Talk the walk: amplifying communications to accelerate growth

In this blog post, our change management communications expert, Harriet Rich, calls on tech scale-ups to seize the opportunity for growth through impactful storytelling. 

The FT reported recently that private equity deal-making is at levels not seen since before the financial crisis, with fund managers sitting on a pot of $2.5tn to invest. Evidence of this includes CVC Capital Partners announcing in June that it will raise Europe’s largest ever Private Equity fund of 18bn Euros and EQT is promising to reach 14bn Euros by 2020. VC money to the tune of £1.19bn has also been invested in companies including fintech firm Iwoca, Ovo Energy and debit card payment specialist Go Cardless. Whilst this marked a subtle dip for VC funding on the same period in 2018 it still indicates significant appetite for technology. With interest rates and economic growth low across developed nations investor sights are firmly locked on tech scale-ups to achieve stellar returns.

In June Tech Nation reported that 13 new unicorns were created in the UK in the last 12 months, bringing our total to 72. These disruptors are making waves in healthcare, real estate and agriculture. It’s exciting to watch digital start-ups mature into fully grown businesses but it’s hard to predict which ones will still be the market leaders ten years from now. There are lots of factors that will determine future success: consumer trends, economic and political climate, pace of innovation but some are softer such as style of leadership, brand reputation and communications.

Tech scale-ups are unique in terms of the speed at which they evolve with new recruits joining on a daily basis to code, market and sell disruptive platforms. Evolving the narrative from investors to employees, customers, potential customers, partners and relevant policy and industry stakeholders is a crucial phase in the development of a technology business. It’s one that requires a clear strategy and resources to succeed.

In the race for funding during the early days it’s understandable that tech firms focus on the investor audience as the key to survival but engaging consumer and business audiences – depending on the business model – needs equal priority after Series B funding. Expanding communications beyond investors to a wider set of stakeholders requires a different approach that focuses less on financial performance and more on purpose, market issues and value. One that is much less about the brand in question and much more about the customers it serves.

We’ve witnessed and played a part in the meteoric rise of tech brands including Adyen, Celonis and Pivotal. These companies have a special energy and culture that makes them unique, often emanating from quietly charismatic founders whose personal story from zero to hero comes first. This is a great starting point and vital to attract investment but consumer PR and B2B communications need to start with the customer. This is where we come in. We help clients define their vision and long-term goals and develop a narrative around this that grows with them. We uncover the stories, develop messages that resonate and create powerful campaigns that work for the brand, the customer, the employee and policy-makers watching the market.

Sometimes elevating the story requires a shift in emphasis and positioning to align a brand’s purpose with current market and social context. A good example of this is our work with Thomsons Online Benefits in transitioning them from pension consulting firm to a Software as a Service platform provider. This technology focus was the key to elevating their brand value and them achieving a successful sale to Mercer in 2017. In other cases, quality of service, pace of innovation or transparency becomes the key differentiator. Through listening, challenging and defining what makes the brand and proposition special we can achieve a very valuable transformation.

At Brands2Life, we’ve developed a change management communications service designed to boost brand preference at pace for businesses seeking to accelerate growth on the back of investment. Step Change helps firms make the leap from disruptor to leader whilst keeping a team of advocates around them. Epic transformation stories make great reading but they must be told well for the transformation to be fully recognized and valued.

Disruptors need advocates when the inevitable happens and the world stops loving them and starts to react to flaws in their strategy or behaviour. With a plentiful supply of investment to play with and a steady flow of creative technology disruptors emerging, the winners will be the ones who build communities of advocates and influencers around them who feel part of their success and can clearly articulate what they do and why.

Written by Harriet Rich, Joint MD,  Corporate & Business Communications

For more information on Step Change, please get in touch.

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