THURSDAY 29 JUN 2023 1:07 PM


Lucia Barbato, co-founder of Ilex Content Strategies, considers the vital role corporate communications plays in growing your business.

When does a start-up become an established business? There’s little consensus globally on what constitutes a start-up and how long a company can call itself that, but generally once a business has started to win clients, drive revenue and start to show growth, it could be considered to have entered the next phase. The question is, how can a business let its audiences, both internally and externally, know? This is where the role of corporate communications is vital.

Foster confidence in investors

A large proportion of start-ups in the B2B tech and telecoms industry raise funds to get started. Communication during the early stages of a business is tailored to attracting the types of venture capitalists and angel investors whose support might be able to turn a great idea into a viable business. Start-ups in this phase must convey a clear purpose and vision which will be translated into tangible business benefits for any prospective investors.

For internal teams this phase can be both the most exciting and the most stressful. Until sufficient funding is secured most operations need to be done on a shoestring or remain in-house. Resources will largely be allocated to business-critical activities, namely winning those all-important investors and trying to find a voice in the industry in the face of established brands. But what happens when you’re winning business and growing?

Encourage take up by end-users

Once funding is secured investors will look for proof that projections were sound so attention needs to be focused on acquiring end-users. Whether that is a few choice contracts or generating a critical mass, the communications strategy of a brand at this stage will be different to what’s gone before. This represents the first fork in the road when corporate communications must shift to meet new objectives. Yet all too often the various challenges and demands of a start-up mean that those tasked with this are often swamped with responsibilities and lack the internal resources to put a comprehensive communications plan in place.

It is critical that start-ups harness the power of corporate communications at this junction to share their successes and let their target audience know that they are moving into a new phase of their business journey. This might take the form of press releases announcing milestones such as new client wins, or even high-level executives joining the internal team. It could be the creation of use cases or case studies to demonstrate early successes with clients in specific business sectors. It could be using bylined articles to support the promotion of key executives in target verticals. The best corporate communications strategies will adopt a variety of targeted practises all ultimately aimed at fostering trust in potential new clients who can see an established track record of success.

Keep business teams informed and engaged in the overall success journey

Internal corporate communications are also vital to keep the initial start-up team united in the journey. This is especially important as the company grows beyond its initial founders to support other essential business functions like sales and business development. The pace of change may be too fast to keep internal stakeholders informed in the ways that might have worked in the initial start-up phase. To foster a sense of cohesion regular communications in the form of a newsletter could be a simple way to share the brands news with an internal audience.

Enable the business to pivot successfully out of the start-up phase into an established business

Perception is key. If a brand is considered to be an established business, it will necessarily foster greater trust from its target audience. It will have a proven track record of success, with established clients that have reaped the rewards promised by the sales teams. This will be evidenced in use cases and case studies. But all too often start-ups haven’t used corporate communications to successfully pivot out of the start-up phase and reposition themselves as an established business. This is when internal resources might be at their most stretched and is therefore the ideal time to find a partner who will operate as an extension of your team. Only once a start-up has successfully harnessed corporate communications can it be understood to have achieved the milestones and successes needed to take it to the next phase of its development.