Five years ago announcing your funding round was quite a reliable option to get coverage in the press but it all changed. We ran dozens of announcements in recent months, so I wanted to give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to secure placements for your fundraising in the media.
First, why do it in the first place? Coverage in the media helps with:
- (rarely) Customers
The media lend you their authority and give validation in the eyes of the public.
Founders also often forget to think through what they want to achieve with the press release/funding announcement.— Yuri Sagalov (@yuris) September 29, 2021
It *probably* won't get you any customers (and definitely not in a sustainable way).
It might be useful for collateral materials (whether hiring, sales, etc).
Easy to say you should go direct but that only works if you already have an audience. Of course, Elon Musk doesn’t need PR when he can just tweet to 90 million of his followers. Most people don’t have that.
Now back to the tips. The funding is just a reason to think about covering your company. Are there any other good reasons? What makes your startup interesting & unique?
Reporters will cover a $1M Seed and drop a $50M Series B because they focus on the company and its story instead of the financing.
- Crazy growth
- Your personal story that explains why you care about this problem
- The social/environmental aspect of your business (most don’t really have one)
- You’re bringing something known to a different vertical or even a different region
- Unique team composition and background, maybe you could position yourself as a champion of a country
- How does your company resonate with what’s going on in the industry or in the world right now? (WFH services in 2020, how did you manage to raise a Series C right now)
(can’t believe I have to say this)
Close your round before going to the media. An investor might drop out, the figures might change. Most funding round announcements happen months after the round is closed, just don’t wait a year.
The sure way to figure out if it’s reasonable to expect coverage for your news is to check what has been written before. Look for similar stories, if there is not a lot of these you might be in trouble.
Unique stories take a mountain of effort to secure. Find reporters who might be interested in your company and announcement. Have to be very relevant.
There are not many major outlets that often cover funding rounds in dedicated stories these days: TechCrunch, Forbes, Business Insider, VentureBeat, etc. Read through their latest funding stories, look for those which are similar in terms of industry/amount, and research them thoroughly.
A PR person looked at the cloud infrastructure, AI and developer tools stories tend to write and thought: yep, he'd be the right person to pitch this baby food startup to.— Frederic Lardinois (@fredericl) March 16, 2021
The best way to contact reporters is via email unless they offer another option themselves. It’s usually easy to find contact details either on their profile somewhere on the website of the publication or in their Twitter bio.
Don’t try calling even if you somehow got a number. Draft a great pitch email. If you managed to raise a round – you know how to. Imagine that nobody cares. Don’t use buzzwords, instead focus on facts and reasonable projections. Build a narrative, and explain the place of your company in the world and how it relates to bigger trends.
You should include all the basics: the funding amount, investors, what are your plans for this money, etc. Use quotes to get your or the investor’s words into to the story unaltered (potentially).
Just me screaming into the void: I will not report on your startup's acquisition or partnership deal if there is no dollar figure attached.— Katie Jennings (@katiedjennings) February 2, 2022
Use public stats to prove there’s a large opportunity or show your math. Say who your competitors are and what makes you better. Disclose the figures that prove you’re on the right path. $ revenue and valuation rather than relative MoM user growth.
With deals happening every day, PR people are struggling to place funding stories. Well, I’m working on two for next week! Here’s why their pitches worked for me.— Melia Russell (@meliarobin) January 5, 2022
1. Offered as exclusives
2. Disclosed valuations
3. Hit on a fundraising trend
4. Told an interesting company story
The most reliable option is to offer an “exclusive”, where you only pitch one reporter at a time. You can say that right in the subject line: “EXCLUSIVE: …”. Forbes and most outlets you know like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal are likely to cover exclusives only.
There’s an “old” but still helpful guide to pitches from Mike Butcher (TechCrunch) that you should read.
It’s OK to follow up with a reporter one or two times in case they haven’t replied, but certainly not more than that. Silence means they’re passing. You can try another one now, but ensure they’re also relevant and might get interested in what you’re offering.
Remember, they might be getting hundreds of pitches a week. Be respectful. All you can do is offer them a story and pitch it in the best possible way. But if they’re passing, then they’re passing.
as a ref pt for PR people, during the 2 PM hour I received around a half dozen funding pitches (amongst lots of other stuff) of which four were exclusives— alex (@alex) June 21, 2021
it's busy out there
If a reporter accepts the story, they will likely get back with questions. Most will ask for an audio interview since that allows them to communicate directly and get the info they need. If you get to that stage, it’s usually a very good sign, although they still might pass.
The alternative option is to pitch under embargo. You choose the date & time, you send a much shorter pitch (omit key details) and ask if they’re accepting the embargo (put it in bold). If they reply “yes”, share the full details. You can pitch multiple outlets this way.
Very important things to remember:
- Still pitch only one reporter at a media publication at a time.
- Give everyone the same embargo time.
- You’re decreasing your chances by going the embargo route but might get more stories. It’s a trade-off.
Couple of friendly tips to PR professionals:— Mary Ann Azevedo (@bayareawriter) February 22, 2021
1) Just because a reporter agrees to review an embargoed release does not mean we are agreeing to coverage. We are agreeing to look with the potential for coverage.
2) Always be honest. Trust is key.
Reporters aren’t your content marketers, they might still pass, drop the story due to the timing conflict, or something else. If they actually like it, the exclusive option allows you to work together and find a date that works. With an embargo, you have exactly one shot.
Prepare images you can offer as illustrations. That could be photos of the founders, of the entire team, and screenshots of the product. The images shouldn’t be too marketing-y, otherwise, nobody will take them. Shared them in advance, maybe with the pitch itself.
I recommend drafting a blog post explaining the vision behind the company and where you are seeing it in the near future to post after the publication goes live. Turn it into a Twitter thread where you can also integrate the story. Warn your investors and ask them to share.
Basically, it’s on you to augment the announcement and leverage the buzz for your goals down the road.