Taking innovation ideas to market requires strong communications skills
Posted on 21/06/2019
Commercialising great ideas – both for start-up and scale-up companies – involves multiple things going right: from the right idea to the right funding; the right team to the right timing; the right name to the right promotion. In focusing on the technical aspects of a product, the crucial role of PR and digital media in communicating the unique advantages of the product or service sometimes gets overlooked. The Cyber Security Academic Startup Accelerator Programme (CyberASAP) aims to minimise such risks, equipping selected academic teams with a range of essentials to help them successfully commercialise their cyber security ideas.
PR & digital marketing is just one of the key skills the programme helps its teams better understand, and as part of a recent CyberASAP Market Validation bootcamp, the current cohort of 20 teams participated in a masterclass given by cyber security PR experts, Eskenzi PR and digital marketing specialist at Taylor Communications and the Knowledge Transfer Network’s Anna-Marie Taylor.
“Perhaps the first true test to any start-up idea is how well one can distil its essence into a handful of words or a 30-second pitch. The latest CyberASAP workshop on Communications was invaluable in reaching this level of clarity,” commented one project team attendee, Vitor Jesus, Lecturer in Cyber Security at Birmingham City University.
PR is a vital component in the toolkit of anyone bringing a product to market or scaling up. Using PR to generate media coverage can help deliver important traffic to a company’s website – potential investors and customers – as well as help raise awareness of a company’s offering. As Neil Stinchcombe, co-founder of Eskenzi PR, puts it: “It is fundamentally important for someone building a CyberSecurity start up to be able to define and communicate the reason WHY you have started your new CyberSecurity venture; it is the reason WHY people will want to invest in you and also buy your technology. PR is critical to your success because it builds TRUSTED brands (and people). The CyberASAP programme contains useful insights into how PR can build a trusted brand, from speakers who have helped turn CyberSecurity start-ups into billion dollar Unicorns.”
For those new to these communications skills, Stinchcombe recommends thinking of PR like this: “PR is storytelling – it’s about giving the media an interesting story that stays out there. When you think PR, have a vision and remind yourself of it everyday. And remember, good PR is about content, content content, so keep in mind some key basics:
- Tell YOUR story and tell it well (use case studies and testimonials whenever you can)
- No-one will tell your story better than you
- Enthrall people in whatever way you can – using every tool under the sun!”
Hand in hand with an effective PR strategy, using the right social media platforms can also significantly increase the reach of your story. LinkedIn, for example, is one of the most effective social media tools, with over 500 million users globally. For those new to the platform Anna-Marie Taylor recommends some important essentials:
- Having a strong personal profile
- Creating a corporate business page
- Posting good content (thought leadership articles, for example)
- Following relevant companies and people, and commenting on and sharing their content.
“Launching a business is an intense time in an entrepreneur’s life as there are multiple things to consider. Financing the idea, developing the product or service, and finding employees often take precedent over building a brand. But if a business doesn’t create the right public facing persona and actively promote this using online and offline communication channels, this could be detrimental when taking a concept to market. LinkedIn and Twitter are two of the most important business 2 business (B2B) tools for brand positioning and communication. Focus on getting these right to boost your brand online” – Anna-Marie Taylor, Director, Taylor Communications
The Market Validation Bootcamp is just one stage of the CyberASAP programme, designed to help turn academic ideas in to commercial products in the rapidly evolving cyber security space. “CyberASAP provides a whole new perspective to technology development, by concentrating on value and markets. Priceless advice!” commented Professor David Chadwick from the Kent University team, another attendee of the Bootcamp.
Funded by the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), through Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network, CyberASAP is now in its third year, with 20 projects having graduated since launch in 2017.