How to Build Sustainable Communications as a Startup
Want to build a sustainable communications program that drives long-term growth? Look no further than this article!
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For anyone working in PR advisory or agency-side, our goal should be to eventually make ourselves redundant. Or, over time, reduce the retainer required for the outcomes we provide.
This isn't a particularly popular view point within my industry, but after nearly eight years working in PR, it's one I am willing to stand behind. Let me explain why.
Move away from measuring clippings
Related: Is Your Brand Ready for Public Relations and Press?
When I speak to startups or even corporations in a new business capacity, they tend to be looking for predefined, measurable outcomes. 15 pieces of coverage from a fundraising announcement, 10 clippings in targeted tier one and two publications for a new product release. This is understandable, and sometimes even necessary - in the startup world for example, investors may expect you to have negotiated an ambitious ROI for your marketing spend. This though, is a short-sighted approach.
Instead, think about how to create sustainable communications. This is the long-term approach whereby your comms activities become more efficient as your PR leads and marketing teams learn how to communicate on behalf of your brand, allowing spend to become more targeted and ultimately decrease your reliance on external PR advisory.
Use benchmarks and measure your improvement
Related: Look Beyond Your Industry When Benchmarking for Success
To build a sustainable communications department, you need learnings, and better that you have them fast. In addition to hiring expertise into your business, you can learn by testing your existing assumptions. If you're a tech business, chances are you'll already be testing assumptions about your product. You can do the same for your comms activity. By actively testing existing assumptions you can improve your own understanding of how journalists, industry bodies, readers and your customers respond to the PR work you're doing.
Every PR campaign should be created as an experiment, with written assumptions and clear learning milestones. Pull together an outline of what you expect to happen, and then test against it – did you appeal to the right journalists – what was your response rate – what was your % success rate for pitching? Building out benchmarks to work with makes measurements possible and will allow you to see whether you are improving your efficiency and effectiveness over time.
By creating experiments and using innovation accounting to carefully measure metrics for improvement you will create a communications model that you can empirically test against. The next time you carry out a campaign, write a blog or pitch a story, you can use the data to refine your efforts, and as your company grows your communications will also share in greater efficiencies and effectiveness.
Related: Harness the Power of New Public Relations Technology