The current economic landscape proves that businesses and brands can thrive in a virtual world with effective communication strategies in place. On this session of “Thinking Big”, Victoria Crandall (PR/Strategic Communications Expert) shared her perspective on how Africa’s visionary entrepreneurs can tell their stories to the world by following the right strategies.
Victoria’s unorthodox career path, as a publicist and a journalist, has given her the privilege of sitting on both sides of the table. She pivoted her career from working in the agricultural sector, banking industry and physical trade sectors to working with some of Nigeria’s most exciting startups and scaleups. She recently announced her departure from InsiderPR as the Director of Media Relations.
A large percentage of people, as well as companies, startups and brands, had plans for the year that had to be waved aside in light of the global pandemic and this is a very confusing time to communicate a brand’s mission without coming off as insensitive. Now is the time to focus on what is happening around the world and weave your brand values into global conversations.
3 Strategies to Creative and Effective Communications During the Pandemic
1. Get Your House in Order
- Focus on your messaging, both internally and externally: A lot of startups don’t know what key messages they would like to push or what makes them unique. Test your communication strategy internally to deliberate on the big questions — the whys, the core values and philosophy of the company.
- Master your messaging: As a brand, what is your elevator pitch? Make it so simple that a 5-year old can understand. If your mum doesn’t understand what you do for the company you work for, then you know it’s time to refocus your communication.
- Build your roadmap: Carry out an audience mapping exercise to know your target audience — who do you want to reach with your comms? Are they potential investors, partners, policy/decision-makers? There’s a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done in order to tailor your message externally.
2. Ideas, Ideas & Ideas
“Public relations is all about reputation building; We sell brand reputations, not necessarily products.”
- Public Relations = Reputation Building: A good publicist acts as a bridge between clients and the journalist. You must understand the business enough to tease out interesting nuggets, insights and stories to make them serve as tools for effective communication.
- Come to the table with Ideas: Why should people care about your brand or startup? Most startups want to build their reputation as “innovative”, “cutting edge” and the “best in their field”, but you’ll need to provide those data points to the public by being articulate. You must have the answers to the key question of “Why should people care about your brand or startup?” to help shape your ideas and answers.
- Contribute to the global conversation: No one will care about your company until you make them care. By weaving a story around global conversations, you can give more context about why your startup is cutting edge.
3. Journalists Aren’t Aliens!
“We don’t always need a gatekeeper for communications. With owned media, you can tell your stories yourself.”
- It’s much easier to reach journalists than people think: The most common mistake people make is how they pitch their stories. Pitching is an art, and here are a few tips that will help you land a successful pitch:
- Don’t pitch your products (unless there’s a bigger story behind it!)
- Highlight your fundraise stories
- Highlight your partnerships
- Become a valuable source for your industry: The first step is knowing what to leverage (i.e.what data insight can you harvest through your platform, customers or market, what advantages do you have?). Think about how you can add value in your media relationships or ecosystem. Secondly, don’t be afraid to be your own publicist; read about what other creative journalists are talking about and strike a relationship by engaging with them online.
- Use Twitter: Twitter is where journalists go to get ideas! Pitch your stories, comment on their threads, share their tweets, and engage with them to share your ideas too.
How do you communicate during a pandemic without being insensitive?
- A lot of tech founders are product-focused but when it comes to PR, the first thing to do is focus on your messaging and communications strategy and how it ties to business goals.
- Figure out your brand identity and voice: B2B brands tend to be more conservative, whereas consumer-facing brands tend to be more vocal. When you have your media relations and social media engagement in place, then you can build out your communications strategy.
- Effective communication starts with the “why?”. When people don’t understand the “why”, they struggle to understand your tone of messaging. During a global crisis, you might not have the opportunity to talk about your product, unless your company is producing facemasks and other health and safety kits. We are starting to move into a phase where there’s more nuance but be careful to err on the side of caution especially when dealing with journalists.
Quick tips to improve brand visibility
- Create consistent content to increase your brand awareness. Tailor and focus your content pieces to reach multinational partners, investors and policymakers.
- Journalists have different beats but they’re always looking for geographic diversity.
- Create more niche and technical pieces, follow them up with conversations on social media, or send out a newsletter with more insights about your business.
Everyone has a story; the challenge is making it interesting enough to reach a global audience and knowing the platforms where your stories can gain the most traction. Since the dynamics are different, now is the time to communicate authentically and sincerely. Once you figure out the limitations, this informs your strategy on what kind of content to amplify. Watch the full video here.