This article was contributed to TechCabal by Claudine Moore, an award-winning global PR leader specializing 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. You can follow Claudine on Twitter @ClaudineMoore.
For most of 2022, African tech appeared to buck the global decline in venture funding, to the point that top tier global business media displayed headlines in Q3 boldly declaring that Africa was defying the global trend with funding surging. Now, 2022 has come to an end and 2023 begins, and we are seeing evidence of the sluggish economy affecting African startups with the announcement of layoffs, a slowdown in business and product development activity, and fewer announcements of large funding rounds. The prediction is investors will continue to adopt a conservative and cautious approach, making it harder to raise capital.
PR and communications are often seen as a less critical business functions and are usually subject to drastic cuts in both dedicated time and resources, especially with the current economic slowdown inevitably leading to cost-cutting decisions. However, here are four reasons why African startups should not cut back on their PR but instead become smarter, more strategic and intentional about using PR as a tool.
This is particularly important for startups that have already invested in PR and communications, and want to maintain brand recognition in the industry as well as the relationships nurtured and built with the press, customers and stakeholders.
1. Media Coverage – Bigger is Not Always Better
The pace of your media outreach may have changed, or your startup may have less positive news and/or has to be more creative and clear in sharing stories considering the business and economic backdrop.
This is the perfect time to thoughtfully consider the media to work with. Publications that are central to your sector, market or stakeholders should be prioritized, despite having a smaller and more niche reach than some of the bigger media platforms. A story in a niche publication can potentially create more engagement and drive more sales or business leads into your pipeline as opposed to several stories in more generic business press.
2. Stay Consistent and Visible – Silence is Loud
Stakeholders, including your investors, are still interested in news, stories and general information about your startup. In times like this, it is prudent to stand out from your competitors and peers, many of whom will go quiet, and ensure you consistently maintain a positive public narrative. The best way to do this is by consistently amplifying and engaging authentic and creative content about your brand.
Being transparent about your challenges and how you plan to navigate them is not only an interesting story but also an opportunity to demonstrate solid leadership, and the resilience, creativity and flexibility in your approach to business. This will lead to a continued positive brand reputation which is what your stakeholders and investors want to see.
3. Continue to Showcase Your Leadership and Team
Layoffs are an inevitable fallout of the current economic downturn, but they can also be an opportunity to maintain morale and showcase the collective talents of your remaining team. After layoffs, it is a great time to launch an invigorated thought leadership and brand ambassador campaign featuring a cross section of the team, from C-Suite executives to talented upcoming junior team members. By showcasing the team in a variety of ways, you will produce consistent, interesting, and varied content directly from your startup, essentially creating your own news cycle independent of the ebb and flow of the industry.
Thought leadership campaigns personalize your startup and can produce a rich portfolio of content ranging from videos, to blog posts, op-ed pieces, podcasts, and interviews, all working towards positioning the team as trusted experts leading their sector in creativity and innovation even during a sluggish economy.
4. Crisis Communications
I wrote about Crisis Communications in my very first article for this recurring PR column, and the emphasis and recommendations remain the same: prepare your crisis communications strategy and execution well ahead of a crisis. The last thing any startup wants to navigate is a reputational crisis in the middle of a recession.
As outlined in the Crisis Communications article, even the most basic crisis communications plan should include a crisis management team, a vulnerability assessment, draft statements to stakeholders, media monitoring, and an actionable social media plan.
A PR strategy during what looks like a pretty ugly recession will let audiences know you are surviving and in some cases, evolving, and your startup will be able to keep their audience engaged, rather than attempting to re-engage audiences with short memories and will likely have moved on when this is all over.
Claudine Moore is an award-winning global PR leader specializing 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.