Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep . . .
Biotech observers know the vital signs of a company’s health. For more advanced companies, the chart is simple to read. A lengthy cash runway means the lifeblood is circulating to fuel R&D and fund clinical trials. C-suite stability and measured growth equate to freedom from infection from the bugs and baddies that take weaker peers down. And a marching cadence of milestone-driven headlines breathes oxygen into the company’s public profile and reputation.
For early-stage companies—months or years from naming a drug candidate, much less reporting pivotal human study data—signs of health and vitality can be more obscure. Sure, your nine-figure Series A splashed across the Endpoints homepage for half a day, but that was a year ago. Now reality has set in. Drug development is slowwwwwwww. You’re generating data all the time, but not the kind you’ll be presenting any time soon. Clinical data? Sorry, you’re uphill to IND before you can think about FPI. If you’d like to see a clinic, schedule your annual physical.
Meanwhile the Series A press release sits lonely atop your News page, coated in a film of dust. Out on the street, some wonder: is anybody home?
Someone is definitely home. Hello? The company exists! Not only that, it’s absolutely hopping in here! The scientists are a constant injury risk with all the high-fiving they do. Small breakthroughs that push the foundational science a critical inch or two every week and they’d tell you about it if they could only break it down enough to explain it—that’s how hot it is! Investors whose names you don’t know are calling to book seats on the bandwagon given what little you’ve told them. All this, and it’s the day of the All Company offsite, which is the day before all of you gather for your big volunteer event of the month. All of you except the head of HR, who has a rack of positions to fill by yesterday.
It sounds like the company is healthy, doing fine, right where it needs to be. But the world outside needs an indicator. Something that says you have a pulse.
Here is where a strong and steady social media presence comes in to carry the beating heart of the company. Any company, no matter the stage of development or progress, has milestones and public announcements. But in between those, they communicate. They maintain a connection with their audiences. You – Early Company – should too.
So what does this steady social media heartbeat for an early stage company look like? Here are some ideas:
Tell your science story.
Use graphics, illustrations, videos, audio voiceovers, words, Q&As, whatever to break down your science to explain the What, Why, and How of it and help stakeholders get their arms around what you’re doing, what problems you are working to solve, and the approach you are taking.
Humanize the company.
Simple close-ups on people and the work they do—executed through outside-the-box employee spotlights, short interviews, photo galleries, and other formats—can subtly showcase the ethos of the company, the shared commitment of the team, and the excellent talent you’ve assembled.
Make the company a magnet for talent.
No doubt one of the most important functions of social media for any biotech company at any stage is to (a) inspire top talent to become interested in joining you and (b) provide the means to start that process. Social media, especially LinkedIn, can be a powerful conduit for talent movement and brand recognition.
Use your social media platform as a force for good.
Make social media content an extension of the company’s values and its work to extend and express those values, through community works, simple acts of awareness within the company’s walls, and other ways to raise critical awareness around disease or social issues.
Explore and test-drive company identity.
I sometimes tell TBC partners who are early stage and/or private companies that it’s a good idea to start practicing the disciplined behaviors of being a public company—careful disclosures, realistic expectation-setting, clear data stories, and so on. That said, early-stage companies that are not public have room for bold experimentation with public communication and should explore social media content that presents a unique voice and, dare I say it, is interesting to read and consume.
At the highest level, a distinctive and well-curated social media presence can help keep you in the minds of the biotech world at large—future employees, investors, reporters, etc.—so that when you’re in the spotlight, important groundwork has already been laid.