Messaging through PR is imperative in the start-up ecosystem

Since the pandemic hit, it was clear that there will be unforeseen challenges across sectors. However, the startups managed to navigate through this turmoil in an interesting and encouraging manner. According to the State Of Indian Startup Ecosystem, 2021 Report – the Indian startup ecosystem is home to about 38,815 active startups which is inclusive of both funded and bootstrapped and to over 5,694 active investors.

This disruption, has changed the face of Indian startup ecosystem and how. Today, the founders are not only looking for investors and potential acquisitions but are also investing a great deal in mar-comm (marketing & communication) for their brand and product visibility.

Building a brand identity is a time consuming process and communication plays a huge role in giving the brand a facelift.

Unlocking the potential of PR for Startups

PR thrives by making use of non-paid forms of promotion to influence the feelings, opinions and beliefs about the company, its products & services, about the value of the product or the activities of the organisation to buyers, prospects and stakeholders.

Public Relations is not confined within the boundaries of sharing a press release of an announcement to a mail-merge list of journalists and editors. The core of PR actually lies in strategic communications, which helps in creating a narrative, perception and reputation for the brand. No matter which ever sector the startup caters to, while developing communications strategy for a startup it’s important to define its target audience and stakeholders so that the brand can reach the right people with right message through the right channels. In a country like ours where unicorns and soonicorns are growing in leaps and bounds, brand awareness is of utmost importance. To put it simply, PR helps the entrepreneurs communicate in a strategic way about – a) Who you are b) What you do c) What sets you apart from everyone else.

The starter pack

Public Relations and communications activities should start at the very beginning for any small scale or large scale business i.e during customer creation stage. At this stage, the focus should primarily be on building media relations to reach larger influential audience. This is a critical and sensitive stage for a brand, as it just starts positioning itself among its competitors. Essentially at this point, the aim of Public Relations is to convert founders into credible industry thought leaders so that they can speak favourably about the company, its products and the services they offer.

Handholding the Founders

Founders are driven by innovation, business growth and expansion. It is important to educate the founders about how the process of storytelling works in media. It is challenging to convince them that every new innovation or product launch might not be exciting for media and this is where the role of a communicator comes to play with strategic advisory. It is necessary to bring the founders up to speed with media operations and editorial discretion. Working closely with the founders give insights to their leadership style which works in favour of building their media profile and the core messaging of the company journey.

Advisory beyond funding news / pitch

In a startup world the funding process is once in 18 months, approximately. Hence, communication has to be driven based on a good assessment to pick and choose from the pool of stories lying with multiple stakeholders within the system. A marketplace has opportunities of different stories across business verticals, products and employer branding. There is also a huge scope of exploring different types of audiences and different regions to build a new conversation. Along with this, networking becomes critical too. A communications expert should have a hawk eye for business summits, panels and conclaves pertaining to the sector wherein the founders can participate as speakers and network with potential investors or clients.

In a nutshell

Today, even though lines are blur but public relations and communications works very differently from marketing. PR tactics through earned media churns out organic positive conversation about the brand. For a PR firm, it is extremely important to have sectoral knowledge based on the business be it – Fintech, Edtech, Constech or E-Commerce.

As communications consultants honing skills that include brand positioning, articulating and curating messages, conducting market research and refining the audience – additionally excelling at media relations and getting industry influencers and key opinion leaders to communicate the company story is vital and non-negotiable.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sulagna Pal
Sulagna Pal is a communications specialist, currently pursuing masters in PR with New Media from Munster Technological University, Ireland and works as student-intern in an Irish PR agency called Healy Communications. She was a Senior Account Executive at Adfactors PR and has been associated with Genesis BCW from 2018 - 2021. Her core expertise is in integrated communications and reputation management. Her exposure has been across traditional and digital channels, and is skilled in driving media strategies, communication campaigns with prominent corporate brands. In India, she has been responsible for managing brands like Boston Consulting Group, Virgin Atlantic, 3M, Tata International, Monsanto, Jana Small Finance Bank, Cartoon Network, and Education & Tourism New Zealand. Sulagna holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a diploma in Corporate Communications and Event Management.

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