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FinTech startups: When to blow your own trumpet, and when not to

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Debbie Zaman, founder and MD of specialist technology communications agency Withpr and Tech London advocate, explains how FinTech startups can attract attention from investors and the industry.

I spoke to a FinTech entrepreneur recently who complained that no one seemed to be talking about her company anymore. Her startup had made a big splash around its launch, and she had expected that this would do the trick for building long lasting relationships with key journalists. But instead she found subsequent conversations falling on deaf ears.

It’s a familiar story – in the capital, fewer than 40% of startups survive more than five years. Many struggle because they don’t receive the attention they deserve from investors or the broader industry, and great media coverage can play a crucial role in that.

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Blowing your own trumpet can really help your business, but knowing when to do it – and when not to – can make all the difference.

1. When you know how to talk about your business

It’s no good building external communication without the foundation of meaningful messages. You can’t speak to media (and through them to potential investors, acquirers or customers) before you know the three most important points your audiences need to know about your business, as well as the proof to support them.

Don’t expect media to be as immersed in FinTech as you are – be prepared to simplify your message. Talk to your neighbour, grandmother or mate at the pub, and explain what you do. Do people outside your bubble understand it straight away? Do they get why you are different or better? If not, make it clearer.

A word of warning here – whilst we always like to see quantifiable superlatives in messages where possible, avoid hyperbole. This can be particularly dangerous in the financial world where the regulation of communication can mean exaggeration becomes your downfall.

For an example of strong messaging, though, just look to MarketInvoice. One of the reasons the startup has been able to grow so fast is that its proposition is simple and intuitive: it lets companies borrow money against unpaid invoices. Straight up idea, straight talking.

2. When you have something genuinely valuable to say

‘Thought leadership’ is a key ambition for plenty of business owners. However, there is a tonne of thought leadership out there without a great deal of leading thought.

For a specialist sector like FinTech, entrepreneurs will likely have strong opinions about a range of industry issues, from PSD2 to cross-border payments. Yet those who actually succeed in getting their voices heard are the ones that understand the existing conversation and bring something new to it.

The most talked-about thought leadership backs up its arguments with hard stats – ideally based on proprietary information. Ask yourself: does your software generate any data you can mine? Have you delivered work for a well-known brand lately? Can you find another unique source for figures or stories? Dig hard, because those are the gems that will really make your content stand out and your business memorable.

London startup DueDil has been very successful in its thought leadership, with a blog built on a similar model to Bloomberg. And online investment service Nutmeg builds its content around advice, guides and tools through its social channels that offer genuine benefit to the end audiences.

3. When the business hits major milestones

A tech editor recently complained to me that she gets 20 press releases every day about companies opening a London office and it just isn’t news. It can be difficult to know what is newsworthy and what isn’t. The trade-off between issuing a press release (or, preferably, a tailored pitch to priority journalists) every time something new happens, and building longer term relationships with journalists without spamming them is a tricky one.

A simple litmus test is whether you would click on a story about a different startup doing the same thing. If you lure Elon Musk onto your team, or disrupt the market with something your friends are going crazy for, it’s likely a story. But if you hire someone who once worked in middle management at an FI, or update your old app, it’s probably not.

Getting this balance right is crucial, because marking milestones is a critical part of making the right type of noise. Building up steam in the press ahead of an IPO, for instance, can help generate massive value.

4. When you have taken time to KYC

KYC is used in financial circles to help avoid fraud, but there is a handy hint for communications in there too.

You may find you don’t need to be on the front page of the Financial Times to reach the audience you need. Specialist tech outlets – such as, indeed, Tech City News – go a long way in delivering your message straight to a targeted community of investors or potential clients.

Crucially, media coverage is only the start of the conversation. If it delivers accessible messaging on your business, brings something new to a key topic and is tailored well to your audience, you can expect it to be read and shared.

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