Ask an Entrepreneur: “Just How Important are External Communications and PR When the Company is in Concept or Even Seed Stage?” Part 1
Welcome to Rev1 Ventures’ newest blog series, Ask an Entrepreneur. Central Ohio’s entrepreneurs have a wealth of information and learned experience and we’re going to channel some of that expertise here.
We asked Updox CEO Michael Morgan and Aisling (Ash) Babbitt, director of Marketing at Updox, to talk about the why and how of Updox’s marketing communications (MARCOM) strategy. This is Part 1 of our conversation. Part 2 will appear on Monday.
TC: You make PR and external communications a priority for Updox.
MM: Yes, and counter to what people might think, the hardest part is not the money, but the time.
TC: Do you have some suggestions for startups that are beginning to think about their communications strategy?
MM: The process of marketing communications starts with the company having something special to say, but there’s a little trap that some entrepreneurs and early stage companies fall into.
We are all passionate about what we do. We believe it’s wonderful, but sometimes companies only know how to the tell the story about their business one way.
Instead of a one-size-fits-all message approach, we recognize that there are various audiences that Updox needs to communicate with. These include the prospective customers we are trying to sell to, the potential investment community that is looking for signs Updox is growing, and the local community where we want build buzz, gain awareness, and demonstrate that Updox is a cool and great place to work.
Each of our audience is likely to require a slightly different message, depending on what’s important to them.
TC: What communications channels do you use to reach Updox’ s multiple audiences?
MM: We use a variety of channels to reach our audiences, including personal contact, email, web site, social media, news releases, marketing materials, trade shows and site visits. We tailor our messages for each audience and know which channels work best to reach which audience. For example, for customers, our primary tools are email, our web site and Facebook. It’s about our service promise, tips and information to help them maximize their use of our products and building those crucial relationships.
For the financial community, we rely on press releases and our tone in these is deliberately a little more corporate. We talk about the size of the potential and how Updox products, services, partners, and employees are changing the industry and the marketplace.
TC: How do you allocate your communications budget? Updox has a significant social media presence. What else?
MM: Social media is very cost effective, but if you start communicating and don’t back it up, then you run into problems.
We receive a lot of analytics from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We use Google Analytics for the web site. We want to know where people are going and how long they are staying. We set up goals and measure what happens and how our traffic grows month to month. How can we get them to our site and what do we want them to read and react to once they are there?
I’m a big fan of spending the money on PRWeb. Even early on, when we were spending only a little bit of money on anything, and nothing on marketing, we would still invest in PRWeb.
Our first marketing hire, Ash, was in marketing communications. We had a choice between product marketing and marketing communications, and we chose communications. Then it’ a choice as to where you want to apply the budget between the creative and the messaging. I’m a firm believer in starting with the messaging side. Many people fall to the creative, but if it looks good and message is wrong, that’s lost money and lost opportunity.
TC: How do you decide what to communicate?
MM: The consideration is really quantity versus quality. A big company tries to focus on a very small number of press releases of the utmost quality. Too many small companies blurt out everything they do. We think a better strategy is to make sure that the things we talk about are important. It’s hard to build credibility and easy to lose it.
Don’t make things too complicated and put too much together. It’s natural; you can justify in your mind how great something sounds with so many buzzwords. Even today, Ash and I go back and forth a lot of times, until the flow, the order and the words are right and in the voice we want to use.
Don’t be so stubborn that you can’t react to feedback on your message. Be willing to change. We test our message a lot. Changing a message doesn’t mean we are compromising it. It’s just changing how we say what we do.
AB: Also, I’m a firm believer in having a long-term plan. When we do a press release or new messaging, we try to think ahead three, six, 12 months to the next release or campaign to be sure that what we doing today fits into our overall strategy. We might even hint at our next big news. Then, when we make that announcement, people recognize that we know what we are doing, that we are always thinking about how things are going to build.
MM: Especially with social media, it’s fun to play around and change the tone of your message. Sometimes we’ll be a little more humorous. It’s Indicative of our personality. Healthcare people like to laugh, too. They need a little break and levity.
Providing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for health care, Updox is the industry leading Physician Connectivity Platform. More than 40 electronic health record (EHR) vendors, representing 140,000 physicians, selected Updox as their Health Information Service Provider (HISP) of choice to be a part of the Updox Direct Network (UDN).
Updox services are available directly to independent physicians or through partnerships with EHR vendors to help practices run more efficiently, increase revenues and offer patients a more satisfying experience interacting with their providers where they are treated like customers and not numbers. More than 30,000 members have joined Updox to change how medical practices collaborate and share information.