May 29th 2019

Don’t be revolutionary, be evolutionary

When creating a start-up, it can be difficult not to get sucked in by the associated language and buzzwords. You’re ‘making a change’, ‘doing things differently’, ‘revolutionising a concept’. The problem is: everyone else is too. Unless you’re doing something so completely different that there is literally no other company doing it, it is possible that you will be drowned out in the sea of noise that comes with shouting from the rooftops about your idea/product/solution.

A particular example comes to mind from the comedy programme, Silicon Valley. At the TechCrunch Disrupt event, every company is revolutionising their particular space. It’s hilarious, and a tragic indictment of what start-ups often believe they must sell themselves as being.

So, what to do? It might seem like a daunting task, competing for column space with hundreds of other companies. What if you’ve only just gotten your seed funding? You’re not even Series B right, so it’s going to be a ridiculous task of Sisyphean proportions. Untrue. Instead, it’s time to get back to basics.

Distil your message

And I don’t mean put what you do into three snappy sentences. Everyone knows what you do. It’s on your website. But aside from financial success, why do you do it? This is key. There are many companies, from start-ups to multinational corporations that have muddled messaging, and this is their problem. A muddled message cannot be easily understood. And if something isn’t understandable, how are you going to explain it? If your company made an app that connects restaurants with local people to sell leftover food at the end of service, are you going to say that? No; it’s about cutting down food waste, creating relationships with chefs and local communities, and enabling restaurants to make a bit more money. The app is great, but it doesn’t tell your story. Think about why you’re doing it in the first place.

Use your storytellers

Your message is now set. But there is a problem. Everyone needs a storyteller and you don’t quite have one. But never fear, more often than not this will be one of the founders, or the CEO. After accompanying a few CEOs over my few years in PR and marketing, they all share something in common: they can tell a good story, and adapt it for their audience. There is no point talking about JavaScript to someone at a business publication. You’ll tell them about your founding, the funding you have, your business strategy and what you’re aiming to get out of being in London. A story needs to be told, and it needs to come from the horse’s mouth. But what if you haven’t done this before?

Partner with someone

Cue: PR klaxon. Yes, it was coming to this, but there is a reason for it. Your company is aiming to sell its product to another company because you are an expert. So why are you relying on yourself to talk to media to get exposure, when that’s not your thing? A key thing for start-ups to remember is you can’t be experts in everything. It makes far more sense to hire someone to help you get your story out there, to the right people, at the right time. But be aware, this isn’t a one-and-done solution, this requires ongoing investment and time. You aren’t going to release one version of your app, right? There are going to be multiple versions and capability updates, so why do three months of PR only to leave it as it is? You’ve dedicated three months’ worth of communications budget, and probably hours of your time to this, leaving it now seems silly. Consistency is key, and this is where an expert partner comes in. Equally, you need a partner who will tell you when it is better to put money into PR or to put it into marketing; the two are not the same. If someone you approach for help does this, keep them in mind for the future – it may just be one of the best partnerships you make.

Don’t neglect the trade press

Everyone wants national coverage, and we get it. It’s prestigious, it’s an excellent result that brings happiness to both sides, business owners and PRs alike. However, whilst VCs and other investors may read these papers, more often than not you will be selling your B2B solution to an IT Director, or another C-suite bod. What do these people read? Yes, they read the nationals, but often they have an in-depth technical knowledge, and to keep that sharp they read what is going on at an industry level. This means the trade press. Engage with them, give them scoops, take them out to lunch – the rewards can be immense.

So, what now? Engage with some PR firms, get your message down pat, or let them help. If you have a morning spare and want to hear from journalists themselves on what they look for to cover a start-up in their articles, why not come to our event during London Tech Week, meet some of the Babel team, along with some other start-ups that may well be in the same situation as you.