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The science of communications: Zyme offers expert insight for early-stage companies

Zyme Communications is sponsoring Life Science Company of the Year at the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards 2023.

With shortlisting and judging under way in the awards, which will be held in May, we asked Waterbeach-based Zyme to offer some expert insight for early-stage companies on the importance of a communication strategy.

The team at Zyme Communications in Waterbeach, Zyme is sponsoring the Life Science Company of the Year at the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards 2023. Picture: Richard Marsham
The team at Zyme Communications in Waterbeach, Zyme is sponsoring the Life Science Company of the Year at the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards 2023. Picture: Richard Marsham

What should start-up companies consider?

Early-stage companies typically have many plates spinning, with main considerations including raising investment, developing strategic partnerships and collaborations, recruiting, securing sales leads, and generating first revenues. Each of these audiences needs to be reached and engaged to support the company’s goals – making a cohesive communications programme an essential component of any start-up’s corporate strategy.

Busy executive teams may be tempted to launch straight into the tactics of communication, embarking on individual ‘ad hoc’ activities, such as one-off press releases, isolated social media posts or conference exhibits. But without first developing a strategy, this is likely to have low impact, and result in disjointed messaging, and a poor return on investment, both in terms of time and finances.

Best practice begins with the development of an overarching communications strategy, focused on the Company’s specific objectives. In contrast to a communications plan which sets out tactics, the strategy sets out to link all elements together and establish the rationale for a particular approach.

The strategy can be used as a reference guide moving forward. Ensuring that communications activities are aligned and consistent helps to unify a Company’s “voice”, building a stronger image and resulting in outreach that is more impactful, efficient, and effective.

But who are we talking to?

Understanding your target audience is a key step in planning communications, and, as stressed already, for a start-up company this is likely to be multiple different groups. It’s important to build a clear picture– considering the challenges each audience face, which aspects of the company might they be most interested in, where they are based, and where they source information. By understanding who, where, what and why, it becomes clearer how best to reach and engage with them.

And what exactly do we want to say?

You know who your audience is, but what are you offering to them, and why should they be interested? How does your proposition differ from that of the competition? Developing clear messages that address these key questions makes it possible to pinpoint the important drivers that resonate with each audience. For early-stage companies, formally setting out key messages and supporting statements will help to ensure the whole organisation is singing from the same hymn sheet. Consistency across all channels of communication and materials will build credibility and clarity of purpose.

When developing messaging it’s important to consider the different levels of technical understanding across target audiences. Communications should be kept simple, to engage with non-specialist audiences where relevant, and acronyms and jargon avoided where possible. It’s also important to look at different styles of engagement and tone of voice – for example, the difference in style between marketing to reach customers, and PR to connect with journalists and reporters.

Where to start?

Once the key aspects of strategy and messaging have been developed, the next step is to begin planning the tactics and developing materials – all of which should be consistent and fully aligned to the communications strategy and messaging. As part of planning, a start-up should consider all elements of the communications toolkit, and select relevant channels for the short and longer-term. This might include branding, website, and social media profile, as well as PR, advertising, and conferences and events.

It’s always advisable to set some measurable targets or metrics for future review. You’ll then be able to look back in future months, to ensure the communications plan is delivering the desired results. Of course, nothing is set in stone, particularly for early-stage companies, and it’s normal for goals and directions to evolve as the organisation grows and progresses.

This means that regular measurement of success is key to ensuring that communications remain relevant and continue to support corporate goals. If the strategy and messaging aren’t generating the desired results, or if a new direction is required as industry and customer needs change or new competitor enters the picture, the communications plan can be adjusted. The long-term corporate plan should remain as the focus, however.

Overall, regardless of how compelling the proposition, impressive the team’s credentials, or large the market opportunity, an effective communications strategy and plan will support an early-stage company to make its mark, greatly increasing chances of success.

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