Having started a startup practice at India’s largest public relations firm, way back in 2013, I was fortunate to work with many brilliant startups. They are very different from our regular clients and have a completely different outlook on how things work and how they want to communicate differently. They are fast, agile, want ROI on every buck spent, and the young founders are in a hurry to achieve recognition faster than incumbents. Having said that, learning becomes a two-way street, they learn something from us while we learn a lot more from them. With this post, I will try to share 7 things I learnt while servicing the new-age startups.

  1. There is no PR unless there is a good Product – Obvious, but in the cluttered startup ecosystem, the one thing that attracts influencers is the product. Unless the product is not ready with a loyal and happy customer base, the startup is not ready for PR. Few startups want PR early on, even when the product is not completely ready and few don’t think about PR even when the product has proved its worth, both approaches are wrong.
  2. Unified brand message – before you kick start PR, have a strong unified message addressed to each specific set of your target audience. Focusing on how the startup is solving their problem uniquely is important.
  3. One idea is never enough – Most startups start PR with one idea and soon lose steam. They need to continuously innovate to stay relevant and in the news.
  4. The idea has to be unique – being the first in the product category always help, the company will be seen as a thought leader and the media would love to take their opinion on the growth of the category and forth-coming trends. Example: Byju’s, Zerodha, Stockal, Oyo etc. Me too product will have to try harder to get the mind-space of the influencers. Startups need to identify their red ocean and work out a plan to cross the chasm if they are still part of the blue ocean.
  5. Build relationships with the influencers early on, without expectations helps – Startups should meet them, explain the product to them, and get them on board as early adopters. Seek their feedback on improvements in the product and implement the same. These influencers can be journalists tracking the domain, industry influencers, or even digital influencers.
  6. Community matters – You may not need to do PR or marketing from the very first day, but no one stops you from building your community of like-minded people, who can act as your sounding board and support group. One good example of building a $100 million startup utilizing the power of community is Fittr.
  7. Hire an expert to do PR, while startups can continue to focus on the product – trying to everything on their own can prove expensive later. Startups need to focus on their business objectives, product and their customers while bringing in experts to help with marketing and communications. Start small, learn and gradually scale up.

The above 7 are just the basics, startup founders have so much to teach us communicators, will cover few more interesting insights in subsequent articles. If you have any, please do comment below.