Creating the solution was the easy part, but now try explaining it
Technology entrepreneurs are often tremendously talented, clever and capable individuals. Some of the business plans I’ve witnessed recently are off the chart in terms of both ambition and potential impact – lab grown meats, nano-tech satellites, pollution-busting energy, not to mention the super smart AI software, which becomes more apparent by the day.
But while the leaders of these companies excel in the labs and development suites, they often face a tougher time when they head out into the real world.
Many tech entrepreneurs find it hard to explain to the man on the street what they do and, crucially, why they should really care. Talking to your peers and fellow scientists is one thing – Joe Public is quite another.
The media, who relay this information to Joe, is another challenge. Most journalists, myself included, studied arts and humanities at university, rather than science. Appreciating the importance and significance of start-ups is a challenge, and we are going to have to up our game.
But technology entrepreneurs that want coverage in the media must also learn how to communicate effectively. Every entrepreneur needs a story which can be understood by everyone. The jargon of the lab or peer group needs to be ditched and replaced by plain English. For many, this is a big challenge.
Here are five ways you can overcome the challenges and make your tech startup famous:
1) Tell us your story
Journalists want to know who you are and how you came to be working in your business. So – what’s your story? How did you come to develop your technology? Was there some kind of Eureka moment? The human story is very important.
2) Focus on the benefits
Rather than trying to describe every intricate detail, start off by explaining the end result. What problem does your technology actually solve? Does it make something cheaper, safer or more convenient? Give people a reason to want it and the details can come later.
3) Think about visuals
Every story needs a picture. If you can hold your kit in your hands and be photographed with it, that’s great. But if not, think about its impact and how that might be illustrated. A professional photoshoot is a must for media-facing businesses. Also, a good YouTube video can be very effective.
4) Emphasize your credentials
With so many big ideas floating around, it’s a challenge for journalists to gauge how credible an entrepreneur is – so we investigate their background. But entrepreneurs can help by creating a bio containing useful information such as university background, professional experience, investor backing and status of your intellectual property. That, along with an up to date LinkedIn or other online profile, will make a good first impression.
5) Be prepared to substantiate what you say
In a world of mind-blowing technology, journalists need verification of the big claims entrepreneurs make. Entrepreneurs need to get their facts and figures straight before communicating in public and then be able to back up what they say. Backing from an authoritative source such as an academic institution, research group or government body can be effective. If possible, it makes sense for journalists to be able to experience it for themselves, so offer free trials.
Jon Card has worked as a journalist for 15 years and writes regularly for The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and The Times about entrepreneurs and technology. He regularly runs training sessions on how startups can gain more press.