First of all, let me congratulate you – not every startup raises significant funding from professional investors, even if there’s more money in the market now than ever.
Second of all, you should celebrate it. Not just by buying bottles of bubbles and craft beers with your logo on for the office, but actually announce it to the world. A well-executed PR campaign around your successful funding round can drive your sales, increase global recognition, and help you raise your next bigger (hopefully) round with strategic investors from your own industry.
We’ve already told you how to avoid common pitfalls in the PR pitching process. But before you can start pitching, you need to write the actual piece of content you will send to the VIP journos around the globe. And that, my friends, has proven to be quite the hassle for the dozens and dozens of companies I’ve worked with.
Here are my golden (or at least precious metal) tips on how to manage the process of putting together a good press release about your funding round.
Strategic goals before deadlines
I know, I know, you want to tell the world immediately you got good cash into your pocket. And you are correct; good PR drives your recruiting, marketing, and sales efforts, which you want to put in motion as soon as possible.
However, by pushing your press release out in a rush, you will most likely end up with grammatically poor text, with major things like big customer and investor quotes missing. Also, top-tier journalists likely won’t publish your news because they won’t have the time to prepare for a good story – let alone conduct interviews. It’s also a mega-competitive field trying to get your story published – thousands of startups are trying to get the attention of the handful of top-tier journalists, and only the best stories win.
… but for Pete’s sake, have deadlines
If you are working with too loose deadlines, you will most likely end up losing your momentum. Dedicate at least 2–3 weeks to write your press release, collect quotes and get the green light for your release before pitching it.
Tell how much you raised, how you will spend it, who invested – and most importantly, how all this will separate you from your competitors
Let’s say you raised €2.6 million (for the record, we at San Francisco Agency don’t recommend building a PR campaign around funding rounds less than €1M) with VC investor A, public funding B, and bank loan C. In your release, it’s not necessary to open up how the funding was split between these three institutes. That being said, it’s always better to be transparent – and at least know exactly what the figures are, in case someone asks for specifics. Finnish tech journalists especially want to know the specifics, thanks to the wide range of public funding you can get.
Don’t forget to mention your lead investor. In cases of multiple smaller investment tickets, you don’t have to specify everyone but the biggest investor, which is usually the same as the lead investor. Thank them in a quote and tell the value your investors bring to your growth besides capital. Give them also a chance to provide a quote. More about that later in this blog.
Finally, I want to highlight the importance of competitor analysis. This is something that I seen startups miss all the time – both when I was working on the funding side of the table, and now helping them out in communication strategy and PR campaigns.
Don’t be afraid to name your competitors and specify what you do differently compared to your competitors in a couple of sentences. Don’t give them space in your release by explaining what they do, but explain clearly what it is you do that is different from them. This will be key to explaining to both journalists and those potential investors reading how you will make a difference.
Don’t make it too long with details about your product. Because no one cares.
Finnish startups are often very proud of their highly technical solution – and for a reason, we are the promised land of engineers, after all.
The thing is, people who read the news don’t necessarily hold a Ph.D. in your field. It’s actually very likely most won’t understand what you do if you explain all the technical details of your product.
Rather than explaining the depth of your product, you must learn how to tell about the value of what your company brings to people. You might need a comms strategy in order to clarify it, but a good rule of thumb for your press release is this: give your press release to someone who doesn’t know a lot about your industry. Ask if they understand what you do. If the answer is yes, you are good to go. If they need to ask multiple questions, take a step back and take an umbrella view and try to figure out how to explain your impact in a language people understand.
Besides, funding announcements that are more than a page and a bit long are mostly going to end up in the “not going to read this” bin. Going on and on about your superior solution will not interest anyone in this day and age where 5 seconds is too long for a Facebook video.
Like this blog is now too long, but please keep on reading. Just a couple more things to consider.
Ask for good quality quotes from the lead investor and internationally most recognized client
Quotes follow a quite simple formula.
- Have one from the CEO, one from the lead investor, one from the most famous client, and possibly a fourth one from another major client or investor. No more.
- Quotes should be max. 3–5 sentences long.
- They should not repeat each other but bring something new and provide valuable insights to the table.
- And no, clients or investors can’t use your press release as a marketing opportunity. Make sure the space isn’t used for self-promotion. Instead, have them tell how awesome YOU are and why you fit into their portfolio perfectly, or how you solve a major problem, challenge established market players, and so on.
Really the first thing you should do when planning your press release is to start asking around for the quotes. They take the longest to be sent over, modified, and approved. Trust me, it takes at least double the time you budget for it.
Different language versions only work if you have true relevance in those target markets
This is a request I get as a PR professional all the time: “We want to get more customers in country X, could we do this announcement in that language, too?”
Sure. But only, only if you have true relevance in that market. Journalists will not report about a foreign startup’s funding announcement unless they have a strong presence in the market. And you wanting to get more customers is not a credibility point.
Credibility points in foreign markets for a funding announcement could be big and famous clients, brick-and-mortar shops opening in several locations, or local celebrities advocating your product.
If you still decide to do different language versions, don’t forget to also pitch in the local language.
Finally: don’t let third parties hijack your press release
It’s good manners to provide the draft of your press release to your investors and customers who have provided quotes for your release. However, it’s more than easy to get lost with the plethora of comments that might be pouring into your press release. Managing partners, comms people, head of departments, and sales reps all might have different views on what and how you say things.
Have a clear vision of what you want to convey in the press release, and don’t let it get out of your sight! Accept good suggestions, and feel free to ignore ones that are too granular or don’t fit into your mouth. Remember that this is your press release. You are the star in your release, and you have the final say of what goes to the press release.
This is where the strict deadlines mentioned earlier come in handy – inform everyone of the final deadline for comments and then close the document. It’s more important to start pitching your release to journalists than spend weeks contemplating on whether to use startup or start-up. (The first one is correct, btw. There, saved you some time already.)
By following these few tips, you should be on the right track in letting the world know about your newest funding and how you will rock the world with it.
The writer is San Francisco Agency’s PR & Comms Manager, Reetta Ilo. Reetta is a top expert in investor relations and startup funding. If she is not procrastinating with a book, you’ll most likely find her speaking about her dog or teaching karate at a local dōjō.