Amy Vaya, the Bahrain Country Director of Perceptions, wrote an article on the importance of communications for startups. This article was selected for publication on the PR Academy website.
Below you can read an excerpt of the article.
Want Your Startup to Succeed? Learn to Communicate
Startup founders tend to think their most important task is something esoteric, like ‘identifying a gap in the market’, or ‘challenging the status quo’. The truth, however, is rather more mundane.
As a founder, your most important job is simply to sell. You are selling your vision of your startup’s future to investors to raise capital; selling your ideas to co-founders or team members to gain their support; and of course, selling your product or service to your customers. To sell well, you must be able to communicate well.
Unfortunately, entrepreneurs tend not to receive communication training, and it shows. And no, you cannot simply hire someone to do it for you. In the very early stages of your business, you may not have the resources to hire a communication professional. More importantly, as the founder, you are expected to be the greatest champion of your business, and you cannot outsource enthusiasm.
What You Didn’t Learn at School
The path to entrepreneurship is not as clear-cut as, say, becoming an engineer or a lawyer. As a result, you may not have had formal business training, and even if you did, chances are your course did not place much emphasis on communication.
A review of the Harvard Business School MBA curriculum reveals that out of more than 170 elective courses, only one is about ‘The Arts of Communication’ (it is a public speaking course). There are also a handful of courses on consumer marketing, collaboration, and negotiation, which are adjacent to, but not exactly communication courses. Stanford Graduate School of Business offers a similarly miniscule number of communication classes, again, as electives rather than as part of the core curriculum.
Business accelerator programs, which are specifically focused on entrepreneurship rather than business in general, also neglect to teach communication skills. With a portfolio valued at nearly USD 1 trillion, Y Combinator is one of the world’s largest and most successful business accelerators, having funded more than 3,500 startups, including well-known names such as Airbnb, Stripe, Dropbox, and Instacart. It offers a free eight-week Startup School for aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as an extensive library of articles, videos, and podcasts about entrepreneurship. Of the nearly 500 pieces of content available in the library, less than ten are about communication.
So You Think You Can Pitch
The main communication training offered to entrepreneurs is how to pitch. You probably know how to write a pitch deck and present at least two variations of your pitch: a 30-second ‘elevator pitch’ and a longer three- to five-minute pitch. You may have practiced this in front of an audience to build confidence.
While this is helpful and certainly better than no training at all, it is quite mechanical and does not help you understand why a certain pitch is better than another. It also doesn’t help you with all the other types of communications you will need to master.
Study the Basics
There are many excellent books you can read to become a better communicator and ensure you always deliver the right message through your emails, presentations, social media posts, and in-person interactions. You should aim to understand topics such as key messaging, storytelling, writing style, tone of voice, and even crisis communication.
At the end of the day, over 90% of startups fail for reasons that may not have anything to do with poor communication. But with the odds stacked so much against you, every little bit helps. Communication skills can be trained, just like any other, and if they can give your startup even a nudge towards success, it is worth making the effort.
To read the full article, click here.