This article was contributed to TechCabal by Claudine Moore. Moore is the managing director, Allison + Partners, and founder/former CEO, C. Moore Media, International Public Relations.
Last week we began the 2022 edition of The Future is Female Mentorship Program, Africa’s first and only PR and communications initiative dedicated to African female tech founders, and supported by Allison+Partners. Twenty-five African female tech founders were selected to take part in the third edition of the programme, out of 343 applications from 36 African countries. The selected founders were announced in Techcabal who, alongside Africa Communications Week, are partners of the programme for a second year.
In the first masterclass of the programme, we shared the fundamentals of PR for startups to the enthusiasm of the 25 selected female founders. It struck me that while our first two articles for this newly launched column have focused on crisis communications, specifically due to the crisis several well-known African startups are currently facing, it is a good idea to take a step back and share the importance for African tech startups to have a solid and well-thought-out PR and communications plan in place. It is always good to start with why?
It is all about brand visibility and reputation which is critical when fundraising, especially during an economic downturn when investors are even more discerning. It is important for African startups to focus on their PR and communications to raise awareness of who they are and what they do. PR will help you secure the attention of potential partners, investors and customers as well as attract talent, which is key in the Pan African scramble to attract top tech expertise and talent.
One of the ways your brand will raise its visibility is by leveraging media relations as a tactic to raise your brand visibility by securing media coverage, but making inroads with the press can take time. With this in mind, below are a list of things to consider when approaching media relations for your startup.
Securing earned media is not easy and you have to be consistent with the time and resources put into your PR efforts. Reporters are busy, newsrooms are shrinking, and with the pressure to churn out constant content with tough deadlines, pinning down journalists can be difficult. You will need to be borderline relentless in pushing for a story to be covered and follow up continuously with the reporter until they tell you no or go radio-silent. My general rule is, if after three follow-up emails if you still do not hear back…let it go.
Be steady, not swift
The prism to approach PR is from a long-term perspective and long-term goals and strategies should be put in place. Building relationships with the media takes time and patience. The objective is to ensure a regular flow of news from your startup leveraging different angles to ensure they are relevant and of interest to the media you approach. As audiences hear about your startup across a variety of different media outlets, your brand visibility will grow and your reputation will be elevated.
Make time and be accessible
Despite startup founders and executives being pulled in different directions, they need to make time for PR and be available and accessible for PR activities, ranging from interviews to providing insights for a story to speaking engagements alongside their business development activities. This is often easier said than done, especially when the ROI of your time and resources into PR is not immediately visible but, as mentioned above, PR should be approached with the long-term perspective in mind.
Essential for all founders and/or executives chosen to represent your startup is media training. This allows for either a media-shy or uncomfortable spokesperson to become familiar with being in front of a reporter, either in person or virtually. Never underestimate how difficult it is to answer different and sometimes difficult questions while ensuring your desired message is still conveyed.
Media training is all about practice, meaning that training should be frequent to allow for comfort and familiarity, in addition to building confidence. In addition, undertaking mock interviews including tough questions can also provide excellent practice.
So, there we have it, a quick run-through of the why and fundamentals of media relations as part of PR strategy to raise the brand visibility of your startup!
You can follow Claudine on Twitter @ClaudineMoore.
Claudine Moore is an award-winning global PR leader specialising in Africa-focused PR and communications across multiple sectors, including tech. She is the managing partner, Africa Allison+Partners, and founder and former CEO of C. Moore Media International Public Relations. She also founded The Future is Female Mentorship Program, the first and only PR and communications initiative dedicated to African female tech founders.