Communication leads at startups are typically empowered to do things differently. The traditional playbook of news releases, press tours and blog posts is supplemented (but not replaced) with interactive experiences and provocative storytelling.
This permission to innovate makes the tight budgets and high stakes of breaking into an established market - or creating new categories - worth it for communicators and brand marketers living the #startuplife. So let’s explore what we can learn from these standout communications strategies.
1. Infuse your mission and values in every aspect of your business.
Traditionally, a company’s mission and core values are created, printed on some signage and copied to the company’s About or History page on their website. But startups understand that while crafting a strong mission (or purpose) is important, embodying it across their brand is actually what matters as consumers increasingly support brands whose missions align their own.
For example, athleisure startup Outdoor Voices uses its “Doing Things” mantra to express their democratic approach to fitness. They print this mission on apparel and use authentic imagery in their social media content to communicate the fact that you don’t have to be an elite athlete to get moving (and that you can do anything in a dress).
Similarly, Airbnb’s “Belong Anywhere” mission strives to promote inclusivity and extends into the company’s social good efforts. Last year, the company offered up free accommodations to people displaced by the California wildfires.
2. Find the storytellers outside your marketing and communications team.
At startups, surfacing thought leadership opportunities and bringing them to life are actions that extend beyond the marketing or communications team. Although this is often a product of workload overload, the end result is powerful: a diversity of voices and perspectives united by a core brand platform.
While cross-collaboration with sales, service and product functions happen frequently and organically in smaller organizations, larger companies need to bake these experiences into the process. One fast way to do this: schedule monthly brainstorms with internal subject matter experts to keep the ideas flowing. (If you’re struggling to get your coworkers to show up, don’t be afraid to bribe them with a free lunch.)
Ed-tech startup Udacity has created an impressive Medium page that features posts from Udacity engineers and analysts covering everything from natural language processing to what it is like to learn to code in your 30s. These stories can be a one-time investment too, rather than something that requires ongoing upkeep. Marketing technology giant Hubspot turned its workplace culture code into Slideshare that’s generated more than 4.5 million views.
3. Measure your impact at a more granular level.
Startups are often trying to squeeze the most they can out of limited budgets. If a comms or marketing program isn’t working, they cut the cord fast and redirect that budget elsewhere. Most startups don’t have the luxury of letting programs run if they aren’t generating the intended impact.
But how do you know what’s working? The most successful startups optimize constantly and notice when something as granular as one blog post or ad is spiking results.
In its early days, social media startup Buffer realized that contributing guest blog posts to other sites was steadily growing their audience via inbound search engine traffic. Buffer doubled down on this strategy, with the company’s cofounder even penned 150 of these posts himself. Buffer credits its ability to scale to more than 100,000+ users on this strategy.
If you’re only looking at macro-level data like web traffic or increases in social followers, you could be missing big opportunities to expand on programs that are packing the biggest punch. Get inspired by your demand generation peers who spend hours analyzing how minor changes in subject lines or shifting the email send time by 15 minutes impact getting new leads to the sales teams.
To our friends at successful startups, we’d love to hear about your biggest lessons learned when it comes to communications. Tweet us at @CXOComm.