Using Public Relations Effectively to Raise Money
Public relations (PR) is primarily used to create recognition and awareness about your company, as well as build credibility, stay top of mind in the market and convey relevance. PR creates and reinforces perceptions and keeps your company’s name out there to trickle into the minds of people who follow the space.
The usefulness of PR for you as a startup founder / leader is to leverage it to get investors interested in you and your company. When you go to an investor meeting and the investor is already familiar with you because he has seen news in social media or in the press (mainstream or trade media), it does a ton to help you have credibility in the eyes of the investor immediately.
The purpose of this article is to give you some useful tips for you to do your own PR (or to learn enough about PR to know what to expect from a PR consultant whom you hire on a project basis). PR agencies are very expensive, but there are ways to do it more cost-effectively.
The Most Important PR Tool
A press release (or news release) is the primary tool for public relations. It is used to communicate about company news, which could be:
- Customer wins / success
- Significant achievement, such as a milestone (i.e. one millionth subscriber)
- Major new hire
- New product launch
- New service
- New facility move-in / expansion of office space
- Response to an industry incident
You can post a press release on your website, distribute it to local media and/or trade media, include it in an e-newsletter to target investors, and post it on your company’s social media channels and your own social media accounts as well as those of your employees.
If you will spend a few hundred dollars, you can also amplify the distribution of your press release on a paid newswire, such as BusinessWire, PR Newswire or MarketWired. The benefit of these service is that they will send your press release to the media, but also post the release online, so Google crawlers pick up your press release, resulting in your news showing up in Google search results. When people Google search your company, your news will come up. (BusinessWire is the best and most sophisticated, but also most expensive. MarketWired is usually the least expensive.)
A press release should be written in a journalistic style. It should answer “who, what, where, why, how” questions. It should also include a quote from you and possibly a customer, partner or industry influencer. You should also include your company’s one-paragraph descriptor, which is known as a “boilerplate.”
Also, the release should provide context about the market your company is competing in and why your company is relevant. If you are not comfortable writing a press release, there are low-cost ways of getting it down, but it’s good to use a PR consultant who is familiar with your particular industry or market. An independent PR consultant is less expensive than a PR agency, which passes overhead costs onto clients.
The Most Important PR Result
PR professionals do not see the press release as the end-game. Besides sharing the press release on social media and a newswire, the press release is used to generate media coverage.
The bigger goal is to get a journalist to want to write about your company. An independent article by a respected journalist (or influential blogger with a large following) gives you instant credibility, and you’d want to share the article as widely as possible.
If done right, a press release results in media interviews (by phone or in person), so you will also need to have your story and your talking points ready to go. Doing media interviews well is an art form. You want to have your top three messages clear. Reiterate those messages over and over. Keep your answers brief. Articulate the news (as journalists want news) and put it in context.
Don’t give out any confidential information or pre-announce something your company is planning to formally announce in the future. The goal is to get a favorable article which you can then use with investors. The article will also show up in Google searches when investors search your company online.
Think about mapping out a cadence of news announcements for your company for the next 6-12 months. You may aim for one news announcement per month, or it could be once a quarter or twice a month—whatever makes sense for you. It’s best to have a regular cadence. Don’t have three press releases in one week and then no news for the next 8 months.
Mapping out your press release cadence could look like the following:
May–New hire of an executive on the leadership team
July–Customer win announcement
September–Top trends of the year for your industry
October–New initiative to respond to a timely issue in your industry
Remember that you are using PR to increase awareness among investors, so focus on news that would be exciting and interesting to potential investors. Maximize the successes of your company by shouting from the rooftops, and with digital PR tools, you can reach many potential investors without needing a ladder.