Social enterprise startups face some common challenges when it comes to getting the word out. In addition to conveying the brand story and mission message, your social venture or nonprofit may also need to communicate with investors, donors, community partners and prospective employees. This 5-minute read outlines 5 important steps (and resources) to help you #StartupStrong.
1. MAP YOUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINT
Take a snapshot of your brand’s digital presence before you begin. This will give you good picture of how your brand is conveyed in the digital space, and as a result, how the brand is being perceived. A simple way to do this is to capture a screen shot of the main sections of your website, social channels, blog articles, etc., and visually inspect them alongside one another.
Does everything have a consistent look and feel? Is it professional? Is the message consistent with the company name and positioning? Is everything up to date? Have you addressed potentially negative feedback with positive results? When you compare what you see with the competition, how does your brand hold up? Are there any problems or challenges that need to be addressed before you begin? Use this process to regroup, revise and reset where needed.
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you begin your research – a vital step in campaign planning – evaluate what you know, and what you need to know.
What do you know?
- What are the positive social impact goals – short term and long term?How can people connect with and support you?
- What are the primary and niche market segments you’re targeting and why?
- Who is the competition?
- What makes your brand different, special, better?
- Who are your brand loyalists?
What do you need to know?
- Who are the people that are most likely to connect with your brand?
- Where do those people get their information?
- What journalists are most likely to write about this topic?
- How best can you connect with the media and other thought leaders?
- How is the competition addressing a similar market need, and how is it working?
Brain storm. It doesn’t have to be tidy. Look at ways to learn more through primary or secondary research.
Primary research is research you conduct yourself, like an audience survey or focus group, for example.
Secondary research is research completed by another source that provides key insights or data about your audience that may include reports or studies by trade associations or research leaders in your marketplace. If this is the best option, look for secondary research from a highly regarded and reputable source.
Summarize the research, and use them to validate or revise your assumptions, and hopefully answer some questions. If referenced appropriately, research results may also be used to create and support your message.
Media outlet research will also be necessary if media engagement is on your list. Be sure to identify the key media personnel for your industry and your community. Without big money for a media intelligence service, start with the Ohio News Media Directory and supplement with your own research if needed. Capture the contact information for local editors, social influencers and if relevant, broadcast media. Study content trends, recent articles and editorial calendars. Customize your outreach based upon what’s happening now, and what’s planned for the coming months. Think "personal, present and planned."
3. DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCES
What are the key audiences you need to reach? Identify both internal and external audiences. Try to list at least five groups in each category.
Internal audiences might include company leadership, employees, vendors, community partners, investors, and maybe your family.
External audiences may include current clients or customers, prospective clients or customers, media personnel, local government or social media influencers to name a few.
Consider the age, gender, geography, interests, income, needs and concerns of each audience. This will help you think more clearly about how and what you want to convey. For example, you’ll customize the message differently for investors than for millennial volunteers, because they have a different relationship with your brand.
4. CRAFT YOUR MESSAGE
Before you start writing, be sure you’ve got clear answers to the following questions:
What do you want people to know? And, what do you want them to feel and do?
There may be more than one answer to each question and that’s okay.
Take the time to create a mission statement, and be sure you have buy-in from the team.
With PR, the goal is to create two-way communication between your brand and your audiences. Start by creating key messages first, and use them as the foundation for story telling. This will give you foundational messaging (and hashtag strategy) for news releases, social media, blog posts, marketing materials and more. For example:
- Ours is the only company that________.
- Our company is creating positive impact by _____.
- Expertise, trust and reliability are reflected in _______.
- The founder started this company because_______.
- Our mission is to _______.
Try to translate as much as you can into benefit statements for the audience. How is this going to address a need, challenge, or a concern? How will your work make a positive impact?
As a social venture, key messages may address education, overcoming misperception (truth vs. myth), brand story, mission message, and social, economic or environmental impact.
A call to action may be something other than “Buy Now." For example, sign up, join us, donate now, volunteer, tell a friend, make a change, apply now or learn more.
Select communication channels based upon the audiences you’ve outlined.
Say your company has created a “Mom’s Little Gardener” kit. It’s made locally by the developmentally disabled, and comes with everything a little gardener age three to eight years might need. The proceeds are allocated to provide compensation for the folks who make the kit, and to fund a local community garden project to bring local produce to the food insecure in your community. So, how are you going to reach those moms?
In this example, you might want to tell your story with Instagram (38% female), and maybe create a campaign for Facebook (44% female), and there are special tools for you here. You may also want to reach out to the local elementary schools, as well as organizations that serve or advocate for young children or the developmentally disabled.
Consider timing for distribution across various channels, too. For example, early morning may be a good time to email a news release to a newspaper journalist, but 5:00 p.m. may be best for Facebook. Be ready to assign appropriate team members to address inquiries or responses after the message has been distributed.
5. EVALUATE AND REVISE
Following first campaign efforts, gather results, analyze, and form some insights that will inform next steps. Be ready to learn, and be nimble enough to pivot. Here’s a guide for Facebook, and another for Instagram.
Identify what worked best, and then do more of that. Look at what didn’t, and consider ways to revise the message and/or your strategies and tactics accordingly to produce more positive results next time around. There’s always a bit of a learning curve at first, and that’s okay. Be patient and persevere.
If you need help, ask. A good PR consultant can help you make quantum leaps. They require an investment, but they’re like insurance for your brand – well worth the money, and important to have from the start. They can usually also help with things like monitoring, social listening and analyzing results.
We hope this helps you go out there and change the world! We’re cheering for you!
Call me if I can help, 330-936-1331, or email me at email@example.com.
Tracy Teuscher, APR