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.

5 Habits All PR People Must Break

PR is an ever-evolving field, as technology, social, and business mores change the way we do our jobs. Many SOP’s once deemed “must-do” for every practitioner have now become “must-don’t.” Here we examine some “highly ineffective” habits that may be holding PR pros back.

Reaching out to reporters…in the wrong way. There are many ways to determine how individual reporters wish to be contacted. Smart PR people make it their job to know reporter preferences, since it can be the difference between developing an ongoing working relationship or ending up in the journalist’s dreaded “Blocked” folder! Use Muck Rack and Cision to research individual contacts, but best to develop enough of a relationship to find out if they hate getting phone calls (as many do) or really prefer outreach via Twitter or FB (many really do not!)

Neglecting their own PR. Those in the PR business are often the worst at trumpeting their own achievements. Be it blogging, social outreach, or business awards, it’s wise to take advantage of all the arrows in the promotional quiver and burnish your own reputation the way you do for your company or team.

Offering too many solutions. PR people are at their best when they can present a recommendation and make a sound and strategic case for why it will work. One great idea, well developed and articulated, can be much more effective than a smorgasbord of so-so solutions in the name of volume.

Over-relying on the press release. When was the last time you had news that truly warranted a press release? A customized pitch is so much more effective — and without the journalistic conventions – it frees you up to get creative, but keep pitches short and to the point. Reserve releases for major news announcements.

Ignoring the data. Never have PR teams had access to the kind of data we have now, yet not everyone takes advantage of what’s available. Analytics for everything from website visits, content and other downloads and media coverage are at our disposal to help make smarter decisions. All of this good information must be factored into campaign planning, budgeting and reporting.

How PR Responds To Negative Media Coverage

by Guest Blogger Mickie Kennedy

Maybe you recently sent off a press release or advised your exec team to try a hashtag campaign to earn some positive PR. Unfortunately, the paper/blog/magazine that picked up the story covered it in an unflattering light. And that hashtag campaign? Yikes.

For example, imagine being the PR adviser behind SeaWorld’s #AskSeaWorld campaign. “This will be a great avenue for honest, two-way dialogue,” the reasoning probably went. “People will ask honest questions, and we’ll provide honest answers — it’s exactly what this brand needs.” Not a bad idea at all at the outset, but the public’s outrage over the park’s alleged mistreatment of its mammalian attractions was sorely underestimated, and soon, instead of questions about dolphin training, the SeaWorld Twitter account began receiving messages like these:

This can be one of those stomach-dropping moments in the life of a public relations professional. While hopefully you’ll never be at the helm of such a situation, you can rest assured that something similar will likely happen– a popular fashion blogger picks apart your company’s latest spring offering, or a reporter dishes a bit more snark than anyone likes.

Here are some practical steps when dealing with bad PR for both the PR pro and the company:

Put yourself in your exec’s shoes. In an effort to fix the situation, first figure out their mindset. Why are they upset? What ramifications does this have for their business?

Be empathetic and listen well. This is the time to take in everything that leadership has to say, be empathetic to how they feel, respond to them and repeat what they say so they know you are listening actively.

Apologize, even if it wasn’t your fault. You want to keep all parties happy, so make sure they know that you are sorry about the way this event unfolded.

Try to find a solution. Once the story is out there, it can be difficult to retract. But look for ways to remedy what has happened. If there were factual inaccuracies, contact the reporter or journalist to have them corrected. You cannot and should not try to influence the opinion of a journalist who has the correct facts, so don’t bother. This could also be an opportunity for your exec team, if they dug up an old scandal or some other mistake, to address it on the company’s website or Twitter profile.

Remind the company brass that silence is OK. All commenters on the internet don’t need a response, and it might be better for the company to say nothing than to get into an online shouting match. Remember that although things were rough for your company today, there will be another piece of bad publicity for some other company tomorrow. The best way to move past a scandal is to weather it with class, and, when appropriate, counter it with plenty of positive messaging.

What I Learned About PR from "42"

by guest blogger George Drucker

The excellent film and tremendous PR effort created on behalf of “42: The Jackie Robinson Story” which opened on screens nationwide a few weeks ago, inspired me as a PR professional.

As a long-time  Angeleno, and even longer PR practitioner, I have to take my Dodger baseball cap off to the studio, producers, director and PR marketing people. I’ve never seen a more powerful, continuous–and successful PR effort on behalf of a movie.

It shows what can be accomplished when you look at, think about, and create story angles, media pitches (pun intended) on a wide variety of subjects, all under the same umbrella. I think I counted TWELVE separate major feature stories on the film, meaning twelve distinct story angles, in the LA Times alone.

Too often, we go for quick hits and move on. But there are some opportunities that deserve a more thorough approach. Granted, there were many “gimmees” for media coverage here, including the incredible story of Robinson’s breaking the barrier in professional sports; the impact on society and his family; his courageous life; and, of course, the reviews.

But for the marketing communications folks, this was just the beginning. They went deeper. The first wave of coverage was followed by interviews with his widow; remembrances of players, sports executives, and fans from those early seasons; the local recollections in the original National League cities where he played; the business angle of producing another, updated film on the story; the search for the actor who could capture the essence of the player and the man; the director and his updating on the story, etc.

The lesson to be learned for us in the marketing communications biz is simple. Get out in front of the story. Be creative in your approach, and come up with a wealth of angles that can potentially attract media attention. Get out there and pitch. Don’t give up, and don’t be satisfied with a nice first wave of coverage. Dig deep and go into overtime.

The hits will follow.

Managing The Media Exclusive

In the public relations world, getting an exclusive is often a key part of a team’s overall strategy of securing the best coverage. But it is often a delicate dance between outlets, clients and agency and must be handled with a certain finesse. The definition of “exclusive” has even grown murky (see CNBC’s restrictive booking policy. It prohibits guests from appearing on rival networks like Bloomberg or Fox Business Network once they agree to a CNBC spot, even if that appearance is AFTER CNBC).

Managing the process of securing an exclusive has never been more important. Here are a few tips to consider when trying to nail down exclusive coverage.

How’s my news? Just because you have news to offer doesn’t mean it will get covered (let alone exclusive coverage), so pegging your news to a meaningful hook is key. Launches, acquisitions and funding are all newsworthy hooks, so be sure to do your homework to settle on the most compelling angle.

Which outlet is right for me? Everybody wants The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and, honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with those outlets. In most cases, though, your exclusives won’t be big enough for those pubs. That’s why it’s important to know which outlets, beyond the big guys, would be considered exclusive “wins” for your client. By steering your efforts towards the best pertinent, targeted, outlets, you will not only stay top of mind for current customers, but for new ones as well.

The approach Your pitch is often only as good as the media list you target. Selecting the wrong media contact or approaching them in a way they dislike (“no phone calls ever”, “no emails only Twitter” ) can mean the difference between exclusive glory and bitter defeat. Pitch only reporters that make sense to your brand, know their preferred M.O., and be sure to speak off the record beforehand.

Sealing the deal Once you have settled on which media outlet will break your exclusive, be sure to establish any key differentiators – features and data that ensure that your client is presented in the manner you want. And don’t be afraid to have honest discussions with your contact to best manage the expectations of your client.

Have any other great tips for handling the ebbs-and-flows of the exclusive process? Leave them in the comments section below.