In my 25+year marketing communications career, I have worked with about 50 start-ups. Most have been in the technology industry and a few have been in the environmental sustainability and travel industries. There are a few things I always seem to have to emphasize at the outset and they are listed below.
1. Communications takes expertise and experience. Too many people think they know how to do communications when, in fact, they have been trained as engineers, software developers, marine scientists, business administrators, doctors, lawyers, etc. They can no more easily do communications than I can build software code, do marine research or fight a case in court. Communications is a professional discipline like the others and is full of strategy and nuance. It is not about slapping together a few things and calling it good.
Bring in the experts and quit pretending you know what to do. If you bring them in too late, they will likely have to spend your precious budget un-doing a bunch of things you did wrong before working on the new activities.
2. Think of communications like an orchestra. Every single piece of the orchestra needs to be playing well for the overall sound to be great. If the violins decide to not show up or the flutes play off-tune, the sound is terrible. Likewise, if the cellos are off doing their own thing without regard to the others, that creates issues as well. It is easy to get trapped into thinking you can just create a logo and a quickie website for your start-up and you’re ready to go. Big mistake.
You need a “conductor,” or communications expert, to determine the overall strategy and to ensure all the various instruments are doing their part in an orchestrated way.
3. Messaging is more important than the look of your logo. I always laugh inside when I see smart, talented executives obsess about the look of a logo yet pay little attention to how they message their company. Yes, you want to have a logo that works for your company and has some long-term durability. But the much higher ROI will come from careful thinking about how you describe your company, its products, benefits, history, etc. A related point is that companies need to stay consistent and repetitious with their messaging. It will be an uphill battle if everyone is saying different things and the messaging changes all the time.
4. There is a logical order to tackle communications. The brand work starts it all. Simple as that. You need to start there if you want to do everything efficiently and not have to un-do things later. This doesn’t mean you have to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars like the bigger companies. With the right help, you can do baseline brand work fairly inexpensively and quickly. Sorting out your brand personality and attributes upfront is also great way to build team collaboration and buy-in. From there you move on to logo, messaging, website copy and so on.
5. Be realistic about budgets for communications. Communications permeates pretty much everything you do as a company. It impacts how you talk and write to customers, investors, prospects, partners, board members, media, analysts and employees. If you want strong communications that will positively impact the growth of your business, you have to be willing to pay for it. The more you are able to budget for it, the better the results. If you have high expectations and low budgets for communications, it won’t work. Everyone will get frustrated. On the flipside, if you are realistic about what it takes, everyone wins – especially your business.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at +1 206-931-5942 if you want to discuss the specific needs of your start-up!