The GAP fund and accelerator process has clear focus areas. One of the most important is a strategic approach to communication and promotion which sets the tone for internal and external stakeholders and invites them to participate. Communication and promotion need to be engaging and informational and is largely dictated by resources, your process, and overall program goals.
What are key questions to ask?
Ask these questions when focusing on the communication and promotion stage:
- What channels are we currently using to promote our office/fund on campus and to other external networks? If we had no rules or resource constraints, how might we communicate our gap funding program?
- Who is managing the promotion/communication of the fund? Is the availability of staff time, resources, or process dictating our ability to communicate optimally?
What are program goals?
Here are three:
- Establish a communication channel and schedule.
- Create a clear funding process that lays out a timeline, key milestones, review process, and opportunities for participation.
- Showcase fund impact by sharing success stories and hosting events that build community and support.
Different strategies; different audience
Typically, there are a few strategies commonly used when communicating and promoting gap fund and accelerator programs: open or targeted approach. Each approach leverages a custom mix of media, staffing, events, and other avenues.
Open: With this strategy, the goal is to create maximum awareness and participation in the gap funding program. An open strategy helps to engage entrepreneurial and/or new faculty into the tech transfer process and can also create transparency through its public communication; this helps to establish trust within the university.
Targeted: With this strategy, the goal is to target solicitation of promising startups and projects. This approach can be used to develop opportunities that are already within the pipeline and demonstrate an opportunity through the use of gap funds.
Internal versus external communication
Different tactics can be used for each strategy (open and targeted) to communicate with both internal and external audiences. For example, internally:
- Have a dedicated webpage with fund information and electronic documents.
- Provide periodic fund/program reports to stakeholders and leadership.
- Have a fund program guide that’s easily accessible and describes process and steps.
- Conduct web-based events to encourage participation from potential applicants as well as to introduce external partners/community to the program or to showcase potential investments.
- Regularly publish articles and press releases to communicate activity and investments.
“Once you’ve gotten your strategies and tactics in place, you need to track performance,” Jacob Johnson, founder of innovosource, says. “Are you satisfied with the coverage based on investment made in communication? Are the gap funding stories being told making an impact on the general public?”
The adage “closed mouths don’t get fed” is especially true when it comes to communicating and promoting value.
“Even if you’re doing great things with your GAP programs, those efforts will largely go unnoticed if you don’t talk about it,” Johnson adds. “You have a responsibility and a vested interest in speaking up and telling your story.”
So, in summary, gap funding programs need to be constantly communicated to stay relevant amongst all of the other projects – on campus and off. And it’s up to the fund managers to be quality communicators who are proud of the effort, but strategic in managing awareness and community expectations.
Learn more about ways you can communicate the value of GAP funds to key stakeholders and find out what other universities are doing in this arena too. Download the summary or purchase the full Mind the Gap Report 2022.