Closing a Seed round is a huge milestone for any startup. It signals you’ve received conviction from investors and possibly some customers, and that you’re on the road to scale. To leverage this momentum, it's important to announce this funding to the world. In addition to brand building, it will go miles in attracting new talent, investors, and customers.
However, in today’s challenging ecosystem, getting funding news picked up in the media is more of a battle than ever. Reporters are strapped for time and resources, the number of startups has exploded, and many Seed stage startups don’t yet have a dedicated marketing person in-house to own the process.
Throughout my career in public relations and as Head of Content at Work-Bench, I’ve counseled countless startups through the process of landing a Seed announcement in the media. While you may be ready to pull the trigger on a heafy PR agency retainer, ask your investors if they have the resources to help here.
Although the outcome of pitching a Seed announcement is never guaranteed, here are my top tips for better success:
#1: Determine the best reporter & publication to pitch
The best publications for early stage startup news include TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Crunchbase News.
Others like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and even Forbes and Business Insider are generally reserved for growth-stage companies with proven track records (metrics!) to point to. That said, it’s not impossible to get a Seed announcement in these publications, but your startup must have a truly unique story to tell.
Next, find the specific reporters within those publications who are writing about your industry. Search keywords and competitors, and browse through reporters’ past articles, LinkedIn and Twitter handles to get a better sense of what they’re writing about. For example:
While “enterprise” might feel like a catch-all topic, the nuances between open-source and developer tools vs. SaaS vs. security, etc. all matter!
#2: Craft your pitching materials
Before actually pitching a reporter, you’ll need to get all your ducks in a row and complete a general checklist of items:
- Draft a press release or blog post
- Compile image assets (co-founder headshots and product photos / screenshots)
- Get your website up to snuff (you’ll see an increase in website traffic the day you announce your funding, so you want to make sure any intended website updates are completed beforehand)
- Create social media platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter) for the company and co-founders
- Draft the pitch (email to the reporter) itself
The Press Release or Blog Post
Writing a press release or blog post (if you have an established blog) is a complementary way to ensure your announcement is archived online in your own words, regardless of if or how a media article lands. When writing this, you should lay out all the facts in what PR folks call an “inverted pyramid.” To do that, lead with the most important news, followed by supporting facts in descending order of importance:
- The company: What is the company? What does it do?
- The funding: How much was the new funding? Who were the lead and participating investors?
- The problem: What is the current problem you’re trying to solve? For who? And how do you uniquely solve it?
- The product: What makes your product able to solve this problem over competitors or others already in the market?
- The founding team/story: Who is the founding team? How does their backgrounds uniquely position them to be building this company?
- Customers: Do you have any referenceable customers or growth metrics?
- Investors: Who are your investors? Don’t forget to include notable angel investors!
- The future: What will you use the funds for?
- Quotes from your CEO, your lead investor and a customer: This is the only space in the press release reserved for opinion vs. fact. Have the CEO talk aspirationally about the company and the investor talk about what drew them to invest.
Example press releases: Alkymi, VISO Trust
Example blog posts: FireHydrant, Authzed, Courier Health
You should be pitching about two weeks in advance of when you’d like to see an article published. Your email should be short, to the point, and completely personalized to the reporter. When drafting your pitch, remember that the fact that you’ve raised a Seed round or came out of stealth is NOT NEWS. Make sure to put yourself in the reporter's shoes and think “why would readers care about this?” This will require a bit more creativity than writing the press release - think of a catchy headline that would prompt people to read an article…that's your news.
Wrap up all of those details in as short an email as possible (I’m talking <10 short sentences with bullet points prefered). While you may be thinking “how can I possibly pitch my company in so little space?” - most reporters say that if you haven’t captured their interest in the first sentence, the pitch is dead in the water.
Exclusive vs. Embargo
These are two PR terms that will come into play during the pitch process:
- Exclusive = You are reaching out to ONE reporter and promising them the “exclusive” on the news. For Seed announcements, this is the most common PR strategy as the “exclusive” helps entice the reporter.
- Embargo = You are reaching out to MULTIPLE reporters, giving them information about your Seed announcement with a specific date/time they can publish live, hoping as many as possible write an article. This is more common for later-stage companies.
#3: Nail the reporter interview
Most often, the reporter will request a 30 minute phone call with the company’s founder / CEO to ask questions and gather more details beyond what was written in the pitch. I’ve heard from many founders that this is the most nerve wracking part of the entire funding announcement process. Remember, especially at this early stage, reporters are not out to get you. They simply want to learn about the most interesting aspects of your business.
- Just like any investor or customer meeting, practice your elevator pitch.
- Answer each question in punchy sound bytes (vs. longer tangents).
- Gauge how technical the reporter is and explain company-specific jargon or highly technical terms when appropriate.
- DO NOT reveal any deals or information that are not closed or public yet. Assume everything you say is on the record.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, say that you’ll find out and follow up via email. It’s better to follow up later, than make something up on the fly…and have it be wrong.
- At the end of the call, ask the date and time the reporter intends to publish the article.
#4: The article published! Now what…?
The work is not over once the article is published. Carve out time that day (not the next day…) to amplify across all of your channels and to your broader networks:
- Publish your press release over a wire service (it’s a good idea to schedule this in advance) and/or publish your blog post to your blog.
- Amplify over all of your company and co-founder social media accounts.
- Write an email to investors, relevant customers, and other company friends alerting them of funding news. In this email, link back to your press release, blog post, and media article. Additionally, ask them to amplify across their networks as well! It can be helpful to draft social media copy for them, so that they can just copy/paste.
The goal is to make the biggest splash possible!
This process can certainly be daunting if you haven’t experienced it before. Just remember to plan in advance, target the proper reporter, and really spend time nailing your company and announcement messaging. Happy pitching!