IPO

I have a friend who once described PR as the “dark arts,” and while I completely disagree with that assessment, what he was getting at is he really didn’t understand how PR works. Reputable PR firms are the opposite of “dark arts”; they’re very transparent. There are some tools of the trade that PR agencies keep close to themselves, but really, there isn’t anything magical about HOW PR works; it’s just a specific combination of relationships, hard work, strategy, and culture. And that specific combination takes a long time to acquire, requiring commitment to the craft. But why PR is expensive isn’t because of human hours worked. Ultimately, there is a price to the human capital, but that’s not really why PR is expensive.

So, Why Is PR Expensive?

PR is expensive because the outcomes are so important and relevant. PR’s lasting value is in improving a brand’s reputation like no other marketing lever can. For companies wanting to be acquired or IPO, your PR investment ROI could be hundreds of millions of dollars.  PR outcomes range from high valuations at IPO or during capital raises to making advertising more efficient and reducing time to sale for both B2B and B2C customers. In short, it’s not unusual for PR outcomes to be more than 10X the investment. To 10X investment, the most impactful PR aligns with trust and loyalty, which requires consistency.

For many ambitious companies, the long-term benefits of PR are sometimes forgotten, and yet that can be considerable. Due in part to high marketing budgets during the pandemic, brand valuations increased dramatically in 2023 – from 6.3% growth to 9.7% growth.

Your reputation is your most valuable asset.

Why is PR so expensive research

Data from USC Anneberg Communications Report 2023

What is a Good PR Budget?

When considering your PR agency budget, your budget should match your goals. If you’re trying to grow your business, your overall marketing budget and PR should increase.

As of the fall of 2023, according to The CMO Survey, the average marketing budget was 10.6% of budget and 9.2% of revenues. For companies with $10-$25 million in revenue, the average spend was 15.5% of revenues. So, if you’re looking to be above average, your overall marketing budget should be higher than that. For companies under $10 million in revenue, the number was 19% of revenue. And consumer packaged goods reported spending 25% of their budget on marketing and PR.

If you’re an ambitious brand or fast-growing company, your budget could be 25% of revenue – is that aggressive? Yes. It is. Again, that’s a budget to grow considerably. A good rule of thumb for your budget might break down like this: 20% content, 20% advertising, 20% PR, 20% SEO, 20% activations.

While your distribution might vary depending on your goals – for example, if you’re raising money or looking for a M/A event, you might skip advertising all altogether and move that to PR and content. Alternatively, if you’re a consumer brand,  you might increase the content and advertising portions and focus your PR budget on certain campaigns. Emerging industries may need larger PR budgets because they need to create public and investor trust.

Based on the rates of PR agencies your budget may be higher or lower based on the experience level of your agency team. Naturally, less seasoned agency teams will be less expensive. But it’s probably more important for you to budget based on your goals.

If you’re ambitious or seeking investment or pre-IPO, your marketing budget should match those very important objectives and allocate 12%-17% of revenues or target valuations to marketing, with a third of that, at least, going to PR. Depending on whether you’re a B2B or B2C company.

How Does PR Make a Company More Competitive?

68% of CMOs reported expecting more intense customer rivalry in the coming year. In B2B segments, that number increased to 73%, with 61% expecting more innovation. By themselves, even new products don’t excite people without a story. If your company is new, you need to define a compelling story, and you need to tell it over and over. Whether you’re a tech company, or a consumer product company, PR is a key part of how people discover new products.

According to Nielson, global CMOs said brand recall was the #1 most important goal in media. Advertising is ubiquitous, and advertising is an important part of any marketing budget. After a while, ads blend in a social feed or even on TV. But if your product or CEO is in a magazine, people remember that. They might not even remember WHAT was said, they’ll remember that they saw it there. Brand recall is critical to the sales funnel. If people can’t remember your company, how will they purchase from it?

PR’s lasting impact is its value, including the fact that earned media lives forever. Less than 1% of companies ever get PR for their company, so by being in that top 1%, you’ve already differentiated yourself. Can you start a company without PR? Absolutely. Can your company thrive without PR? No. There are no household names without PR at the table, period. There are no industry leaders without PR.

What’s happening in PR that you need to know about today? PR is a dynamic and powerful tool that can be leveraged for almost any audience, whether they be buyers, investors, or consumers; every one of them is influenced by the media. It’s important to know PR trends’ emerging techniques and tactics, but it’s also important to know whether those trends apply to you. Our clients are ambitious, incredibly so. Businesses that are in hyper-growth are often growing so fast they can’t hire fast enough, and that may be a reason why they’re hiring an agency. So, while understanding trends is important, it’s more important to understand where and how PR trends apply to them.

 

Content Platforms

Expect lots of new content launches attempting to fill the vacuum left by media layoffs and newsroom cuts; there are already many new and different ways to use content today. There are native and sponsored content options in some extremely prestigious outlets, and Substack has taken on a new life. Influencers are using the platform with affiliate links and journalists are using it to source ideas, data, and contacts, and companies are using it to reach the early adopter crowd. Is Substack the new Medium? Possibly. Medium, while not the darling it was a decade ago, still (as of this writing) has a place in the content ecosystem, especially for Silicon Valley – the Substack reader is a little harder to nail down right now and swings dramatically depending on the author.

Stay open to new ideas and places, but think through the ROI of investing in a content strategy on a new outlet too early. There are reasons to be an early adopter and disadvantages as well; be conscious of the pros/cons and include mitigations in your plan for the cons.

Data-Driven PR

This is one PR trend you can’t ignore. Newsrooms at even the largest titles are dangerously understaffed due to massive media layoffs. Setting aside the existential nature of this fact, this presents an opportunity for prepared, well-informed companies to support journalists with information and data the journalist might not have access to or hasn’t been approved to purchase from an expensive research firm. This is especially critical if you’re advocating for a point of view, an idea, or a trend. Data creates validity and context to your claims. It’s simply not enough to make a statement and assume people will believe you. Your press releases, media pitches, and social media need relevant data to back up your claims; anything without third-party validation is just an ephemeral idea.

Spend time considering what data you need to support your claims and ideas, and then put that data into an easy-to-understand context. And find conflicting data or other data to support yours so you can open the door to a deeper conversation about why the data matches or doesn’t. Data points don’t have to be statistics; they can be before/after photos or videos and be reviews and case studies. Think about all the ways your ideal buyer would like to see data articulated.

But press releases aren’t the only place where data is essential. Your PR strategy needs to be data-informed, too. You’re already behind if you’re not using all the technological tools at your disposal, including AI, for key messaging and media opportunities. Revaluate the data every six months to ensure your strategy keeps pace with the data and shifts as needed.

A data-driven approach has other advantages as well:

  1. Competitive Intelligence: Data-driven PR extends beyond internal metrics. It includes monitoring competitors, industry trends, and market sentiment. This competitive intelligence enables us to position our clients strategically, capitalize on market gaps, and stay ahead of evolving industry landscapes.
  2. Budget Optimization: PR budgets are valuable resources, and data helps us allocate them efficiently. We can optimize budget allocation for maximum impact by identifying high-performing channels and tactics. This ensures that every dollar spent contributes to overall campaign success.

Brand Authenticity

This isn’t as much a PR trend as it is an expectation. What do you stand for? What do you stand behind? What are you willing to stake your reputation on? Today’s media is suspicious of big claims. From sustainability to authority, if you’re staking your ground on a big claim, it’s best to ensure your business practices can defend these claims. It’s increasingly OK to say “we’re trying,” that’s the point of many annual ESG reports – to document the process. Audacious claims take time, and the world will give you space to accomplish those huge goals if you are simply transparent about the process.

This PR trend, to some degree, replaces “purpose-driven PR” as a trend. Why? Because it’s still expected that businesses will be good actors, but simply being a purpose-driven company isn’t enough anymore. Companies are expected to have built-in from the inside out and to implement this purpose beyond the PR advantages.

Your press releases and website are key areas where you need to create trust most because they are the two most prominent ways people new to your brand will find you. Every item that comes up in the first five results during a brand search is critical to your reputation; it should feel consistent and reinforce your brand authenticity.

Employee moral benefits from brand authenticity as well. Your corporate communications should reinforce your brand authenticity as well. 2023 was the year of “return to work demands from CEOs.” Businesses have lots of reasons to demand employees return to the office, and employees have lots of reasons to hate it. This automatically makes this communication divisive. While there were hundreds of thousands of “return to office” initiatives, only a visible few made news. Why? They typically made news because the tone was antithetical to the brand or there was a threat attached to the change in policy.

If your brand is divisive and threatening and the culture is anti-employee, then this is on brand, and you may proceed accordingly. If that’s NOT your brand, then communications like this need to be handled consistent with your company’s values, authentically.  It’s not that a company can’t change policies – they do it all the time, but when those policies don’t match the brand promise, internally or externally, expect backlash.

Laser Focus vs. Bucket Outreach

Today’s PR firms have access to thousands and thousands of journalists at their fingertips. We all pretty much have the same access – it’s not whether you know the journalist; it’s WHAT you send them that differentiates the pitch and determines its success. Not that they were ever appreciated, but gone are the days where you could blanket the press with a pitch and expect any premium outcomes. That’s why we advise our clients to look at press releases differently than in the past.

Today’s media relations experts know that every single outreach is a reflection on themselves, their agency, and the brand, and they take the time to treat journalists like humans rather than a transaction. Does media coverage get broken down into stats like reach, views, and authority? Yes. But the “relations” part of media is what makes it happen. A journalist never looked kindly upon a brand (or agency) that spammed them with irrelevant updates. Never has it been more off-trend to send mass emails to journalists. If your PR firm does this, they’re damaging your reputation along with theirs. But it’s not just the negative consequences of an impersonal pitch; the advantages of a personalized one are really valuable.

  1. Stand out from the crowd: A personalized pitch stands out amidst the sea of generic emails. It shows effort, thoughtfulness, and a genuine desire to collaborate. This distinctiveness increases the likelihood of the pitch being noticed and considered for coverage.
  2. Respect is always good PR. Journalists have tight schedules and limited time for sifting through pitches. A personalized pitch respects their time by presenting information concisely and directly relevant to their needs. This efficiency is appreciated and increases the chances of your pitch being read and acted upon.
  3. Human Connection: In the world of media, establishing a human connection is paramount. Personalized pitches enable a genuine connection between the pitch sender and the journalist. It transforms a pitch from a mere business transaction to a conversation between individuals, fostering trust and engagement.
  4. Relevance and Customization: Personalized pitches allow for tailoring content to align with the journalist’s interests, beat, and previous work. This customization ensures that the pitch is not only relevant to the journalist but also demonstrates a clear understanding of their preferences and areas of expertise.

AI is a Fairweather Friend

Unpopular PR trend opinion. Guess what? ChatGPT and any generative AI are excellent tools for many things; your brand content and press releases are not among them. Sure, you can use ChatGPT to give you ideas, but anything that ChatGPT gives you has already been written because ChatGPT is just a giant internet scraper. So if you’re looking to differentiate, create a memorable connection or a news-breaking idea – use ChatGPT as an idea starter, not a complete solution. While we’re at it – remember that not all information on ChatGPT is accurate anymore, and it doesn’t do a good job of contextualizing the source or timing of information. So ChatGPT for content is a valuable tool, but you must understand its limitations.

AI is a fairweather friend not only for content but also for research. Unless you’re paying handsomely for AI research, it’s probably outdated and possibly inaccurate. Free AI simply isn’t good enough yet to be used in business planning or PR research.

  1. Lack of Human Touch: PR is inherently about relationships, and a crucial element of successful relationship-building is the human touch. AI, by its nature, lacks the emotional intelligence and nuanced understanding that human interactions require. The personal connection, empathy, and intuition essential in PR can’t be replicated by algorithms.
  2. Understanding Complex Narratives: PR often involves conveying complex narratives, brand stories, and nuanced messages. AI may struggle to fully comprehend the intricacies of these narratives and might simplify or misinterpret key elements. Executive-level PR professionals can navigate the subtleties and adapt messaging to resonate effectively with diverse audiences.
  3. Adaptability to Dynamic Situations: PR is dynamic, and strategies often need to be adapted on the fly based on real-time events and changing circumstances.  PR professionals excel in their ability to think on their feet, pivot strategies swiftly, and make decisions considering the broader context—an agility AI currently lacks.
  4. Creativity and Innovation: Crafting compelling stories and innovative campaigns requires a level of creativity that AI hasn’t fully mastered. The ability to think outside the box, generate fresh ideas, and adapt creative strategies to suit specific clients or situations is a uniquely human strength.
  5. Ethical Considerations: PR involves ethical decision-making, and judgment calls that go beyond data analysis. PR professionals are equipped to navigate ethical challenges, make value-based decisions, and uphold the integrity-and authenticity- of their clients. AI lacks the ethical compass that humans possess.
  6. Unpredictable Stakeholder Interactions: Stakeholder interactions in PR are highly unpredictable and can vary widely. Human PR professionals excel in building relationships with diverse stakeholders, adapting communication styles to different personalities, and navigating the complexities of human interactions, which can’t be replaced by AI.
  7. Contextual Understanding: AI may struggle with understanding the contextual nuances that are crucial in PR. Humans excel in interpreting cultural, social, and industry-specific contexts, tailoring communication accordingly. This contextual understanding is vital for effective PR campaigns.

Crisis Planning is Essential

Never has it been more important for companies to clearly define what a crisis IS (and isn’t), and what will happen in the essential minutes if there is a crisis. In a world where millions of messages can spread around the world in an instant, crisis communication planning is required for any company looking to grow.  It isn’t just enterprise companies that have crisis communication risks. When Silicon Valley Bank crashed, thousands of startups were caught in the crosshairs of a heavily covered media crisis, and very few of them had any plans or resources to react. What about crisis planning for an influencer meltdown, or a product recall? What will you do if a competitor goes on national TV and slams your brand or if a TV personality publicly slams your brand?

Crisis communication planning isn’t just a precaution—it’s a strategic imperative. Here’s why we emphasize the vital role of crisis communication planning:

  1. Proactive Reputation Management: Crisis communication planning is a proactive approach to safeguarding your brand’s reputation. By anticipating potential crises, developing response strategies, and establishing communication protocols, you are better positioned to manage and mitigate the impact on your brand’s image.
  2. Timely and Coordinated Response: Time is of the essence during a crisis. Having a well-thought-out communication plan ensures a swift and coordinated response. This agility is crucial for addressing issues promptly, minimizing misinformation, and maintaining control of the narrative.
  3. Building Stakeholder Trust: Trust is the bedrock of any brand. In times of crisis, stakeholders—including customers, employees, and partners—seek transparency and authenticity. A carefully crafted crisis communication plan helps you communicate openly, demonstrating accountability and a commitment to resolving issues.
  4. Navigating Media Scrutiny: Media scrutiny can intensify during a crisis, and having a predefined communication strategy enables you to engage with the media effectively. Whether providing accurate information, managing media inquiries, or disseminating updates, a well-planned approach helps you navigate media challenges confidently.
  5. Protecting Employee Morale: Employees are a crucial asset, and their morale can be deeply affected during a crisis. A clear communication plan ensures that employees are kept informed, reducing uncertainty and anxiety. This, in turn, contributes to maintaining a cohesive and resilient workforce.
  6. Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Crises often bring legal and regulatory implications. A comprehensive crisis communication plan considers these factors, ensuring that your communication aligns with legal requirements and regulatory standards. This safeguards your organization from legal ramifications.
  7. Learning from Past Incidents: Effective crisis communication planning involves analyzing and learning from past incidents. This iterative process allows organizations to refine their strategies, update protocols, and continuously improve their ability to handle crises.
  8. Preserving Customer Relationships: Customers are quick to react during a crisis, and their loyalty can be tested. A well-executed crisis communication plan helps you reassure customers, address their concerns transparently, and maintain a positive relationship even in challenging times.
  9. Preserving Market Value: A poorly managed crisis can have lasting effects on market value. Crisis communication planning is an investment in preserving and, in some cases, even enhancing the market value of your brand by demonstrating resilience and a commitment to responsible management.

Buyers are Craving Certainty

All B2B and B2C buyers crave certainty, stability, and trust. It’s been a wild and wooly five years, and this being an election year, there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. While inflation is starting to improve, buyers are still getting used to the “new prices” on items that have essentially stayed mostly flat for a decade or more. In exchange for their hard-earned dollars, buyers want to feel their purchase has been valued and that it’s with a company or product they can trust. Your company needs to be firing on all cylinders to secure new revenues, and buyers simply won’t tolerate actions that create instability or a disconnect between themselves and the brand.  This is another reason thought leadership still plays a crucial role in today’s PR.

This goes for actions big and small. This is why crisis planning is essential, but it’s not just a highly visible PR crisis that brands must stay alert to. If your CEO reschedules meetings regularly, that’s a red flag for potential business partners and media; it makes any and all PR more difficult to get lifted.

With 2023 in the rearview mirror, the collective attention of B2B tech companies turns to 2024. While the Fed is looking to drop rates in 2024, and that may help out startups looking for venture capital, there are still many strategies that companies need to consider to thrive in 2024. As businesses embrace what may well be the first “normal” year of business since the pandemic, companies are reckoning with a rapidly changing regulatory, trade, and infrastructure atmosphere. But hyper-growth CEOs know the key to staying the course during high growth periods is controlling what you can. One of the most valuable assets a B2B tech company can control is reputation. From our perspective, there are several growth strategies for B2B tech that improve reputation.

Emerging Technologies: a Reputational Growth Opportunity

Emerging technologies, harnessed appropriately, can improve customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty. The world is embracing a dizzying array of technologies right now, including AI. And while AI promises next-generation productivity, the world is also collectively suspicious; this is often the case for emerging industries, but Ai faces unique PR challenges. Embracing emerging technologies presents many growth and reputation advantages as well. Of course, simply using new technologies like AI isn’t a PR story; what could be a PR story is industry leadership around the use of AI, defining parameters that are brand-consistent as they apply to AI. Taking the lead on trust-based initiatives is a reputational win.

Transparency is another reputation-building asset that companies can use technology to improve. Imagine if all your suppliers used blockchain to authenticate where the products you buy originate from. You could then help your clients ensure their own purpose-driven supply chain was sound and create a solution that has historically been a huge challenge for businesses. Some executives will shy away from this, knowing that their supply chain isn’t completely “clean.” But there, too, is an opportunity to increase transparency and create a conversation. Believe it or not, companies that proactively discuss their imperfections are more credible than those that only showcase their strengths.

Cyber Threats: A Reputational Threat

It seems hardly a day goes by without hearing about some data breach or another. Technologies for securing data are improving every day, but they aren’t perfect yet.

Companies examining their own cyber security internally may wonder what they would do if there was a data breach within their own technologies. Today, most cyber insurance companies will require you to have a business plan in place, but that isn’t enough because saving a business isn’t important. If its reputation is so damaged, no one will do business with it again. The best time to plan for a crisis is when there isn’t one. While cyber insurance programs sometimes include reputation-building services like PR in them, the limits are very low on all but the most expensive policies.

IPO Preparedness

The IPOs of 2024 will be from established and “safe” companies. However, for many businesses, 2024 may be the tip of the spear towards IPO. Preparing for an IPO is a cross-functional process, but one of the most important things a company can do, at least 24 months before an IPO is shore up its reputation and awareness. Yes, this is a financial commitment, but brand capital is a considerable contribution to most private company’s value. In a constantly shifting stock market, smart investors want resilient brands and brand equity is resilient. Investors want to know that the brand is trusted, but they also want to know that brand strength can be the foundation for exponential growth. No company grows exponentially without brand confidence.

Growth strategies for B2B tech pre-IPO include media coverage; if the company has never had much media coverage, there is much work to be done. The CEO must be heavily engaged in the PR process, and that is very often a shocking shift for founder CEOs, especially since it can be time-consuming. Not only that but making the news isn’t as easy as starting a business, believe it or not. Less than 1% of businesses ever receive media coverage – but those that do are well positioned to be at the top of their vertical.

Another key aspect of IPO preparedness is crisis planning for cyber threats and other considerations – they could be anything from a recall to a regulatory threat. Planning for a crisis means everyone at the C-level understands when there is a crisis and who leads it. Having a solid relationship with a PR firm before your crisis occurs is paramount to a quick, strategic, and effective response.

Sustainable and Responsible Business Practices

Even B2B companies will be called to understand their social impact. For growing B2B tech companies, this could include electrical footprint and processing power, as well as the international supply chain and even employee relations. But how is this part of the Growth strategies for B2B tech? Companies that are in hypergrowth must have a clear line of growth – and doing so includes considering cultural and business changes that are likely to impact growth over the next five years. A company’s reputation will be driven by how much it embraces these future valuation implications. ESG may have been a political hot potato, but the fact is that social impact isn’t going away. Businesses may go quietly about their own sustainable and responsible business practices, but they will still need to do these things because to NOT do them will become a reputational liability during critical moments like IPO or acquisition.

 

Reputational improvement and maintenance will be as important as any other growth strategies for B2B tech in 2024. Reputations will be simultaneously more expensive to acquire and more valuable. Investing in reputation today will drive the growth of tomorrow.

While the wild days of 2021 are firmly behind us, investors are starting to get back in the saddle, and there are positive signals for 2024, including fintech and other emerging tech like AI. Because there isn’t as much money in the pool, attracting investors is more competitive for any B2B company. It’s more important than ever that companies raising money stand out from the pack. At the risk of oversimplifying raising capital, one of the easiest things you can do to attract investors is to invest in confidence. Confidence assumes you have already done the hard work behind the scenes – you have a viable product, you’ve shown market interest, and you have a solid team or at least solid advisors. But those things are the baseline accomplishments for raising capital. The reality is, that thousands of legitimately great ideas never receive funding. The way to raise more money faster is by going above and beyond and creating trust and enthusiasm for the company, the product, and its leaders. Capital and trust are the two most important assets to fast-growing companies, but without trust, it’s incredibly hard to secure capital. Our PR experts call this securing capital through investor confidence, and it’s critical for startups raising venture capital or series A+ rounds.

  1. Compelling Value Proposition:Of course, first, you need a value proposition, and then you need to articulate your company’s value proposition clearly. Investors want to understand why your solution is unique, how it solves a problem in the market, and what sets it apart from competitors, and this needs to be elegantly and enthusiastically defined. Words matter. How you articulate your vision externally to investors will almost certainly be different from the way it was articulated to the product builders. It’s really common for brilliant product and tech founders to struggle with this reality. While founders are often brilliant specialists in their own right, sometimes communicating differentiators or positioning for investment requires some shifting of external communication. This is often the stage where a startup would hire a branding or PR firm specializing in tech.
  2. Demonstrate Traction:Showcase evidence of market traction, such as customer testimonials, case studies, or successful pilot programs. It’s surprising how many fantastic startups have traction, but you wouldn’t know it based on their website. Creating owned content is the foundation of earning trust for those new to your company, even (maybe especially) if it is in a fast-growing tech segment like healthtech, greentech or femtech. This helps build confidence in your company’s ability to generate demand and satisfy customer needs. If you aren’t demonstrating traction and customer confidence, it’s hard to secure capital.
  3. Financial Transparency:Provide transparent and well-organized financial information. Investors want to see realistic financial projections, a clear understanding of your revenue model, and a breakdown of how you plan to use the funds. Be prepared to talk about financials in a transparent, but appropriate way outside investor conversations. While conservative advice typically does not discuss finances, you must find a way to inspire confidence about your finances.
  4. Strong Leadership Team:Highlight the experience and expertise of your leadership team. This is one of the key reasons ambitious companies frequently engage in thought leadership for CEOs. Investors often invest in the people behind the business, so emphasize the skills and track record of your team in driving successful ventures. Having a strong point of view adds confidence and enthusiasm, and that’s important for investors who want a charismatic CEO who can take the company through IPO. Using thought leadership to paint a picture of the future is also a powerful way to underscore the importance of your product.
  5. Risk Mitigation Strategies:
    Identify and address potential risks associated with your business. Investors appreciate a well-thought-out risk mitigation strategy that demonstrates your awareness of challenges and your ability to navigate them effectively. Certainly there are a multitude of risks to consider, but one that’s frequently overlooked is a crisis communication plan clearly in place and articulated. What would happen if you were hacked and customer data was leaked? What would happen if one of your key executives was recorded off-mic with awkward or offensive statements? What happens if your product fails to work to the detriment of someone’s life or limb? Once your company has multiple stakeholders, there’s no going back – your company has inherent value and risks that you need to protect.
  6. Engage in Networking:
    Attend industry conferences, networking events, and pitch competitions to connect with potential investors. Building relationships within the investment community can lead to introductions and opportunities. Have clearly outlined goals in mind for conferences – who will you connect with and where? What media will be present, and will you be meeting with them? An experienced PR firm can help you create a strategic plan for your time at industry conferences.
  7. Update and Communicate Regularly:
    Keep existing and potential investors informed about your company’s progress. Regular updates, newsletters, and periodic meetings help maintain investor confidence and interest in your business. This is one of those things that seems to get lost in the extreme conditions of a fast-moving and ambitious company, but it does matter, and it’s an easy way to stand out from the crowd.
  8. Social Proof:
    • Leverage social proof, such as partnerships with reputable companies, endorsements from industry experts, or recognition from relevant awards and media coverage.  Few things are more lackluster than looking up a company on Crunchbase and seeing activity. Third-party validations are essential for ambitious B2B companies because they’re a visible and lasting way to create trust. Awards are not something that can ever be taken away from you.
  9. Pitch Effectively:
    • Develop a compelling and concise pitch that highlights key aspects of your business. Practice delivering it confidently, emphasizing how your B2B company addresses market needs and creates value. As CEO, it’s important for you to articulate your message with enthusiasm and confidence. Find a PR firm who can help you develop messaging for investors.

 

Securing capital through investor confidence and trust is the best way to grow a company. Trust is like a bank account. You want to contribute it to regularly and let it grow until you need to make a withdrawal. Pitching investors isn’t a withdrawal, it’s more like showing your statement and that in turn creates more confidence. Capital and trust are the two most important assets to fast-growing companies, but without trust, securing capital is harder than it has to be. Invest in trust, and let capital invest in you. No matter what stage of pre-IPO you’re in, trust is your most important asset, and PR is the way companies earn trust with the marketplace and investors.

 

If you’re raising an investment round, you may have considered PR. Whether someone suggested it to you or you’re PR curious, you’ve probably wondered why PR comes up so often when you’re seeking investment. From your Series A and beyond, a good reputation helps you raise more money faster. PR helps you attract investors, provides ongoing confidence to investors, and helps the company’s valuation. These are the reasons investors like to see companies use some investment funds for marketing and PR. They know you can run a profitable business without PR, but you can’t be the market leader without PR. So, when should a startup hire a PR firm?  We work with a lot of companies either seeking acquisition or raising funds. Let’s dig deeper into how PR helps secure investors.

First Step: Segment Awareness

Many companies discount B2B or industry PR because industry publications don’t have the public cache of larger business publications like Bloomberg or the Wall Street Journal.

But that’s a mistake. Industry PR is one of the most underrated PR assets when looking for investors. Investors often circle an emerging industry sector, like healthtech or cleantech or cannabis,  to find opportunities, and vertical publications are a great resource. Let’s face it – your startup will not be a unicorn until you’re a segment leader. This type of PR might include thought leadership or owned content campaigns. If your company does not have many search results, industry PR is a natural first step.

There’s another reason to start there: it’s excellent practice. Having 10-15 interviews under your belt really makes a huge difference when you DO get an interview with a national publication. And these credible pieces show investors you’re ready for a capital raise.

Use Data and Insights for VC Funding

A key trend in securing media is providing data to journalists. Journalists are more constrained than ever before. Third-party, statistically relevant data is the crown jewel for consumer business publications like Fortune and Bloomberg. But if you don’t have that kind of research, especially if you’re a SaaS company use the data at your disposal. I don’t mean customer data, I mean information like trends that your product is seeing.

The media isn’t the only stakeholder group that loves data: VCs do, too. Having this data really gives you many ways to capture VC attention, drive and lead conversations, and earn trust from stakeholders. And the best part? You can keep some of this data private and in your pitch deck, which you can use in your funding pitches.

Build Today for Tomorrow’s Funding

Less than 1% of companies appear in the Wall Street Journal or Forbes. Earned media is valuable because it’s difficult to secure, and the credibility factor is greater than anything you can buy. But quality PR is a marathon, not a sprint, and the investment in PR becomes more valuable over time because the more press you secure, the more likely you are to be seen as credible.

Sometimes, companies who are raising funds come to us to help them close a deal. They say, “If I could get a few pieces of press next week, that would be great.” While we might assist you with some sponsored content or contributed content, that’s still an incredibly tight turnaround for us, in part because we don’t know your brand, your voice, and your leadership. And unless you’re already in the news cycle, it’s even less likely a company will secure earned media in that time frame.

PR for investors takes time. PR is branding to journalists. Here’s a typical situation: our groundwork pays off when a newsjacking opportunity presents itself, and journalists trust our client because we had been building that trust for three months already. After that, the company became a credible source for relevant topics for some of the world’s biggest media outlets.

Remember, credibility is not something you turn on and off; it’s something you nurture and guide. That’s PR, and that’s why it’s so valuable when you’re raising capital.

Added Bonus: Crisis PR Preparation

When you’re in the middle of a raise, that’s the last time to scramble for crisis PR. Should you have a crisis, whether that’s a product recall or something more complicated, when you’re raising money or pre-IPO, PR can be the difference between simply surviving and thriving after a crisis.

Crisis campaigns start at $20,000, and that’s after you find a PR firm while your crisis is spinning out of control. When you have a PR firm on retainer, the crisis will still be expensive, but your management of it will be swifter, more strategic, and more effective. With the help of a good PR firm, you can steer your way through the crisis and out the other side with confidence and your brand intact. You might even get bonus points from investors for handling the crisis well.

Taking care of your reputation always pays dividends. When the timing is right to raise capital, that’s a great time to hire a PR agency. A good reputation will help you raise more money, faster.

Startup founders often need to juggle more tasks, which can hinder growth. While understanding all aspects of their business is essential, savvy VC-backed founders know that hiring a reputable PR firm is a wise investment. These PR Strategies for VC-Backed Startups are the difference between surviving and thriving.

Why Hire a PR Company?

Venture capital is a whirlwind environment where the pace is breakneck, the pressure is unrelenting, and adaptability is paramount. It’s a magnet for spirited public relations and communication enthusiasts, but breaking into this exclusive arena is no cakewalk. PR strategies for VC-backed startups could not be higher stakes.

With few openings and rare opportunities, securing a coveted position is a Herculean feat. For those determined to thrive in this sector, a unique constellation of personality traits and skill sets is the key to success.

Founding a startup, while a remarkable feat, doesn’t automatically grant you expertise in your field. In the eyes of investors, you may remain an enigmatic outsider if your name isn’t ringing through the corridors of recognition. This is where investing in B2B tech PR becomes an invaluable asset, helping you craft a portfolio that showcases your public opinions, mentions, and influential columns in the pivotal outlets of the startup landscape.

Imagine yourself as a podcast guest, engaging in profound discussions about the future of your industry or wielding the quill to craft opinion pieces that resonate with your peers. Offering expert insights on product innovation through quotes is another way to bolster your credibility. Reputable publications do not feature articles by authors who bring nothing of substance to their readers, and journalists don’t solicit quotes from random individuals.

PR for the VC-Backed Startup

Public relations programs and public relations campaigns are frequently used interchangeably. However, they are two different sides of the same coin. A PR program is long-term and continuing, but a PR campaign is focused on a single piece of news over a specified duration and needs more organization and attention.

Many businesses want to employ a public relations firm for a single campaign when they should be seeking to hire them for a public relations program. Why? VC-backed startups wish for a firm that understands their industry and can communicate their “story” better. Since that cannot happen overnight, taking the time to develop a PR strategy is critical.

Every utterance in the media serves as your platform to catch the discerning eye of investors and customers. To be viewed as an expert is your opportunity, an explorer of audacious innovations, armed with the wisdom and audacity to sculpt a rapid-growth, triumphant enterprise. So, here are the top PR tips to manage the comms nuances of VC-backed startups.

Tip No #1: Pre-IPO

Regarding tech PR management for VC-backed startups, there are three main areas where PR firms focus. Pre-IPO, IPO, and post-IPO, it can be devastating for a VC-backed startup to drop the ball at any stage, so startups need to get it right the first time.

Buzz Building

In the pre-IPO phase, many startups operate in “stealth mode” to keep their innovations confidential. However, when you’re ready to step into the limelight, transition strategically by orchestrating a controlled information release. Use this moment to create buzz and anticipation around your upcoming IPO.

Engage PR experts to craft a compelling narrative about your journey, innovation, and market disruption. Leverage teaser campaigns, selective media interviews, and industry events to pique interest without revealing too much. The goal is to establish yourself as an industry game-changer before your IPO.

Thought Leadership

Elevate your startup’s credibility and visibility by positioning key executives as thought leaders in your industry. Encourage them to speak at industry conferences, contribute insightful articles to prominent publications, and participate in relevant panel discussions.

By sharing industry insights, you enhance your brand’s reputation and pave the way for your startup to be seen as a trusted authority in the field. This factor can significantly influence investor interest in the lead-up to an IPO.

Investor Relations

Develop a comprehensive investor relations strategy that communicates financial data and tells a compelling story about your startup’s journey, milestones, and vision.

Crafting a persuasive narrative helps potential investors connect with your company emotionally, making them more likely to invest. This narrative can be disseminated through press releases, webinars, and investor presentations. Moreover, engaging with financial media outlets can ensure your IPO story reaches a broader audience.

Tip No #2: IPO:

With the initial public offering all set up and ready to go, you need a rock-solid PR strategy to help get your VC-backed startup across the finish line.

Transparency

During the IPO process, transparency is paramount. Keep investors, stakeholders, and the public well-informed about your company’s performance, financial health, and prospects. Implement a rigorous and timely communication strategy that includes regular financial reporting, earnings calls, and press releases. Be prepared to address any challenges openly, demonstrating your commitment to maintaining trust in the public markets.

Media Roadshows

Launch a strategic media campaign to coincide with your IPO, including hosting roadshows to attract institutional investors, securing media coverage in respected financial publications, and leveraging social media platforms to amplify your IPO messaging. Engage a PR team experienced in handling IPOs to manage the media frenzy and ensure they tell your startup’s story accurately and positively.

Employee / Stakeholder Engagement

IPOs can create excitement and introduce uncertainty for employees and stakeholders. Maintain open lines of communication with your team and key stakeholders throughout the process. Ensure they understand the implications of the IPO on their equity and their role in the company’s future. Engage PR specialists to craft internal communications that inspire confidence and commitment from your team.

Tip No #3: Post-IPO

This stage involves the execution of whatever promises during the IPO are given, including commitments and business strategies that need to be met and exceeded to gain the favor of investors and loyal customers.

Sustained Visibility

Post-IPO, it’s crucial to maintain visibility and momentum. Continue to engage with financial media, participate in industry events, and share updates about your company’s achievements and strategic direction. A consistent PR presence reinforces your company’s stability and long-term growth potential, attracting and retaining investors.

Crisis Management

Anticipate potential crises and establish a crisis communication plan. PR is vital in managing and mitigating adverse events that may impact your stock price or reputation. Swift and transparent communication is critical to maintaining investor and public trust.

Long-Term Storytelling

Investor relations remain pivotal post-IPO. Cultivate ongoing relationships with your investor base through regular updates, annual reports, and investor meetings. Additionally, continue to tell your company’s long-term narrative, highlighting milestones, innovations, and your vision for the future to sustain investor interest and attract new investors as your company evolves beyond its IPO stage.

Hiring a PR Firm

In the high-stakes world of venture capital, the value of a sterling reputation isn’t just symbolic – it’s a potential goldmine, and I mean that quite literally. As the spotlight intensifies on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) considerations, the heat is on for VCs to transcend the pursuit of profit and showcase their commitment to noble values like diversity and sustainability. PR strategies for VC-backed startups should come from a PR firm with experience in pre-IPO PR.

For those who convey this message, a desirable public image awaits. Who steps onto the stage to orchestrate this symphony of success? The PR company you hire. Now, let’s be clear – networking remains an indispensable cornerstone of fundraising, and no amount of PR wizardry can replace those face-to-face connections. Nevertheless, PR serves as the mighty amplifier of a VC’s reputation.

In a quest for information, investors scour the digital landscape, and if they stumble upon a VC shrouded in silence, a cataclysmic erosion of credibility and trust begins. It’s akin to standing on shaky ground. However, the plot thickens when they notice their rivals bask in the warm glow of media coverage from top-tier publications. In such a scenario, the silence is not just deafening – it’s also damning.

In the grand stage of venture capital, where fortunes are made and dreams are funded, PR is the conductor, orchestrating the symphony of reputation that can transform millions of dollars into a dazzling legacy.

How Much Does a PR Firm Cost for VC-Backed Startups?

In their quest for a sparkling public image, VC-backed startups call upon the knights of the realm known as PR agencies. These knights wield their trusty swords of communication to shape and guard the company’s brand in the eyes of the public. Now, we’re about to embark on an epic journey, a guide that will unravel the secrets of the best PR services, their price tags, and the mystical factors that influence these costs.

An alternative avenue emerges through specialized campaigns for organizations operating within constrained financial parameters. These project-based endeavors, characterized by a one-time financial outlay, typically range from $8,000 to $20,000 for B2B Tech PR. These targeted efforts are ideally suited for announcing funding rounds, product launches, acquisitions, major milestones, and other significant news stories that warrant prominence.

In the realm of PR for VC-backed startups, the fiscal landscape is as diverse as it is dynamic. An engagement with a monthly cost as modest as $5,000 for a freelancer or solo practitioner is attainable for those brands blessed with inherently compelling narratives akin to discovering a hidden gem.

However, should your strategic endeavors necessitate the creation of bespoke content tailored for access to premium media outlets, the PR expenditure may ascend to $15,000 per month or beyond, transforming your campaign into a substantial and high-impact initiative.

It is imperative to recognize that iterative efforts characterize the world of Digital PR. Pursuing newsworthy content can yield varied results akin to the capricious winds at sea. To ensure a robust understanding of your prospects, prudent allocation of resources necessitates a monthly commitment of no less than $10,000 over a span of at least four months. This approach affords the luxury of amassing a statistically significant sample of outcomes.

The cost spectrum for PR services in the United States exhibits considerable variance. Monthly retainer agreements with PR agencies span a broad range, commencing at a modest $2,500 and extending to a substantial $20,000 per month or more, even for top-rated boutique PR agencies, contingent upon the scale and complexity of the project.

Distinguished national and global PR agencies catering to the elite echelons of clientele commence, including VC-backed startups, their consultations at a premium minimum, tier of $15,000 per month, ascending significantly to reach the formidable range of $30,000 to $50,000 per month for PR agency fees.

But wait, there’s more! As you delve into PR costs, you’ll stumble upon the curious pricing structures these noble PR agencies propose. Brace yourself, for these pricing models are as diverse as the knights’ armor in the Round Table:

Retainer Fees

Imagine a monthly or quarterly feast where the company pays a fixed fee to secure the undivided attention of a team of PR professionals. It’s like having your own fellowship of knights dedicated to your cause, ensuring predictability in costs and unwavering support.

Hourly Rates

The hourly pricing model emerges when the need is sudden and the battle brief. Here, the company pays based on the actual time spent by the PR agency, much like hiring mercenaries for a specific quest.

Fixed Rates

Think of this as a quest with a predetermined reward. In the world of PR, it’s known as a project-based pricing model. For instance, if a dragon needs slaying, the PR agency charges a fixed rate for a certain number of press releases or media outreach, no more, no less.

Performance-Based

The performance-based model takes center stage in a land where results reign supreme. PR agencies here earn their keep based on the success of their endeavors – like slaying the dragon and showcasing its head as proof. If they hit the mark, they earn rewards, aligning their fate with the project’s goals.

Ending Note

There should be several preparations for your public relations campaign ahead of impending product releases and announcements, defined dates, etc. However, these strategies should be adaptable enough to accommodate for the unforeseen.

Consider COVID-19 and all the PR and advertising initiatives meant to go live during the first several months. If the plans for these had not been adaptable, they would have gone out as-is, utterly unaware of what was happening around the globe.

PR strategies for VC-backed startups must be adaptable, but teams and leadership must also be flexible. While you may want to hang on to a concept because you’ve already put so much effort into it, that doesn’t guarantee it’s appropriate in the present situation.