Startups need to know how to tell their story

A record number of 366 startup deals took place in 2018 across MENA, amounting to a total investment of US$893 million. According to Magnitt’s “The Start-up Ecosystem in the Arab World 2019” report, there are more than 10,000 startups across the Arab world with total funding reaching $2.1 billion.

The startup ecosystem is rapidly growing in the region and only the successful become acquired or a sensation! Not all of them, especially at their early stages of development, can afford a proper PR support from an agency. Their budgets are tight, and priorities are directed towards other aspects of their business operations. I covered this at length in my latest article published by the Entrepreneur Middle East magazine based in Dubai.


In this blog, however, I want to talk about the storytelling element. If startups get their storytelling right, they will be able to win in every aspect of their development. And by win, I don’t only mean winning the hearts of their customers, but winning investors’ attention and more funding. Because, let’s face it, there are plenty of interesting ideas and concepts out there, but because their founders’ visions are not fully understood, they never see the success they aspire to. There are ways in which those startups need to communicate and steps they need to take to become successful at telling their stories.


First thing first, they need to get their story straight. Before telling a story, you need to know what your brand’s objectives are, what are you trying to achieve and who will benefit from your business the most. It is important that investors need to what success looks like and what you plan to do long term to ensure this success multiplies over the years.


Consistency of the story is equally as important as its content. To stay consistent but not repetitive, brands need to come up with key messages they can use across different channels of communication. Key messages will normally deliver the essence of what the company does and proof points. Media hate it when companies make broad statements like, “we are the first in the region,” “our technology is the most innovative in the world,” “one and only in this industry.” Your key messages need to be factual and backed up by proofs you can present, especially when you make big claims of being first, best and the one and only.


Once your messages are created, you can play around them and say the same things in different ways while staying true to the original meaning of your messages. This applies to your marketing collateral, media interviews, business presentations, website and what your employees or partners say about your brand. You need to tell investors the exact same story they will read tomorrow in the newspaper and hear from your customers if they are to conduct a brand perception survey.


When you have your story ready, your messages are factual and consistent, you need to decide what channels of communication you will use to spread the word. Many times throughout my communications journey, I received requests such as: “We want coverage. Can we distribute the release and get coverage?”.Of course you can, but will this information reach all the right audiences? Not necessarily. Instead, you need to be strategic about your topics, content, and audiences. Make sure, whether you are posting on social media, doing an interview with a journalist, writing a blog for your website or meeting your potential investor, you tailor your messages to your audiences. If you are a technology startup and you have this cutting-edge solution you want to secure funding for, you need to talk numbers and business continuity as well as your next stages and future plans. You don’t need to bore your investors with coding and data inscription technicalities, while still pointing out security features of your app (in case it is an app). But when you are meeting your potential customer, an IT engineer, for instance, he would want to know more about product features and as many technical details as possible.


This is how you tailor your story to deliver right messages to all the right people.


Now imagine you are at a networking event or casual dinner party at a friend’s house, and someone comes to you and asks you what you do. You will have two minutes to tell your listener what you do and you want that person to go away and be able to tell his friend about you and your business without missing on the essence of it. Try practicing it at informal events and get your story right even before you tell it!
By Stanislava Burianek, Associate Account Director, Active DMC