5 communications rules for startups on a budget

ShuQi LiuIn this guest post, ShuQi Liu offers five communications rules for startups on a budget to live by.

1. Don’t have a brand personality? Build one.

It pays to be different, and building a brand personality is easy. By and large, entrepreneurs see the business as an extension of himself, so it is perfectly fine to put your personal values, likes and dislikes into the brand. Simply put, just be your authentic self.

Entrepreneurship is not about impressing everyone with how much money was raised and market traction gained. It is ok to be vulnerable and share the sacrifices like working weekends, giving up family time, and being in debt. Also have the courage to admit to mistakes like ordering too many supplies and paying high rent. These little nuggets add up to being a memorable brand.

2. Find that vision and articulate it with passion.

For effective communications to happen, there must be passion and conviction. These days, with the advent of social media, stakeholders can smell pretentious content from the nearest keyboard. So dig deep and spend quality time focusing on the why and the how that drives you to start the business – why should people care about your company? How do you stay relevant in an ever-changing landscape?

Find that one vision and stick to it. Be consistent with storytelling and repeat it like a broken record. If it’s what you truly believe, it never gets boring saying the same thing to different audiences. In fact, the passion just keeps growing every time.

3. Be a giver, don’t just be a taker.

It is great to research and come up with the best brand positioning. It is also a must to hunt for investors, customers and employees to scale up the business. You’ve done your homework talking to the people in your industry, why not share it with others around you?

To ensure communications is well received, it pays to be generous about sharing insights, top tips and know-hows. We’re not referring to confidential information, it is the experiences and networks that create trust with stakeholders. When you are not just asking, but also giving information to help others, they can draw better associations with your brand. This also creates a personality for the business.

4. Give your undivided attention and listen.

The biggest life lesson I got from school was to keep quiet and pay attention to the teacher when he talks. Clients, especially the grey haired ones, love it when I do just that. Over a casual cup of coffee, I learnt so much about their business concerns, current pain points, as well as hopes and dreams for the future.

Providing others with a listening ear allows so many things to happen at the same time. While empathising with his situation, I am able to assess the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities available for Q Communications to add value to the business context. More importantly, it gives me time to gauge if we like each other enough to do business together.

Plain and simple.

5. Don’t be a “selfie”!

Last but not least, think less of “me” and more of “we”. An effective communicator combines all the above from rule numbers 1 to 4 and engages in a two way conversation. Let go of the fears and ego, just listen to the inner voice for guidance. Over time, writing, speaking and listening will expose you to unexpected possibilities. The mind will be expanded and you can find out if this total stranger can be your next client, investor, vendor or employee!

Getting a start-up off the ground is full of ups and downs, what matters is how one is wired to overcome these challenges through effective and consistent communications. That’s the only way to build a lasting legacy, and a one way ticket to growing a sustainable business.

ShuQi Liu is founding director of Q Communications, an independent branding and communications firm that specialises in startups. She launched the company in May 2014.


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