In 2021, African tech startup funding crossed the $2 billion mark, with startups raising $1 million every other hour. This is a big step up from where the ecosystem was a few years ago. Stripe’s acquisition of Paystack was a watershed moment – it signalled to investors that they could put their money inAfrican startups and earn attractive returns.
Suddenly, a global investor class had a strong appetite for African tech deal flow. Like any industry, the media responds to demand.
Media outlets dramatically upped their coverage. TechCrunch hired a West Africa correspondent and later a reporter in Nairobi. Bloomberg dedicated journalists to the African tech beat and started reporting on early-stage investments.
However, signs pointing to fatigue over fundraising stories have emerged over the last year. African tech watchers gripe that the media should expand coverage beyond funding. Reader interest in pure fundraise stories is waning, translating into weaker analytics for the media platforms.The flurry of fundraises has even become memeified.
Securing an investment announcement in TechCrunch is no longer a novelty and won’t drive excitement like before. Tech startups, therefore, need to think beyond fundraising PR for elevating their profiles.
Startups can turn to public relations strategies like thought leadership and owned media to build their reputation and credibility, connect with key audiences of investors and partners, and foster relationships with the media.
Share insight, but make it interesting
African tech startups can consider switching to a multi-channel strategy that involves thought leadership and owned media.
Thought leadership is when people see founders, or by extension, their startups as an authority source. They earn this trust and credibility by consistently sharing reliable industry information, insights, analysis, and data. The best part is that this strategy is entirely under the startup’s control. They can publish their information on their owned channels: website,blog, Medium page, YouTube channel, and Twitter. Then if it is really interesting, it could get picked up by media publications for free.
To build a reputation as an authority source, contribute information on newsworthy topics. For example, agent banking has taken off in Nigeria over the last several years. But agents who carry cash are sitting ducks for robbers. This has become a more pressing issue as security has deteriorated across the country.
CrowdForce, an Abuja-based agent banking network (full disclosure: they’re a past client), wanted to better understand the security situation of their 7,000+ agents. The communications team asked them in a market survey whether they had ever been robbed.
One-fifth of agents had experienced a robbery, while 80% were concerned about their security. Not only is the survey data useful forCrowdForce’s internal operations, but it can also be used for writing ananalys is piece on security trends at the last mile for financial service providers. The data is also great for pitching journalists.
Startup founders and entrepreneurs can also share their expertise or opinions – the more counter-intuitive or surprising, the better. A deep dive into the inner workings of their industry, a behind-the-scenes looking to developing a new product, or a passionate stand on an industry trend could all be moulded into great content.
Founders who stand their ground about hard truths in their field while making sure they’re supported by facts are also magnets for promising media attention. An honest opinion is compelling and perceived as authentic, which is a valuable currency in our social media era.
Some practical examples
An example is Temi Giwa’s piece on payment-on-delivery in e-commerce. It’s effective because she has credibility in the industry as a senior product manager at Paystack. She wrote it based on her work experience, sharing specific details about the delayed profits, failed orders, and business closures that are part and parcel of payment-on-delivery. She also supported her argument with charts.
Another effective PR strategy that can raise a startup’s profile is the use of Twitter to share insights. Eloho Omame, co-founder at FirstCheckAfrica, a female-led, female-focused angel fund and investor community, is known for her regular Twitter threads. Omame shares practical and actionable advice for founders, like how to avoid a bad investment deal. In addition to her core audience of female entrepreneurs, she also appeals to a broader audience by demystifying startup jargon.
The African tech industry is hungry for knowledge. Both Giwa and Omame show that well-written and researched content can be popular, stimulating debate and driving engagement in the process. Although it’s a long-term endeavour that bears fruit through consistent quality output.
It’s a winning strategy for profile raising and building relationships beyond fundraising stories.
Owned media spawns earned media
Startup founders and entrepreneurs with a reputation for interesting insights, commentary, and data inevitably attract the attention of journalists who are always on the lookout for excellent and relatable industry sources.
Given that African tech is still in its infancy, journalists who cover the sector are generalists. Being jacks of all trades, they want to cultivate ties with knowledgeable sources who will explain the inner workings of their industry.
Journalists also use Twitter to look for story ideas. If they stumble upon an interesting thread or tweet, especially if it’s trending or popular, they will follow up with the author for more information. A nugget of an idea could lead to a story. I once shared my two cents on Volkswagen’s plans to move into ride-hailing in Africa. A Bloomberg reporter who I’ve known for years contacted me to discuss the idea for a potential story. Therein lies a formula.
Lastly, founders who are good storytellers can earn goodwill with the media and aid relationship building over the long term. During are cent Twitter Spaces on African tech PR strategy, Koromone Koroye, TechCabal’sManaging Editor, cited Benjamin Fernades of NALA and Gregory Rockson of mPharmaas founders who use Twitter well. They share the reality of building a tech startup candidly and are relatable. Koroye liked and could relate to their authentic communication style, which piqued her interest in their startups.
Fundraising PR is just the beginning
PR around a fundraising announcement is important since startups need tomake noise about their investments. However, it’s only the beginning.
Startups can stand out in a crowded field by sharing compelling stories and data via their owned channels, establishing expertise, and building relationships with the media. A multi-channel PR approach that leans on thought leadership and owned media yields lasting results that compound over time.
Victoria is a Lagos-based African tech publicist and founder of NoFilter PR. She's lived in West Africa for 10 years.