Key challenges in strategic start-up communication: A systematic literature review and an explorative study

Markus Wiesenberg (Institute for Communication and Media Studies, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany)
Alexander Godulla (Institute for Communication and Media Studies, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany)
Katharina Tengler (Institute for Communication and Media Studies, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany)
Inga-Marit Noelle (Institute for Communication and Media Studies, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany)
Julia Kloss (Institute for Communication and Media Studies, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany)
Natalie Klein (Institute for Communication and Media Studies, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany)
David Eeckhout (Institute for Communication and Media Studies, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Publication date: 23 March 2020

Abstract

Purpose

The paper represents a starting point of a broader research project in strategic start-up communication. The main purpose of this study is to demonstrate the current state of research in this area and to compare those insights with an explorative study on the start-up ecosystem.

Design/methodology/approach

A neo-institutional framework is combined with the dual narrative framework of strategic communication and emergence to explain the emergence of strategic communication in this organizational field (start-up ecosystems). Research questions are derived from a systematic literature review and subjected to exploratory testing in two different qualitative surveys, with experts and investors, reflecting an external perspective, and with start-ups themselves.

Findings

Results from the literature review and the explorative interviews with expert external actors indicate eight areas in which start-ups face strategic communication challenges: the basic orientation of strategic communication, branding, external image, stakeholder relations, allocation of financial resources, owner centricity, human resources and internal communication. External consultants and funders recommend highly planned approaches like target group-oriented communication, well thought-out positioning with uniform messages and precisely applied communication channels. However, the internal perspective of start-ups presents a contrary picture based on emergent products of strategic communication.

Research limitations/implications

The study indicates the importance of both the emergence in strategic start-up communication and the demonstration of planned strategic communication. Investigating a whole start-up ecosystem in a country regarding the emergence of strategic communication forms, practices and products offers potential for cross-country comparative research.

Practical implications

The findings indicate key challenges of strategic communication of start-ups. Bearing in mind these key challenges when founding a start-up can make a difference in the success of the start-up.

Originality/value

The article presents the first systematic literature review in the area of strategic start-up communication and a theoretical framework for further investigation. Moreover, the results of the explorative study demonstrate the importance of the different forms of planning and emergence in strategic start-up communication. Hence, this paper provides practical implications for practitioners working and investing in the start-up ecosystem.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Lea Budde, Lena Biberacher, Florian Dietsche, Kristin Hansen, Marvin Herter, Lea Klein, Anna Stephan-Odenthal, Ansgar Zerfass, and Daniel Ziegele for their support in the empirical research, and Alexander Sasse for the literature review. Moreover, they appreciate the valuable thoughts and advice from the anonymous reviewers.

Citation

Wiesenberg, M., Godulla, A., Tengler, K., Noelle, I.-M., Kloss, J., Klein, N. and Eeckhout, D. (2020), "Key challenges in strategic start-up communication: A systematic literature review and an explorative study", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 49-64. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-10-2019-0129

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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