How to Avoid Sacrificing PR Excellence During Rapid Growth
April 16, 2019
Most entrepreneurs – especially in technology – don’t set out with a vision of building a low or slow growth business. They dream big – and aim high. Everyone wants to be a unicorn.
But while scaling by the Silicon Valley standard – growing fast and furious at any cost – may work for those rare companies that have just the right mix of timing, people, ideas and funding, it doesn’t work for every startup. Building a billion-dollar business is amazing, but is building a sustainable, million-dollar business with longevity any less amazing?
There are countless technology companies that have grown slowly, or not reached the billion-dollar mark, but will still stick around for the long haul. We’ve worked with dozens of them, and while their slow and steady forward march makes planning and predicting much easier, it comes with its own unique set of challenges.
Reid Hoffman, investor and a founder of PayPal and LinkedIn, believes we have entered a business climate where fast growth is essential. He recently published a book on strategies to achieve rapid growth with entrepreneur Chris Yeh. The book, Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies, explains the science and art of growing a company quickly on a global scale. In interviews, Hoffman explains that while this approach comes with some downsides – high capital burn, hiring issues and possible dilution of company culture – he believes it is the only way for startups to stay competitive in software development today.
Either way, scaling, blitzscaling, (or not) can be hard on PR and marketing teams. Maintaining excellence can be particularly difficult in fast growth environments. Communications professionals in these types of companies – or at companies that are experiencing a lull or slowed growth – can take certain steps to maintain high quality work and media results no matter the growing pains their organization is feeling.
- Secure the budget: Internal teams should be thinking ahead about the resources they will need three, six and 12 months down the road. Plan the budget around the types of marketing and PR support the company will need not just at its present size, but as it hits growth benchmarks over time. This will ensure that the team can hire communications staff when needed, invest in creative assets and increase reliance on outside agencies when the workload gets heavy.
- Align your teams: Morale and messaging can suffer when companies grow quickly. Take time to ensure everyone on the team is clear on company messaging and values. Then, define roles and responsibilities among everyone on the communications team, and check-in regularly to ensure you all stay on the same page.
- Open up and keep a line to the CEO, co-founders and head of sales: This will be increasingly difficult the more the company grows. But whether the go-to spokesperson is the founder or several layers down, the sentiment is the same. Maintaining regular touchpoints with key spokespeople will ensure that marketing and PR teams understand company and executive vision, goals and insights as they change alongside the business.
- Prepare for crisis: Periods of high growth are fertile ground for crises in the public domain. Don’t wait for crisis to strike to make a plan. Be proactive and work with your PR agency and other internal stakeholders to outline a thorough crisis response strategy.
- Sketch out your growth story: Work with company leadership and your trusted outside partners to outline what the growth story is, and how telling it will support the attainment of company goals. Communications professionals that are strategic about how and when they tell their company’s story will remain in control of the narrative, minimizing the potential for negative news to overshadow the positive.
-Ashley Allman, Director of Content