Why African Start-up Founders Should Hire Public Relations Consultants – Israel Opayemi
Israel Jaiye Opayemi MD Chief Strategist Chain Reactions Africa

Why African Start-up Founders Should Hire Public Relations Consultants – Israel Opayemi

4 months ago
3 mins read

For businesses, especially start-ups, to bloom and scale, they need the expertise of a good Public Relations Advisory firm for stronger brand building and best-in-class reputation management.

This submission was made by one of Africa’s strategic communications thought leaders, Israel Opayemi, Managing Director/Chief Strategist of leading public relations and integrated communications consulting firm, Chain Reactions Africa (CRA) in a recently released thought leadership advisory titled: The Unseen Necessity: Why African Start-up Founders Should Hire Public Relations Consultants.

Opayemi described Public Relations as the lifeline that connects a start-up to its audience, shapes its narrative, and safeguards its reputation in the face of challenges. He urged businesses, most especially start-ups, not to see Public Relations as an ‘afterthought’ that should be resorted to only when launching a new product, but rather an integral part of the entire brand building journey.

“In their enthusiasm for product development, product launch, and market penetration, many African start-up founders neglect the crucial role of Public Relations in brand building. The misconception that Public Relations is only for large corporations and that start-ups can rely solely on organic growth often lead to missed opportunities for strategic brand positioning, compelling storytelling, and effective crisis management, amongst other benefits,” he said.

Opayemi highlighted the key roles that Public Relations can play to aid the growth of start-ups to include “analysing trends, predicting their consequences, senior executive counsels, implementation of planned communications programmes as opposed to the knee jack approaches we often see especially when crisis hits. Most startups focus their immediate attention on building products instead of building their most vital asset, which is the asset of trust, without which long-term growth and customer retention is impossible.”

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Even when it comes to the fundamentals of telling their own stories, Opayemi counselled that startups should look beyond just hiring a single individual or few individuals to occasionally put out social media posts or issue press releases. Telling compelling stories, he pointed out, requires more than that, especially in the cluttered media age in which we live. “For example, through our type of transmedia storytelling model which involves an intentional integrated amplification approach aimed at leveraging both online and offline channels and platforms to ensure the broadest reach and optimise communication effectiveness, start-ups can be better positioned for global recognition; helping them connect with emerging venture capitals in distant shores and delivering their messages to critical audiences outside of their immediate jurisdictions,” Opayemi said.

He also pointed out the unique role Public Relations plays in the life of start-ups during crises. In the unpredictable start-up landscape, crises are almost inevitable. Whether it’s a product recall, a leadership change, or negative publicity; how a start-up handles a crisis can make or break its reputation. “A professional Public Relations firm will help a startup conduct a risk profiling exercise, develop a risk dashboard, a crisis management protocol, train its internal issue owners for all the profiled risks, develop specific response strategies for each scenario and prepare a reputation recovery plan for the startup in the event of the crisis impacting its reputation negatively. These are some of the many unknown and unseen benefits of engaging the services of qualified public relations advisory firms by startups,” Opayemi added.

Opayemi lamented that, due to a limited understanding of the role of public relations consultants in business, many start-ups have collapsed by not managing crises professionally. “The erroneous belief that all that needs to be done to manage a crisis is to make a semi-apologetic post on social media, or issue a half-hearted press release or organise some social media influencers for a clapback has been the greatest undoing of some great startups with amazing visions. These approaches are too jaded, ineffective and always fail to address the real issues just as they appear insincere, especially to the affected parties. When these inefficacious approaches are adopted by a startup in crisis time, they complicate the situation, worsen the crisis and make the brand appear insensitive with dire consequences on the brand’s reputation,” he said.

Opayemi, therefore, counselled start-up founders to prioritise hiring professional Public Relations firms to manage their corporate and personal brands as thought leaders within their ecosystem of operation as the strategic use of public relations tools can positively impact their reputation by way of how they are perceived by investors, customers, and the broader business community. According to him, “trust is the first and most important currency with which startup will trade in the marketplace journey in business and those better placed to manage that currency are qualified public relations advisors.”

He further warned that Public Relations is not just a peripheral business requirement for start-ups but, a strategic imperative. Understanding and leveraging its tools can be the key differentiator between a start-up that thrives and one that fades into obscurity. As start-ups continue to disrupt industries and redefine markets, Opayemi appeals to startups to embrace the power of Public Relations and brave the new world without limits.


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