Allan Prits is Head of Corporate Communications, Media and PR for UMIP, The University of Manchester's agent for Intellectual Property (IP) commercialisation. UMIP helps turn the results of world-leading research from the University into world-beating businesses, products and services which it achieves through the sale of IP or through licensing or spinning out companies.
In this guest blog, Allan looks at how PR support over the past ten years has helped not only launch spin-out companies and their first products or services but also further develop their profiles both on and offline. He gives some simple tips and advice.Providing the right PR support to this process is key to raising awareness of the technology opportunities available for investors, collaborators and other interested parties.
We work with Roland Dransfield, which provides PR services to many of the projects in our technology portfolio and also to those later-stage opportunities that are spun out of the University as businesses. This support is often in the form of writing a press release to announce a new spin-out or milestone in its progression with the aim of raising awareness, attracting funding or finding collaborative partners. Some of the key considerations we advise on include:
Timing and Message: It's important to make sure the time is right to make the announcement and that all parties concerned agree. Try to avoid multiple messages in your press release – just focus on the one you're looking to communicate – it's best to have several releases over a period of time, each with a different but relevant message than a single one with everything crammed in.
It's also important to tie in your release with a wider marketing strategy for the spin-out, so that all promotional activity is complementary. Unlike a mature company, a spin-out or start-up still in its infancy will usually only have a few tales to tell, for example company launch, investment or first product/service announcement, so getting the timing of that right is imperative in order that the opportunity is not wasted.
Targets – Spin-outs really need to understand the desired audience for each press release they intend to issue. Who do they want to target with this communication? If it is an announcement about looking for funding for a product or service that might have global impact, then it is really important to think about making more of an international splash focussing on papers and magazines geared towards the investor community. The same applies if seeking new customers, try to place the release where they are most likely to see it, for example trade press or specialist magazines or journals.
We have used a global wire service distribution in the past to announce new technologies one of which achieved 260 media hits world-wide and resulted in funding enquiries from the USA and China.
So, global press distribution might work really well if you only have one announcement to make, but you want to reach as many people as possible in multiple countries. However, a spin-out company with more of a local focus, for example, might well enjoy far greater success by securing one decent article in the Manchester Evening News or in a regional, business or trade press magazine.
Technology – Using social media channels to raise awareness of new technologies and opportunities is also key. Some start-ups may simply need social media training to help them get going on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as a starting point, but the important details of others may be more easily demonstrated by film and in this regard, the likes of YouTube opens up a world of possibilities too.
Elevator Pitch - It's understandable for spin-outs and start-ups to be passionate about their projects, but reigning in your enthusiasm is an invaluable skill to learn. When producing a press release or editorial - it's vital to concisely explain what your product or service is all about and not attempt to cram in every last detail.
Mind Your Language - On a similar note, for press releases for general issue, try not to get bogged down in technical descriptions and jargon. Explain things in a straightforward way and if more detail is required - rest assured journalists and publications will seek it out.
The Bottom Line
Each spin-out is unique and all require different levels of support but one thing is certain, collectively they all have the potential to make an important contribution to the economy regionally, nationally and internationally and ultimately impact on to the quality of public life.
Have you struggled or succeeded in getting exposure for your start-up or spin-out? Or do you know someone who has? We always love to hear your stories, so be sure to leave us a comment below.
And if you're a small business owner wondering where to get started with marketing, we've put together a brand new guide, crammed full of tips on how to choose and procure the best marketing and PR options for your company. Check it out now:
Images used courtesy of bpplanet and photostock on freedigitalphotos.net