There is nothing easy about attracting venture capital dollars for most companies. But, let’s say that you’ve made it happen or you’re pretty close. You’ve managed to get the attention of investors. Your pitch – in most cases – went well. You answered all the investors’ questions. You made it through due diligence, including all the financial reviews, budgets and projections. Most importantly, you’ve convinced a group of people you don’t know to believe in your vision and your management team. They’re about to sign the checks, so what now?
Closing a round of investment is one of the most newsworthy things a young, growing company can do. It’s a promotional no-brainer. Unfortunately, too many young companies don’t know how to announce the funding to maximize its public relations and social media value. Here are our six tips to help you make the most out of your VC funding announcement:
1. Know Your Audience – Hopefully you’ve already identified your primary and secondary targeted audiences for your product or service. Those audiences may or may not be the same targets for news about your venture round.
If you are raising another round in the near future, additional investors may be the most important audience for this release. If you’re thinking about a quick exit, consider what potential acquisition partners want to hear. If you’re using the capital to attract top talent, let them know about the opportunity your company provides. If you are looking to ramp up marketing to consumers, consider what you can say in the announcement to get them excited. Whatever group matters most, keep it at the center of your mind as you develop your messages, begin targeting reporters, and start social media outreach.
Do not let your investors determine this for you. If you do, you’ll be serving their audiences instead of yours. Remind them that your growth will ultimately benefit everyone, and releasing this news is an important part of your growth plan.
2. Be Strategic with the Message – Once you have identified your most important audience, make sure your press release includes messages that are just for them. Yes, the news about the investment will get people’s attention, but then you need to decide what you want to tell them about your company once you’ve gotten their eyes and ears. The fact that you got an investment is great for you and for your investors. But what about everyone else? What can you say to get them to take an action that will help you grow in the future? Before you waste your time and money developing a transactional press release with no meat, spend some time thinking about what else you can include to leverage this valuable promotional opportunity.
We once worked with a client that was completely dedicated to customer acquisition when it received its first round of funding. The press release was mostly focused on the features and benefits of the company’s service instead of just the money. We also launched a new website and promotional video concurrently with the announcement. That way, the news was about the service as well as the funding.
With another client, we focused the announcement on its proprietary technology, as well as its recent hiring of top-tier technical talent. It wanted to gain the attention of large corporations for a joint venture, and knew that it would be important to show its technical chops in addition to the momentum that comes with generating investment dollars. We timed the funding press release to be followed by a series of new hire announcements to show that the dollars were being put to good use.
3. Align the Stakeholders – You know your priority audience and you know what you want to tell them. Great! Now you have to get all your partners and investors on the same page and saying the same thing. Often times young companies skip this step. The VC announcement should be your company’s announcement, not the investors’ news.
Put yourself in the driver’s seat by creating a document of talking points that support your key messages. Distribute those talking points along with the draft press release to your investors and partners so they understand what you’re trying to accomplish and what their role is in helping you achieve success. Have a conference call with each person who could potentially speak to the media as part of the effort. Ensure they’re on the same page, and if they’re open to it, do a little role playing with you or a PR professional playing the role of a reporter. Make clear what’s off limits, whether that be the internal workings of the technology, your current revenue numbers, or a potential lawsuit from a competitor. Advanced preparation for potential slips in messaging helps prevent those slips.
Spend some time with your internal team. Set clear direction on what to do if they are contacted by the media or potential partners. Chances are that people you know and they know will come out of the woodwork once the news is out. Prepare them and you’ll benefit from all the opportunities that could come your way.
4. Create the Enabling Infrastructure – Over the years, I’ve seen many companies make the mistake of just putting out a funding press release without thinking through how to make the most of it once it’s been distributed. Your company must have the digital marketing infrastructure in place to support your business goals when the release hits the street.
When a major announcement is made, the first thing that happens is that traffic to the website jumps. So before the release goes out, make sure your website is ready. Your message must be consistent from the release to the homepage. It should be easy to contact you, to learn more about you, to read the original press release, to sign up for a newsletter, and to find your social media channels. If you’re hiring, make sure that’s front and center and that you have software in place to capture and manage recruits. If you’re trying to acquire customers, make sure you have a solid email marketing strategy in place to move them through the sales pipeline. If you have a more complex sale, have your demo ready to view and your marketing automation ready. If you don’t already have optimized social media channels – LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. – spend some time to ensure your message and branding is consistent and you have some community following.
Whatever your goal, do not put the cart before the horse at a critical time like a funding announcement. Most importantly, put data analytics in place so that you can measure the impact of the announcement on your brand awareness, lead generation and recruiting.
5. Develop Reporter Relationships – Reporters love to get news about funding announcements. And they really love to get the news first. When you’re developing your media outreach plan, know that your funding announcement is your first date with reporters. Yes, it would be great if they were to write about you now. But really you want them to continually cover you and your company well into the future. Spend the time to talk with them now. Give them a sense of where your company is going and how you can help each other out. Let them know that you’re in it for the long haul and that you care about a relationship with them. Read up on what they write and mention it to them during the conversation. Ask them what else they’re working on. Whatever you can do to make a good impression and set that second date will pay off for you again and again.
6. Spread the News – News coverage is only as good as the people who see it. It’s true in every situation, but it’s particularly pertinent when you’re making a funding announcement. Just because you’re featured on VentureWire doesn’t mean that every person in your priority targeted audience read it that morning. It’s up to you to spread the news and the media coverage.
Two tools – social media and email marketing – are your best targeted amplifiers. Don’t just put a link to your press release on Twitter, though you should do that with a tagged link so you can track the results it generates. Use your owned media channels thoroughly. Start with community development. Add LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers during the days and weeks leading up to the announcement. Make sure all your old college buddies that could be customers are your friends on Facebook (don’t worry, you can unfollow them so you don’t see their political rants). Consider drafting a personal statement on what the deal means to you, including your key messages, and add it to your blog and LinkedIn Pulse.
We once worked on a personal statement with a CEO client who provided insight into the deal, what it meant to him as the founder, and what his vision for the company was. He talked about the path he traveled, from founding the company to accepting the first investment round. He wrote about his hopes, dreams and plans for the future of the business. These things had no place in a press release, but added to the richness of the story, so we helped him leverage his owned media channels, personal website and LinkedIn Pulse to tell this deeper and more dynamic story.
For email marketing, make sure all your contacts are in one place and that you can send them the announcement without violating SPAM laws and best practices. While you’re doing that, segment them for future use. Make sure you have contact information for your key advisors, supporters and influencers. They will help you spread the word behind your immediate sphere of connections to a whole new group of people that could prove invaluable to your business.
Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of just putting out a press release. Treat the promotional effort as seriously as the investment itself and you will see returns.
View the article on Forbes.com.