….by Adegoke Oyeniyi, founder of TechPR Africa
In my line of work running TechPR Africa, providing advisory services and managing campaigns for technology companies, we have repeatedly seen startup founders and marketing managers make mistakes that render their public relations campaigns ineffective or simply waste their campaign spend and yield little to no ROI.
The trend has become so worrying that we decided that it was necessary to point out this error and educate the market.
A primary reason for the ineffectiveness of PR campaigns is the mismatch of messaging and platforms. The myth that placing company announcements, stories, or whatever messaging on the biggest media platforms automatically offers the strongest chances of achieving their business objectives is not true.
It’s vital to clearly define (emphasis on the clearly) the decision-makers or target audience for your product, service or campaign objective, investigate where they visit or get their news then place your brand there. This strategic approach will go a long way in ensuring the effectiveness of your campaign.
We had an edtech startup partner that connects pupils to lesson teachers. At certain times of the year, they would publish their advertorials on LindaIkeji, Bellanaija, and several women-focused platforms and it significantly boosted their revenue.
Though a tech company, catering to young children and teenagers, they understood that the decision-makers for their service were mothers and courted that group via niche media, events, CSR, etc. Think about it. Does it not feel absurd to see messaging or ads from tech startups on major women’s platforms like BellaNaija, Diary of a Naija Girl or even the almighty Instablog? Is it that startups don’t sell to women or have customers concentrated on those platforms? Of course, they do. The problem is the blinding bias for certain platforms.
We are seeing founders with startups offering enterprise solutions to companies with CTOs and other C-suite executives as decision-makers yet ignoring or not valuing industry niche-media publications or platforms. You don’t place your messaging on a media outlet, choose to speak at an event or place your brand in a position simply because it’s the trending or cool thing to do. You do so because the identified key people to enable your business objectives are also positioned there.
The second reason I’d like to point out is poorly crafted messaging. We had a client at TechPR Africa who planned to invest about $6,000 for a company announcement on international news outlets. All that money would have gone down the drain had we not advised against it. The client’s website, press releases, and online trail communicated no unique value proposition, testimonial or social proof!
Most founders or decision-makers in startups think a copy that converts users or attracts investors just happens simply by a writer punching the keyboard of a Macbook and under two hours, the work is done. They think simply conveying information is enough to sell. But effective communication not only conveys information, it also engages, persuades, and resonates with the intended audience.
This is what is called message development. Message development is a discipline a lot of founders or decision-makers in startups do not yet know much about. Some have probably never heard of it. Yet this is a critical component of effective communication that is missing in several startup PR planning thereby resulting in poorly executed campaigns and wasted (scarce) financial resources and time.
Devaluation of PR
There’s also that age-old problem of technical founders’ lack of appreciation for PR in the ecosystem. There’s that unfounded belief that because they do solid work their work will speak for them and customers and investors will come calling.
I am telling you to please wake up and smell the coffee! How many startups have this undercover approach worked for? Many startups undervalue the role of PR in their overall business strategy. This underestimation leads to inadequate allocation of attention, resources, and budget, hampering the potential success of PR activities.
To turn the tide, African startups need to adopt a more strategic, audience-centric approach to PR. This strategy involves setting clear objectives, understanding the local market, leveraging digital platforms, maintaining consistency in messaging, and investing in strong media relations.
Additionally, measuring the impact of these campaigns is vital to ensure continuous improvement and a higher ROI. By addressing these challenges, African startups can harness the full power of PR to support their growth and success in the competitive market.
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