Corporate Communications for a Startup … What You Need to Know

Naturally, start-up companies are often unable to position public relations or internal communications as one of the prominent items on business development’s ever-expanding “punch list.” Even when products and services can thrive on their own value proposition, efficiency or quality, it will not be long before young firms need to acquire the ability to perform several types of communications, including a healthy mix of maintaining external channels and fostering proper internal practices.

If your core competencies or current budget situation will not allow for you and your team to address forthcoming communications objectives and needs, there is no reason to panic about adding another function to your daily responsibilities. Prior to hiring a public relations director, you can still cobble together your own style of communications strategies and tactics by developing an outline of priorities and preparing an informational toolkit about your company.

Part of a startup’s business plan already includes significant marketing and communications elements; they just need to be formalized. You can stretch your current communication capabilities or address potential deficiencies by leveraging strong writers and previous public relations experience that may be present on the leadership team or your staff to compile the following plans and resources:

I. Communications Planning and Strategic Materials

– Communications goals for business plan over next two years
> Media relations objectives
> Branding opportunities
> Social media measurement considerations
– Establish plan for earmarking future budget and resources for creating a communications department; build a staffing model that best suits your business relationships with stakeholders and priorities for articulating and supplementing your company’s brand
> Outline primary responsibilities
> Define reporting structure
> Create protocol for public information and media requests
– Issues management response protocol
> Audit of crisis or issue situation to include the following:
1. What are the potential issues or public relations concern your business is likely to face in a crisis?
2. How should the company respond to difficult issues or emergencies?
3. What are the key messages for the company’s public response?
4. Who is the most suitable spokesperson to address media in timely fashion?

II. Public Information Toolkit
Company history and timeline of product or service development
– Overview of product or service brand offering / points of differentiation
– Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about product or service if necessary
– Founders and leadership biographies
– Publish all of the above information components to a functional, organized press room on your website

II. Internal Information Toolkit:
– Create branding guidelines and a writing style guide that align with company mission, culture and type of business for internal documents, presentations and memos.
– Establish a protocol for sharing internal announcements, success stories, company results, media coverage, and new hires or promotions.
– Consider developing an intranet for distributing leadership messages and company news across all levels and locations of the organization.

By following this basic communication plan, your organization will be equipped to respond to growing interest in your company from customers, the community and local, national or trade media outlets. These practices will help you create a strong foundation for a more sophisticated communication program as your business grows over time.

Editor ‘s Note: The 43North team is tapping into key sponsors, like Rich Products, to offer up tips for entrepreneurs and startups.