In the dynamic landscape of business, effective communication is not just a nicety; it's a strategic imperative, especially for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The way a company articulates its identity and mission plays a pivotal role in shaping its narrative and influencing stakeholders.
1. Consistency in How you Speak About your Company
Communication plays a key role across any business, however for SMEs, it plays a vital role in helping the company explain who it is and what it does in a clear and compelling way. Having a messaging architecture in place that is adapted to the business’ target audience will ensure that the SME communicates consistently, internally and externally, across all platforms.
Having established and approved messaging that spokespeople can use as a reference will promote consistency, accuracy and will drastically reduce the probability that inaccurate or erroneous information is shared, potentially plunging the company into a crisis. When talking to a Financial Times journalist, Markus Braun, the former CEO of defunct fintech company Wirecard, described his company as follows: “We are a software group, an internet company, with a bank as a daughter and not the other way around.” This left the FT journalist thoroughly confused and it’s no surprise that the company has since declared bankruptcy. If your messaging is not clear, consistent and compelling you’re missing an opportunity to add value to your brand and potentially confusing your stakeholders.
2. Credibility & Trust
As you build your business, what will accelerate your success is your ability to establish trust and credibility with your key stakeholders. Without this, there is a high probability you will not be successful. So how do you achieve trust and credibility as an SME? A company’s reputation is usually built over time and there are no shortcuts. You need to be authentic in your business and transparent in your communication.
By being regularly featured in the media and visible to your target audience, you will gradually enhance your profile as well as your credibility and reputation. This year, one of our clients managed to close one of the biggest deals the UAE market has ever seen in their industry. They were able to do this because they had a track record of media visibility in the market which cemented their reputation in the eyes of the party they did the deal with. This same client was also able to close a deal on an exclusivity basis (meaning no other competition was involved) for the same reason. When someone wants to do business with you today, the first thing they will do is search the internet to see what your profile looks like in the media.
3. Capturing Your Audience’s Attention
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, famously said “We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.” Studies have also shown that the human attention span has decreased dramatically over the last decade. In 2013, human attention was estimated to be eight seconds, one second less than a goldfish. I’m sure that today it’s even less than that. As an SME, you have a short amount of time to get your communication across before your audience loses interest. It’s been also stated that 90% of the information absorbed by the brain is visual, so how you package your information has become just as important as how you communicate. This is why storytelling and cause-related marketing have become such important differentiators for companies today. You simply need to find something that is not only unique to your brand but will separate you from the competition and connect with your audience on a more emotional level.
4. Employee Recruitment & Retention
A positive public image not only attracts customers but also potential employees. Communication efforts that highlight the company's values culture, and achievements can contribute to employee recruitment and retention. If an SME has a culture of open and transparent communication, this can directly turn the office into a high-performing environment. This is where internal communications play a key role. Employees hate operating in the dark and not knowing what is going on. They want to be clear on the company's direction and what is expected of them.
You can’t underestimate the importance of regular CEO communication to update, inspire and align everyone. One of our clients was recently recognized as the best place to work for women in the Middle East. Needless to say, the amount of interest they attracted in the market and CVs they received after we communicated this put them in an advantageous position when it came to growing their business and hiring talent. Having a great work culture will also reduce employee attrition, which is a major issue for many UAE SMEs today. So, remember, good internal communication can turn your company into a productive and pleasant place to work.
5. Attracting Investor interest
Most SMEs are either looking to raise funds at some point in their journey, add additional partners or potentially sell their business. A positive public image created through PR efforts is essential to be attractive to potential investors and business partners. It enhances the perceived value of the SME, making it more appealing for collaborations and investment. We’ve been approached a few times by companies who want to sell their business but have no track record of media coverage. If nobody knows about you, how valuable is your brand because investors are buying a brand as well as a business? This results in the company having to do a mad PR push when it could have been building its image and reputation organically over time.
Some of the work we did with one of our tech/logistics SME clients had a direct impact on their business. They told us that our work and the media coverage we achieved generated interest from a private Chinese investor who was also the founder of a major Chinese e-commerce company. How you package your company externally, talk about it and showcase your achievements can transition you from an average company into an exciting one that investors are interested in knowing more about.
Andreas Keller is Managing Director & Partner at Leidar MENA.