Advertising & Marketing

PR Tips for African Startups

As the startup industry continues to blossom around Africa, it is crucial to know how to ensure your company stands out from the crowd. The basics of the PR industry are known to many but creating genuine buzz through PR is often a shortfall for many startups.

Here are a few PR tips, based on Djembe Communications’ experience across several African markets that may help your African startup become one that cannot be ignored.

1. Answer the “so what?” question

Before you think about a communications strategy, make sure that your business model is clearly defined and that you have identified the main tactics for its implementation. You need to demonstrate clearly that you provide a unique product or service well suited for your specific market. Whether you are going for a pitch or you want to introduce your business to the general public, make sure you have a strong answer to the following question: “OK, so you have this idea, you will build this product…so what?”

Olivio Gambo, Djembe’s Communications Manager in Angola, states that “experience shows that many business initiatives in Angola die immediately at the initial stage due to the lack of clarity around the business and lack of knowledge of the market.” In order to withstand startup pressures, it is important to be clear and focused from the beginning. Map your stakeholders, research your market, and develop your position and message solidly before venturing into any PR initiative.

2. Yes, you need resources

It is essential that startups within Africa understand that PR is not a quick fix; it is a series of activities that have to be strategically implemented. The first step would be to hire an in-house communications specialist, or to work with an agency. Do not, we repeat, do not try and do it yourself. Ed Zitron, founder of EZPR said in a Forbes interview: “Generally if you are a CEO who has time to do PR for your startup, and can afford it, you’re a crappy CEO.”

There are several PR software tools that can make your startup life easier at a minimal cost. You can manage team activities on Trello and Slack; use Cision Point to find the media and journalist contacts you need; automatize social media publishing on Hootsuite and use Sysomos to see all that has been said about you and your brand online.

If you decide to hire a PR agency, research well to determine the right fit for your startup and make sure to take its advice.

3. Network, but don’t overdo it

Building the right relationships is critical in business and one way to do it is to simply go where everybody else is. Regardless of which market your company falls in, there are always events that you can attend. Tunde Aribido, Djembe’s Senior Account Manager in Lagos, explains that in Nigeria “[industry events] make a very valuable contribution to discourse in your industry. That is one of the ways to gain recognition, visibility and respect.” However you don’t have to attend all of the big name parties. Look up just the relevant conferences, fairs or workshops where your attendance can impact your ROI.

Walid Alaoui, Djembe’s Country Manager in Morocco, points out that “participation in competitions is very important, especially competitions which have high media coverage like the MIT Enterprise Forum and the Innovation Prize for Africa”.

4. Become friends with the media

Many small businesses have a unique story to tell and are therefore interesting to the media. Think about your story because delivering the right messages and engaging with the media in a proactive manner is an incredibly useful tool. Evaluate well when choosing which media you’d like to address – there are different types of journalists, such as activists, free-lancers and those associated with publications. Think strategically. A well thought-out pitch or press release shared with about a dozen relevant media outlets will give you the press that you really want. Look for the niche press and, as Tunde Aribido advises, “seek out journalists in both print and electronic media that cover your industry and get familiar with them, their work, and become friends with them on social media.”

5. Go digital

Each business needs a window to shine online. Build a great website. Choose quality over quantity. Keep in mind that when you go digital you need to take all of the brand attributes along. All of the visual and messaging aspects must be integrated online in order to give your business a strong overall presence.

Each business also needs a means to observe competitors, identify opportunities and monitor risks. Social media is a great tool for monitoring and building your reputation, but can be a crack in the wall if neglected. Remember that you don’t have to build a presence on all social media channels – choose the ones that work for you, your market and industry and be fully engaged there.

When done right, PR will reap multiple benefits for your business and will expand your reach, effectiveness, and sustainability.

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