams in response to these challenges, a more nuanced approach might be in order. A lean, agile PR team, harnessing the power of technology, data analytics, and strategic partnerships, can be equally, if not more, effective. In this era of digital transformation, it's imperative for startups to set clear objectives, measure outcomes meticulously, and refine strategies based on tangible results.
DIY PR strategies, although effective in the initial stages, might not yield the same results as the company grows and the market landscape shifts. With an expanding customer base, heightened competition, and the diverse challenges accompanying growth, startups must recalibrate their PR efforts. Embracing content marketing, participating actively in industry events, fostering relationships with influencers, and leveraging emerging digital platforms become paramount.
Moreover, as PR strategies scale and become more intricate, collaboration across various internal departments becomes inevitable. Marketing, sales, product development, and customer service all play pivotal roles in shaping the brand narrative. However, it's essential to remember that a structured, cohesive approach doesn't necessarily require a vast team. What's crucial is a clear vision, strategic alignment, and the agility to adapt.
The journey of a startup is exhilarating, filled with highs and lows. As they evolve, so should their strategies, especially in the realm of PR. For startups poised for growth, it's not just about scaling operations but ensuring that their PR strategies are in tandem, resonating with their evolving brand ethos and market position.
Sanjida Tanny heads the Communications department at Wagely, a financial wellness startup. She was the former Lead Storyteller at ShopUp, a B2B commerce startup.