MassChallenge Founder Says Entrepreneurs Need to Make Customers the Heroes in Their Public Relations Efforts
BOSTON (April 3, 2012) – Successful early stage firms build a public relations strategy into their company’s growth plan from day one and not as an afterthought, according to Akhil Nigam, a leading expert on entrepreneurism and founder of MassChallenge, the largest-ever startup accelerator and competition. In an interview with Morrissey & Company, an integrated communications firm, Nigam said public relations campaigns for early stage companies should focus on the customer as the “hero” and less on the entrepreneurs themselves.
“Part of the entrepreneurial process is to learn how to go from an idea or semblance of a company to thinking about how to grow a high-growth company,” said Nigam. “Communication is a key element of success and we educate entrepreneurs on public relations and marketing from the beginning, including how to best leverage PR support and work with agencies, to how to think about marketing communications.”
In the interview, conducted at MassChallenge’s headquarters in Fan Pier Boston, Nigam spoke about the public relations opportunities and challenges for startup companies and offered advice to entrepreneurs and other organizations:
• On breaking through in the press: Keep at it, produce good content, continue doing great things and the press will come.
• More customers, Less “me, me, me”: Make your customers the hero and let them tell the story. Although MassChallenge is interesting, I feel like the great work that our entrepreneurs are doing is much, much more interesting and I’d rather have them tell their story and be profiled.
• Social media a necessity for all companies: Think about what you want to get out of the social media channels, what kind of audience you want to engage and what kind of messaging you want to create via tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s a way to engage your audience and customers, and have a direct conversation with them, which was not possible before. Social media is also becoming a customer service tool – if a customer has a problem, they shout it out on Twitter, for example.
• Take control of your messaging: When determining how to communicate your brand, simplify and think about your one simple thing, and not the 15 different features or benefits your products or services have. In the market, what do you want to be known for? You have to occupy that position in the consumer’s mind. If you don’t do it, the market will do it for you.
“Early stage companies, which typically have resource and time constraints, are often best served by a ‘less is more’ approach to public relations – doing a few things very well,” said Jim Barbagallo, managing director at Morrissey & Company, “As Akhil advises, it’s particularly critical for entrepreneurs to focus on only a few key messages, surround them with exciting content – such as “heroic” customer stories – and consistently promote them through the appropriate traditional and social media channels.”
When it comes to MassChallenge’s own public relations strategy, Nigam says, “We want to be known as the place where entrepreneurs come together to build great companies. Our mission is to help entrepreneurs win, and communications is crucial to that success.”
In its third year, MassChallenge will welcome 125 startup companies into its offices in Boston’s Innovation District this summer to take part in the annual accelerator and competition.
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About Morrissey & Company
Founded in Boston, Mass. in 1999, Morrissey & Company is dedicated to managing, advancing and protecting the reputation of its clients through integrated communications, including public relations and other professional services. The only communications firm in New England dedicated to providing high-level reputation communications as its primary mission; Morrissey & Company serves established private, public and nonprofit enterprises in the fields of technology, financial services and healthcare/life sciences. www.morrisseyco.com
MassChallenge is the largest-ever startup accelerator and competition, and the first to support high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs with no strings attached. Benefits for startups include:
• Three month accelerator program. World-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding, legal advice, cofounders, media exposure and more.
• $1M in Cash Awards. $4M+ in-kind support.
• Open to all. Any startup can enter, from anywhere, in any industry.
• No equity taken. No restrictions applied.
President Obama honored MassChallenge in January of 2011 as one of the nation's best organizations for supporting high-growth entrepreneurs, and MassChallenge was the youngest inaugural affiliate of the Startup America Partnership. The 111 startups supported in the 2010 MassChallenge accelerator raised over $100M in outside funding and created approximately 500 new jobs in under 12 months.
The deadline for 2012 MassChallenge applications is April 11 at noon EDT. Interested applicants can apply and browse other 2012 entrants at masschallenge.org.