As a startup, securing funding is often one of your biggest challenges. Especially with startup funding from venture capital dropping by 35% over the last year amid a backdrop of inflation and rising interest rates. That said, once you secure new capital, you still have one challenge left: how to get press coverage for your startup’s funding announcement. And even with the current market headwinds, there were still 15,852 startups that raised rounds with VC firms last year. Not all of those are driving headlines, so you have your work cut out for you.
To do so, you need to plan and execute a successful PR plan. And while getting press coverage for your startup’s funding is an essential aspect of this effort, the best marketers, communicators, and biz dev folks think about funding PR strategically vs. only having the desire to see you and your company’s name in lights (i.e. TechCrunch).
Securing earned media coverage for your announcement can be one goal, but it is an outcome and should only be part of an ongoing campaign strategy for your brand rather than the finish line. Good media coverage will drive inbound leads, and you want to ensure your company is prepared to capture those inbound visitors, whether that is through email capture, turning into customers, or securing resume/CV submissions (from prospective hirers).
Furthermore, once you have a larger captured audience, you must ensure that you have a constant stream of content marketing for your startup that addresses both the top and bottom of the sales funnel. If not, you’ll end up with an audience that isn’t engaged and quickly dissipates. However, before you get to branded content, you need to start by honing in on the overall goals for promoting your announcement and the audiences you are targeting.
Define the goals and targeted audiences for promoting your startup’s funding:
When planning a startup PR campaign for your funding round, it is essential to define specific goals. A successful PR campaign should first ensure that it reaches the right audience and reflects the desired messaging. Typically, you are trying to get in front of multiple audiences with the announcement.
And often, they can differ in importance based on where you are in a startup’s lifecycle and which type of round you are closing (i.e. seed, Series B, later stage, etc.). These typically include the following, and here are some initial thoughts on messaging positioning for your target audiences and how to reach them.
1. Potential customers:Let’s say, for instance, you are a climate tech startup closing a Series B round. The buyer persona you are trying to reach is Chief Sustainability Officers, so messaging will need to be tailored to them. The announcement should likely include details on how the startup’s product has assisted other CSOs in achieving their goals. And the media outlets you’ll need to target will be a mix of both technology publications and vertical trades, such as GreenBiz, Canary Media, etc. Once you move past the announcement, you’ll need to shift gears toward creating content you can direct toward this buyer that drives lead generation.
2. Current and future investors: Announcing new funding is also one of the best ways to get in front of new investors for future rounds. That is especially true in today’s market climate, where it is increasingly difficult to demonstrate the growth and demand that investors are seeking. Therefore, any startup closing a round today can catch other investors’ eyes for future rounds. Quotes from current investors will need to be implemented into the announcement and other materials aimed at this audience, and the size and opportunity in the market will need to be calculated. Of course, getting in front of potential investors will also mean making an effort to get coverage in publications such as TechCrunch and funding round-ups read by VCs such as Axios Pro Rata, Fortune’s Term Sheet, and StrictlyVC.
3.Talent/potential hirers: Another key goal that typically comes with securing capital is scaling the size of the team. Not only does this need to be signaled within the funding announcement and other materials, but there can also be direct calls to action built into the messaging. Therefore, you must cultivate your ‘hiring brand’ by getting the careers page up-to-date career page, and open positions listed before the announcement is a best practice. Securing coverage in tech publications will get you in front of engineering talent. Still, you also want to distribute and share the news on your announcement into popular communities for engineering talent, such as HackerNews.
4. Market influencers + analysts: (could be vertical markets as well):There are also market influencers and analysts with whom you can build credibility via your announcement. These might be influencers across vertical markets. For instance, for the climate tech startup example above, let’s say they’re finding initial traction in the industrial and manufacturing sector. Therefore, they will also want to get ahead of those who influence this sector. Smaller publications that are more focused on the specific trade should be a focus here. So, in this example, publications like ManufacturingDive, ManufacturingToday, and IndustryWeek should be a focus.
Press Releases Aren’t Dead: Especially When it Comes to Crystalizing Messaging
Even if you’re not going to distribute a press release externally over a wire service (we would argue for doing so via cost-effective options such as PRWeb), they can be helpful as a mechanism to get all voices to agree on the overarching narrative. That is, press releases don’t really help in distributing press coverage today, but they are a forcing function to get everyone together to see how you’re planning to merchandise an announcement (and make folks agree upon it before it’s released). And there are numerous stakeholders involved in that, from VCs/Investors, top executives, and even customers that you’d like to highlight your product’s use cases for within the release.
You also want a press release or blog post in place and at close-to-final status to share with the media ahead of your announcement. This will ensure that you can offer to share it with a journalist when you reach out and gives them something to go off of for consideration in covering and to help pull their news story together if they are interested in it. The final press release also serves as the final messaging for the announcement that will be pulled into digital and social assets/posts. Therefore, the release becomes a key aspect of a good PR plan as it feeds into all other tactics.
Here’s what you should look to answer when drafting your funding press release/announcement:
- What is the startup? It’s essential to get this down to as simple of a state as possible – and framing it as a customer value proposition can help: To (prospective target customer), our (product or company) is (concept) that (point of difference).
- Which venture capital firm is leading the round, how much money was raised, and who else is taking part in it? You’ll want a quote from the lead investor, but it’s also worth mentioning other participating investors. Especially if they are following up on a previous investment.
- Can you put a size on the market opportunity, OR are there growth numbers you can point to? Data is important to validate the newsworthiness of the story. This could include utilizing third-party data from analyst firms on the market opportunity OR your own growth metrics to add to a good story.
- Why is the timing right for your startup to disrupt this market? It’s good to call out what is occurring in the industry you are targeting, which makes it the ideal time to tackle the specific problem or challenge you are looking to solve.
- What are you going to use the capital for? Accelerating speed to market with your product? Entering new products? Hiring more talent? Call out the plans for the capital infusion in your announcement.
Research Journalists to Determine Media List
Now that you have a close-to-final press release in hand, you can turn to media relations. However, before you pitch your story to the media, you’ll want to research what relevant tech industry outlets might be interested in writing an article on the news and those that can effectively reach your target audiences. Of course, demand for the story will vary based on the stage of the investment, the money invested, the type of technology the startup is working with, and who the investors are leading and taking part in the round. If Andreessen Horowitz is leading you’re round, you’ll have less of an uphill battle securing attention than if you have a lead investor that is less well-known.
In addition, a funding round for an early stage startup (seed and pre-seed) can be challenging to get attention for if you don’t have big-name venture capitalists or serial entrepreneur participating. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get coverage – it’s just not likely to be the Wall Street Journal (they don’t cover many startup funding announcements if any, these days). However, you might be working on a novel technology, or something hot-hot-hot right now, like generative AI. If that’s the case, and in addition, you’ve never spoken to the media before, that could be enticing to a publication (even if it’s not technically a big deal on the monetary side of things).
Knowing which press outlets and reporters are most relevant to your startup story will significantly boost your PR strategy. In addition, understanding what topics get the most traction and coverage within the outlets you are targeting will help you shape your startup narrative and pitch. When researching relevant media targets, the best advice is to explore all possibilities and strive to make the news an interesting story related to the current news cycle to have the greatest chance of success. And you can also think outside the box.
Today, an influencer, YouTuber, or podcaster might have a specific interest in your startup based on their domain area of interest. They might be a key to your brand reaching the target audience you want. Successful startups and their PR teams typically build a list of 10 or so reporters/influencers/podcasters that you can target before publicly announcing your funding round, which you can work down a list in targeting in hopes of securing interest from a few.
Don’t forget that some news outlets will cover funding announcements differently, which can help create a range of stories on the funding. For example, Business Insider is known for featuring startup pitch decks that led to funding rounds. This is much different than how other publications cover, which also means they aren’t necessarily competing with TechCrunch and won’t be scared off if you pitch them alongside other tech journalists.
It will help if you give all these journalists you are targeting enough time to consider covering your funding story. In most cases, that means starting your outreach to individual journalists at least *two weeks before the news is set to be released. Reporters will often say they need 4-5 business advanced notice in covering a funding round, but given you want to ensure you secure some interest, you need more than a week to work down your list of potential targets. This is especially true given you’ll want to set up a time for your founders to talk to journalists if they are interested.
*You also should be in touch with your legal team or those that are responsible for filing financial documents to ensure you don’t scoop yourself with a Reg D filing going too early and being found by a journalist. Try to plan to come after a formal press release is issued.
Pitching Media to Secure Press Coverage
Suppose you don’t have a warm intro to journalists via your PR agency. In that case, you want to write a short initial email to the first journalist on your list (yes, this is still better than a Twitter DM) and offer to share the full press release/blog post under embargo for consideration in covering: For instance, you could write a subject line such as “X to raise Series A to Solve X,” and you’d want to start it by introducing yourself and the company.
Note that you’ve seen some of the journalist’s past coverage on the topic and wanted to see if you could talk to him about your company’s upcoming funding. It’s often safe to write/share the $ figure you’re raising in the range of (but not the exact figure), and don’t name all the investors as you don’t want to give all the details ahead of a journalist agreeing to an embargo. There isn’t really anything stopping most journalists from hitting publish if the information is shared in that way.
End by saying you’d be happy to share the full announcement embargo for her/his consideration. If you don’t hear back, follow up a few days later to gauge thoughts on the story potential — and if there is still no word — you have to go down the list to write other journalists that might be fit to cover the funding news.
Planning, Materials (Other than the press release), and Executing Funding Announcement Day
Ideally, while you are securing media attention and interest in covering the news ahead of the announcement day, you also need to be producing and prepping materials to have in a place for media, the website, and social media channels. These include:
- Images: They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and they’re imperative in turning good stories into great ones. So, in addition to having your logo, it helps to have headshots of executives, less formal shots of the team, hero/banner images, and screenshots/photos of the product in action. Not only will this help journalists, but it will make the content more engaging to readers.
- Graphics/Visuals: Social graphics with quotes from the founders and VCs can be a nice visual to add to your toolbox. And in general, companies should have a few graphics that they can utilize to promote the news across social channels.
- Social Media Posts: To amplify the visibility of the story across the world, it’s also good to have templated social posts and #hashtags for your whole team of employees, investors, partners, and even MVP customers for them to post and share news on the day of the announcement.
- Blog Post on Announcement: In addition to the press release, the best advice is to have a blog post from the founder that takes most of the information from the written release and puts it less formally on the company website. Providing additional insight here can be an excellent way to control a piece of the narrative around the funding. It also enables you to publish and share on social media with a link to your company website vs. a newswire.
- Future content in the backlog: As we mentioned previously, much like you do when you launch a new website, you want a backlog of content ready that you can utilize with your newly captured audience in the weeks following the funding announcement. This might be an ideal time to work with a content marketing agency to scale your branded content production.
- Updated careers page with open positions: Many early stage startups miss the boat when it comes to capturing talent who visit their websites following a funding announcement. Make it straightforward on your homepage that you are hiring and have a link to current open positions.
And when it comes to executing on launch day, you’ll want to follow up with journalists you know are covering and those you haven’t heard of (plus a broader list of folks) to distribute the funding news. Make sure to not reach out to additional journalists until the press release/announcement and the embargoed stories officially come out at the time you have set. From there, it comes down to making sure you also hit all the critical roundup newsletters/columns on funding coverage mentioned above and driving social media content throughout the day.
Measure the success of your campaign by tracking coverage and KPIs
By tracking KPIs like the number of views on social media posts (shared by publications covering the news — as well as via your brand’s handle), likes and shares, and inquiries from potential investors, you can gain reliable insights into the effectiveness of your startup funding announcement. Comparing new inbounds from prospective investors/talent with metrics like brand awareness and sales lifts can give you a more holistic view of success. Setting KPIs from the start will enable you to measure results and adjust plans based on collected data accurately.
You’ll also want to rely on your backend web and content analytics tools, such as Google Analytics and/or Hubspot, and PR analytics/monitoring tools, such as Meltwater and/or Onclusive, to ensure you capture all the results your startup funding campaign is driving. By using these types of tools in tandem, you can see what coverage is driving inbound links and shares and the number of eyeballs seeing the funding news across all channels. This will be key to evolving your communications and content strategy moving forward, as you’ll be able to determine which stories influence your target audiences, as well as how different themes impact positive and negative sentiment within coverage.
Now you can certainly try to tackle everything covered in this post internally if you have an internal communications lead, but it can often be better to get an agency to support the long-term scale of this type of program. And a startup PR agency with hundreds of reps driving the PR for funding announcements can be beneficial in these scenarios.