Hiring is just the first step when building an early-stage comms team

An awesome strategic comms pro should be your first marketing investment.

Without clear, concise and compelling messaging, your business loses the majority of its impact. Forget press and analysts — you will struggle to land customers or investors if your value proposition isn’t positioned correctly. Even if it’s too early to add someone full time, seek outside help from someone with a level of seniority that matches your own.

The processes of early messaging/positioning and early product design should not be treated as entirely separate. Allowing these messaging sessions to expose shortcomings or uncover new potential will help ensure all your future marketing efforts are rooted in truth and accuracy.

If you’ve put together a strong comms team, they have a strategy and a plan. You can help them execute that plan incrementally, but you can undo its progress in the blink of an eye.

When it is time to add a full-time comms person to your team, look for a strategic partner rather than a manager. Hire someone who understands your business, not just theirs. Even though they’re not a spokesperson, they’ll often be the first representative from your company with whom reporters, analysts and influencers will interact.

They should be able to discuss your product and industry as well as anyone on your sales team. If that sounds like a tall order, it is — yet another reason to properly invest in the role.

Media relations is a small piece of the puzzle

Too many people treat communications and PR as if they’re interchangeable when the latter is actually just a fractional percentage of the former. Traditional media relations is simply much less important than it was a decade ago.

The number of employed business journalists in the world dwindles every day, while the number of publications that accept paid and contributed content grows. The reporter you simply “have” to meet today might well be running PR for one of your competitors tomorrow.

Those left are stretched thin. They don’t even have the bandwidth to cover everything they need to. The days of a sure-fire business press story or guaranteed trade coverage around a product launch are long gone.

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All tech companies think they’re doing something unique and incredible, and many are. But no matter what you’re doing, there’s always someone out there who can bump you from the news cycle.

Figure out a way to measure the output of your communications program beyond the number of articles placed; those mentions are meaningless if they’re not aligned with your message. Relationships and creativity are the key to a strong media presence in today’s landscape. For the same reason they don’t have time to cover everything, reporters have to rely on a network of people they trust to tell them what’s important.