Launching a start-up?

Bristol, London, Swansea and the Cotswolds – some of us at purplefish have been on the road recently meeting lots of start-up companies wanting PR, social media and brand communications.

Some of the companies we’ve seen are internet businesses, some are not. Having worked through the dotcom boom (and bust) and launched a fair number of start-ups, I thought it might be useful to share a few ideas I’ve collected from entrepreneurs and investors along the way.

I’ve also thrown in some PR and communications advice of things to think about when engaging online and offline media.

Off the top of my head, here’s ten tips:

  • Build you audience – Many internet companies use a free model to give online customers a free service or product to build their audience and then sell premium rate versions or sell advertising as their revenue stream. If you follow this model you need big impactful communications campaigns that will reach masses of people or a product or service that is “shareworthy” in its design.
  • Concentrate on your sales – If you are selling a product or service, then sell it as best you can. PR can raise awareness, interest and desire for a new company, product or service but it needs to work in conjunction with other sales and marketing tactics to drive action or sales. PR can drive people to your sales channels through media coverage but it needs support from a slick sales process to make sure the awareness translates to sales.
  • Investors like successful online sectors – A company that has a big audience or profitable sales in a known category where there is a scaleable opportunity will attract investment. Having worked with a number of tech investors, they like to invest in businesses that will disrupt an already successful sector or benefit from the scale of opportunity – for example, music, travel or gaming.
  • Investors invest in people – It doesn’t matter if some of your previous ideas have failed; in fact that can be a benefit. Investors look at the management team in place and whether they are the right people to drive the company’s growth and make it successful. Will the management listen to advice and take it on board or make tough decisions when needed? From a communications perspective we would add, will the CEO or key spokespeople (and business idea) stand up in front of a national journalist. One-to-one interviews with an influential journalist often give great insight into whether the business leader and their idea will work or fail.
  • Investors read trade media – National media coverage makes everyone feel great and verified if working in a new business but many investors read trade sector media religiously to see who are the companies gaining most mentions. Consistent and ongoing media mentions in your trade media is key but it’s not always easier to attain week in, week out. You need enough news or reasons to talk to journalists to maintain momentum or a great PR agency!
  • Make sure you feature in special reports – Trade media titles usually publish one or two special reports each year focusing on a business area e.g. digital strategy. As these reports are offline, supported by advertising and so nicely designed, they hang around on people’s desks for longer, so try and get into them.
  • Surround yourself with clever and diverse people –  Often heads of business are inspirational but they also have egos. Everyone likes to be told they are doing a great job but don’t surround yourself with yes men or women. You need people that have different views to yours and will challenge your ideas to make the business more successful. This should extend to your network of contacts too.
  • Choose the right awards – Another thing that makes everyone in a new business feel good is winning awards. Investors like awards but you don’t need a dozen each year. Concentrate on the most respected in your industry and go all out to win them.
  • Maintain momentum post launch – Many people like to invest in a PR campaign to launch their company or new product, which is great for us! But plan for how you will maintain the relationships you build with key journalists and bloggers after the launch. There’s no point investing all your time and effort at launch to have a big splash with no follow up. Remember investors like regular ongoing mentions in the trade media to know the company is serious and committed.
  • Build a team of spokespeople – When starting out as a new business often the fantastic idea will be from one or two founders. Founders are usually charismatic and know the business or idea inside out. They will be happy to provide the first media interviews but as the company grows investors want to see that there’s other smart people working alongside you. Plus preparing and attending interviews takes time. Make sure you build a team of spokespeople that demonstrate the scale of the business and intellectual capital. You also appear bigger and may bring in bigger customers as a result.

These are a few ideas to spark some thoughts if you are starting a business, launching a start-up or looking for investment. And if you’d like to discuss your PR, social and brand communications further just give us a call or drop us a line: