Everything VC firms need to know about startup PR

Savannah Mazanowski
Everything VC firms need to know about...

As a venture capitalist, you may be the first to recognize talent in a promising startup, but you definitely do not want to be the last. The success of your new investment is directly reliant on both the visibility and profitability potential of that company. So as an investor and advisor, some of the responsibility for increasing that visibility may fall on you. 

A steadfast method of reaching a larger audience? Media. Not only can the media use its wide audience reach to tell the story of your startup but it can also bring more attention to your VC firm. 

Is PR necessary?

If the idea of startup PR is new to you, then you might be considering how necessary it is, especially if you invest in early stage startups. And naturally, as a VC, you may be wondering what the investment value is for PR.

With the sheer number of startups on the market at any given time, it takes a lot to set a company apart from the crowd. The startups in your portfolio may have an innovative product and a strong user base, but so do thousands of other startups trying to get the same attention in the media. This is why PR and branding are fundamental for early stage startups. A successful PR firm will find the best edge for the startup to give it that angle that the media loves to report on, which in turn gives your startup a leg up on the competition. 

The VC’s role in startup PR

Once you understand the value of PR for startups, it’s time to assess your role in the relationship between the startup and a tech PR firm. Evaluate the current marketing activities and how effective the strategy has been so far. More often than not, leaders of these tech companies have leading-edge strategies on the tech side fueled by years of industry knowledge and experience. When it comes to marketing a business, however, experience among decision makers is less common.

As an investor, it’s your job to advise a startup on all aspects, including key marketing decisions. Having a stake in that company makes it that much more important to relay the advantages of PR as they build their brand and expand their business. A tech PR firm can take on the bulk of external operations, leaving you to focus on advising internal business strategies. To get the best results from PR and marketing, the tech startup and PR firm should be well matched. That’s why having a network of PR firms can be beneficial

PR is a win-win

Similar to the crowded startup market, VC firms have been facing more and more competition over the years. So while it is important for the startups in your portfolio to get adequate coverage, your VC firm can benefit from positive media attention as well. Gaining more traction for your brand can help elevate your status to an industry leader, attract new startups, and grow your portfolio. 

Startups are not taking all the credit. The VCs backing a startup are almost always recognized in the media alongside the startups they back. For startups and VCs alike, press mentions are opportune for building brand awareness and increasing credibility. After a few earned media mentions alongside your thriving startups, your firm’s brand is on its way to becoming a key player in the industry if it’s not one already. 

Share the news

For critical, time sensitive events such as funding announcements, it is crucial to have the right PR strategy in place before it’s time to actually share the news. There will not be many opportunities to reinvent a funding announcement, so it’s essential to maximize it the first time around. Earned media coverage not only gives the startup a boost of legitimacy and credibility, but it can drive traffic to both parties. 

When it comes to funding announcements, it’s a good idea to work with a tech PR firm. They can ensure the announcement not only sounds good and contains all necessary elements, but can also make sure the announcement reaches the top tech media contacts. This level of connectivity is pivotal for a milestone as big as a funding announcement. 

Understanding ROI metrics

As a VC, you expect a return on investment from the startups you work with. This goes for anything you invest in, including PR. 

It’s important to understand exactly what ROI means for a PR campaign and how it is measured so that you can validate where your investment is going. To measure ROI for PR, it’s essential to establish the goals of the campaign and how they align with the overall goals of the startup. 

For example, if a campaign goal is to raise brand awareness, the metrics for that awareness can be measured by social engagement, website traffic and contact conversions. If driving traffic around a funding announcement is a set goal, then the set metrics should be the number of media placements secured along with website traffic and engagement. 

Understanding ROI and associated metrics will help when advising your startups on choosing a PR firm to work with. The best startup PR firms are data-driven and will have a firm hold on tracking and producing results. Not sure how to go about measuring PR? Read an article in our sister blog for more insight on how to measure PR in Google Analytics

Playing the long game is key

Media coverage for an early age startup is not guaranteed. And when a startup does start attracting media attention, that does not mean the PR firm’s work is done. The goal of PR is to develop and foster long term relationships with the media. This takes patience and consistency, but it will also lead to mutually beneficial relationships between you, your startups, and the media. 

Having a strong relationship with the media will help, for instance, when it’s time for you to bring awareness to a new portfolio startup. You will be able to reach out and leverage that relationship to create buzz for your startup. Reversely, if a media contact is looking for an expert source to quote, having a strong relationship will put you near the top of the list to provide either data or an expert opinion. A PR firm will help navigate and build those relationships so that your firm and your portfolio companies can be set up for success. 

About Savannah Burns: Savannah is a Business Development Associate for Swyft, which is a tech PR firm in Austin and Houston and a top digital marketing and PR agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft recently opened a satellite office where it offers tech PR in San Francisco. Swyft was also listed as one of the top tech PR agencies in Texas by the B2B services review site, Clutch.co.

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