Not all venture capital (VC) funding rounds are created equal. The quality and quantity of media coverage your brand generates depends on a number of factors including:
You’ll need to understand your position relative to all of these factors, while designing and executing a rock-solid PR plan that leaves room for flexibility.
If you secure a sizable round of funding, there is inevitable pressure to generate broad exposure. With many eyes on this type of announcement, the stakeholders involved need to be carefully considered, including VCs, board members and partners as well as customers, prospects and, of course, employees.
Recently, we had the opportunity to help our client Drata share news of their $200M Series C round, elevating them to a $2B valuation. Thanks to proper planning, smart strategy and effective execution in partnership with our communications lead at Drata, we generated widespread media coverage and industry awareness. So, how did we do it? These 10 best practices will help ensure your next funding round is a success.
1. Build the Plan
It’s basic advice, but it’s surprising how few companies give themselves enough runway for this type of landmark announcement. Sometimes the communications team is brought in at the last minute, or the number of stakeholders involved creates fear of a leak. Those fears are understandable due to the confidential nature of the news, but internal and agency comms teams should be involved at least three weeks prior to the scheduled announcement date to begin executing.
From the start, remember to think beyond the dollar signs. A key component of the plan is to take the time to establish what makes the announcement compelling or unique, either from the investors’ or portfolio company’s standpoint. Make sure that messaging is thoroughly baked into your pitch.
Your plan should also map out all the critical assets that need to be developed prior to releasing the news, including a FAQ, blog post from the CEO, employee and partner email communications, press release and other deliverables.
2. Set the Media Strategy & Expectations
What are your goals? The elusive TechCrunch story? A broadcast segment? Cracking Fortune, The Wall Street Journal or another business/financial outlet? Certain factors, such as the size of the funding round – whether a Series A round or huge PE investment – or if it involves a new investor, dictate whether the path forward might involve an exclusive or embargoed news approach. Keep in mind that many of the top-tier publications, like Fortune, Bloomberg, Reuters, etc., are now drawing a hard line on funding news and will only cover announcements as an exclusive, no matter how many zeroes the round contains.
Once the media strategy and approach has been carefully considered and built into the plan, be sure it is communicated to and agreed upon by senior leadership. Clients and company executives often have high expectations for how the news shows up in the media — as they should. It’s important to communicate that the VC press cannot cover every deal announced. More often than not, tempering expectations and advising a “quality over quantity” approach is the way to go when determining where to focus on securing coverage.
3. Involve the Investment Partners
This is a critical, yet often overlooked, step. Their input can be hugely valuable. After all, these are the people who have just cut a substantial check. The VC or PE firm can likely provide the “story behind the story” or “go beyond the numbers”, which can be critical to the storytelling aspect. Furthermore, they (or their PR team) might be willing to share key media relationships, as they often deal with this subset of media on a weekly basis. Investment partners must be in sync with the overall media strategy, timeline and desired outcome.
4. Give Media a Reasonable Runway
Reporters are busy and need time when approached with embargoed news. The sheer number of financial related news – VC and PE rounds, M&As, IPOs, and other deals – creates challenges for media to absorb and analyze news before they determine what they can cover effectively. Every media outlet is different and even different reporters at the same outlet have their respective preferences.
TechCrunch for one, typically prefers anywhere from two to five business days advanced notice. In the case of Drata, we started working with the reporter two weeks prior to the story going live. We were also transparent about the fact that we would be approaching other media as well before we started doing so.
5. Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Written Q&A
Don’t get too hung up on having a full day of live interviews. In fact, time strapped reporters (even those at the top tech outlets) often prefer, and are requesting, written Q&As. This approach tends to work in the client’s favor, as messages can be well thought out, controlled and fully vetted. This is a win-win scenario, making life easier for the reporter who may not otherwise have the time to schedule an interview and write a story.
6. Know Your Audience
The New York Times, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Wall Street Journal, Crunchbase, Business Insider Bloomberg and CNBC represent the top tier. Additionally, newsletters like StrictlyVC, Fortune’s TermSheet and Pitchbook include roundup coverage of new financings. The industry press, however, rarely cover funding rounds, though CRN, SiliconANGLE and The CyberWire are open to reporting on the news. Broadcast outlets are very selective and tough to break through, but don’t ignore them; ride the wave of the initial funding news to pitch a broader story about the emerging market.
7. Beware of Leaks
Funding announcements attract leaks like elections foster controversies. Do whatever you can to prevent them by limiting the circle of insiders and committing them to non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). And remember, social media mentions can absolutely kill your news’ value and put the most carefully orchestrated embargo into a tailspin from which it might not recover.
8. Communicate Early and Often
As noted earlier, ensuring all key stakeholders are aligned on the media approach from the beginning is critical. Once the plan is set in motion, it’s equally important to communicate how the pitch is landing, which reporters are expressing interest and where the pitch is falling flat. Be prepared to pivot to new outlets and reporters on the fly and ensure your outreach is tailored accordingly. Decide on a reporting cadence and format so that all feedback, and ultimately coverage, is captured and clearly visible to showcase for leadership.
9. Trust the PR Team to do their Job & Stay Calm
It’s also very important not to panic — patience and trust in the process is essential. Just because a tier one reporter doesn’t respond instantly to a pitch doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. If you choose to go the exclusive route, give the intended target time to consider the story before you move on hastily to the next. Reporters can’t jump on everything instantly and your chances of getting the story that you really want is more likely to happen if you are patient and flexible with timing.
10. Amplify the News
Social media channels and other “owned” platforms are your friends. Sharing links via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn drive awareness of the news. For truly special instances, consider a video message from your CEO for distribution on YouTube or Vimeo. It’s also critical to provide the information directly to employees, partners and customers in a way that underscores your company’s key messages and makes it easy for them to spread the word.
Finally, writing your own blog post to be posted on your company site, LinkedIn and Medium creates more opportunities to frame the news. Media will sometimes link to well-written blog posts for additional background, context or quotes. Your investors’ PR team(s) may also help. Some investors will complement your news with their own blog post, help promote your funding via social media, aid in media outreach and conduct joint press interviews.
These are our winning tips to maximize your funding announcement. What are yours?
If you are an emerging tech or cyber startup looking to learn more about managing communications around your next investment rounds, reach out below and we will be in touch!