Chris Harihar April 23, 2019 | 03:02:29

Got Funding? Here’s How To Announce It

In B2B tech PR, an infusion of new capital is one of the best opportunities to drive quality media coverage at scale. This holds true whether you’re a startup or a more mature business. Funding announcements can offer instant credibility for a brand, validating the company’s strategy and vision.

Yet new funding rounds are a dime a dozen. According to CB Insights and PwC, there are between 5,000-6,000 VC deals per quarter in the U.S. alone. To maximize the news value and cut through the noise, you need the right funding announcement strategy.

Here’s how B2B tech companies can develop a standout funding PR strategy for their next round.

Be clear-eyed about your numbers

When a company lands new capital, sometimes they drink their own Kool-Aid as they assess the numbers.  They think that their round, regardless of size, should be covered far and wide. But that’s not how things work— not when there are dozens of notable deals pitched daily.

In funding PR, size matters. The bigger the round, the greater the opportunity. The deal size has a direct impact on the PR strategy and will shape the go-to-market approach. If you’ve raised less than $10 million, there will be significantly less interest versus a mega round of $100 million-plus. Key business outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Forbes generally wont touch anything under $20 million.

A few years ago, when there were more tech reporters covering funding, you could drive a lot of coverage for smaller rounds. Unfortunately, that time has passed, with opportunities undercut by the consolidation and downsizing in media, and less of a “rush to cover” mentality among journalists.

Exclusive or embargo?

Per my colleague Richard Etchison, an exclusive typically means “offering a key tidbit, news item, or interview to a single journalist with the understanding that he or she will be first. The story can then be released to other media after the exclusive runs.” An embargo, on the other hand, means reaching out to a group of media in advance about an announcement and sharing the news with them, with the stipulation being that their stories can only be published at a certain time.

This is where the size of a round comes into play. From my experience, smaller rounds — less than $25 million — should generally be pitched as exclusives, because larger media outlets are increasingly passing on embargoed funding news. There is an obvious desire by these outlets to break news exclusively. And they receive so many funding pitches, an embargoed story on a small round has little value to them.

Of course, there is nuance here depending on the type of business being pitched, the sexiness of the technology, venture capital versus private equity, the notoriety of the founders, and other factors. But as a rule of thumb, embargoes outreach is most realistic and effective when the rounds are over $50 million.

Have a good story to tell

Too many B2B tech companies think that the numbers will speak for them and funding alone will drive good stories. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Capital announcements often require multiple elements to make them worthwhile for both media and business visibility.

With that in mind, funding storytelling should go beyond “we are expanding our sales and customer support teams,” to include details on technology innovations and growth (e.g., revenue growth year-over-year, client growth or new clients, new international offices, etc.). This allows you to maximize the moment in the spotlight and ensure that there will be interest in the company long after the funding news has dies down. Highlighting forthcoming innovations and growth can tee up future stories and pitches. See this post for more PR storytelling tips.

Go vertical the day of the announcement

Among tech media, funding story opportunities with “bigger” outlets are limited for most B2B tech companies. For example, Mashable, GigaOm, Pandodaily, CNET,  and TheNextWeb all used to cover B2B funding. But in a shifting media landscape, it’s now largely the domain of TechCrunch and VentureBeat (both great outlets), along with business publications like The Wall Street Journal and Forbes, where the bar for coverage can be very high. 

To drive air cover and wider visibility, funding announcements can be shared with other categories of media. For example, VC and PE trades like PEHub, Private Equity News (Dow Jones-owned) and FinSMEs are great targets, particularly after an exclusive or embargoed set of stories runs. There are also key newsletters that cover funding daily, such as Dan Primack’s indispensable Pro Rata for Axios and Polina Marinova’s must-read Term Sheet for Fortune. Relevant industry media, of course, should be pitched and local media are another option.

In reaching out to each vertical, make sure messages are tailored accordingly. This means the PE and VC media need basic facts about the deal, while industry media can use more meat on why the funding matters. Similarly, local media need to be told your company is “based in” whatever city you reside in. A lack of personalization will confuse press and make them think your pitch is irrelevant.

Don’t forget the logistics
Logistics are a critical piece of any funding PR strategy. Here are the core elements of a funding strategy that need to be managed in advance of an announcement.

    • Timing – Announcing funding earlier in the day — between 6-8 AM ET — will provide more time to pitch day of, with inclusion in key newsletters that hit at 9 AM.

    • Images – Having logos for the company and key investors are important, and media will ask for them. Most critically, though, is  having a founder group shot and product screens where relevant.

    • Website – Once the funding news breaks, having a splashy headline on your website that links to a blog post from a founder can help communicate the news to prospects and clients.

    • Clients – As soon as the news breaks, a good PR person will advise client to reach out to customers and stakeholders with a tailored email message explaining the deal. Funding is great for clients because it shows them that they will have more resources down the road, in the form of customer support, better technology, or other benefits. All should be touted.

    • Internal Announcement – Businesses should try and wait until the last minute to announce funding news internally to employees. The reason for the secrecy is to avoid having the news leak prematurely. While it can be difficult to keep funding under wraps, the payoff will be worth it.

These basic steps B2B tech companies can take to ensure they optimize a capital raise. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @chrisharihar.

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