How To Announce Your Seed Round

As a former Forbes Staff Writer, I’ve seen thousands of pitches. Here’s how I tell Primary portfolio companies to approach PR—and why I don’t think press placements are make or break.

How To Announce Your Seed Round How To Announce Your Seed Round

So you successfully pitched your business to investors. But now that you’ve started building and want to create a big public debut, you’re likely feeling a bit stumped.

As Director of Marketing here at Primary, I see this all the time. So if this moment feels challenging, know you’re in good company. Like all good challenges, this just needs to be broken down into some smaller tasks, which I’ll provide guidance on here.

I also want to emphasize that you don’t necessarily need a press placement in these early days; in most cases sharing your story on your own website and distributing across your own networks is a great starting point. I’ve included tips for doing that here as well.

So here’s how I recommend new startups approach PR and comms for their very first splash. Feel free to get in touch if you have further questions or want some personalized advice on your own launch strategy.

Define your audience and goals

The number one piece of advice I have for every type of content strategy work is to start with a statement of who this is for and what your goals are with that audience.

So if you’re staring at a blank Google Doc, pop these questions in at the top:

  • Who am I trying to reach?
  • What do I want them to know and/or do?

Working with portfolio founders here at Primary, I often hear about intended audiences being new employees, new investors, or new customers. From there, obvious goals, respectively, are join the team, back the company, or take a look at our product.

These goals will help you think about not just the story, but what other materials you should have ready. So if you’re looking for new employees, get a nice team photo taken instead of just using your own headshot. If you’re looking for more investors, have all your pitch materials together. And if you’re aiming for new customers, make sure your website is a bit more robust than a “coming soon” landing page. (Obviously it’s great to have all these things, but as a new founder, there’s a good chance you’re in triage mode.)

Develop a sense of the story

Here’s a hard truth: Funding announcements aren’t really news. Thousands of startups have come into existence over the past few years—while news outlets continue slashing jobs.

But of course some funding announcements do make it into the press. Why is that? Here are a few attributes that tend to help pitches become stories:

  • This launch exemplifies an interesting wider trend
  • The founder has a notable background and is taking on a challenge related to past insights
  • There’s already meaningful traction—maybe expressed through partnerships, stats, or human interest stories

I think of the formula for a good story as relevant + recognizable + unexpected + enticing, meaning you want to align with wider trends, name drop any name-brand associations, share an insight you have proprietary access to, and, most elusively, frame it in a way people will want to hear about and connect with (e.g. position the story as optimistic, or show how the average person is involved or could benefit from this). Remember, the alchemy you’re looking to achieve with these elements is a story that’s interesting to your intended audience. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if this sounds like a cool story. Be as honest with yourself as you can be.

DO NOT pre-write your story for a reporter. No good journalist wants this. But do have a sense of the story internally, write it down in bullet-point form, and be prepared to speak to it if you do land a call with a reporter.

Create your target list

If you want to be read about, start reading. Spend time with relevant publications for your industry and develop a sense for which writers cover which topics. Follow them on Twitter, find their bios / beat descriptions (nearly always available via clicking their byline on any story), and read several of their recent articles.

Then make a ranked list of which writers you think would best cover the story. In general, you want to start with more prestigious publications, but if you have a very niche audience or story, focus on the outlets that are most aligned. Also consider newsletters or even social accounts that might help get the word out.

At the bottom of your list (i.e. most gettable) you should also note investors who’ve backed you or communities you’re a part of: They’re likely to be excited about amplifying your story. These types of cheerleaders are so, so important to your overall distribution plans, whether you get the story placed or end up writing it yourself.

Create your pitch

Think about this like a sales email drip: Shorter is better; your goal is really just to get on a call, and follow-up notes will be essential.

I personally think the best pitches come directly from founders, rather than a PR agency or freelancer. It’s more authentic and casual, and allows for the possibility of creating an ongoing relationship.

In your pitch, introduce yourself and your company, give a few bullet points on what’s interesting here, share your intended announcement date (more on that in the next section), and ask for a call.

Within those bullet points, be sure to name drop as much as possible (companies you’ve worked at, partners you’ve secured, awards you’ve won, etc.), tie to larger trends/themes, and cite any relevant data illustrating the challenge you’re solving for and/or the traction of your solution.

Expect to send 2-3 followup emails checking if the reporter is interested. Their inbox has hundreds of notes like this coming in every day. Don’t take it personally if you don’t get a response to your first note, and be polite about the reality that they simply can’t respond to everything.

Time your pitches

Reporters typically want at least a week’s notice—more is better—and you’ll likely need to contact a dozen or more reporters to land a story. Like with any project, having a clear deadline helps move things along. A month out is a good timeframe if you’re starting from scratch, and I recommend setting a date that falls on a Monday through Wednesday, as internet traffic is usually higher those days.

Starting at the top of your reporter wishlist, send about three notes a day. If you get a promising response, you can offer an “exclusive,” meaning that the reporter gets to break the story before anyone else. You MUST honor exclusives. So if a reporter in the middle of your list accepts the exclusive but then a top-tier reporter later responds saying they’re interested, you can’t rescind the original exclusive. Just be transparent and explain the situation. It’s unlikely the top-tier reporter will want the story if they can’t have the exclusive, and it’s unlikely the mid-tier reporter would ever work with you again if you rescinded an exclusive.

Personal pet peeve: Don’t be overly precious about withholding information until a reporter agrees to an “embargo” (specific launch time) or exclusive. I see PR professionals do this a lot and don’t think it matters. It just makes you harder to correspond with. In the grand scheme of things, this is really not a big story, and it’s in your best interest to just share information like a normal, chill person.

To that point, think about this outreach as a chance to build a personal relationship with any reporter you talk to. Getting on a call doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll write the story, but a nice thank you note and an occasional ping about trends you’re noticing in the industry can make you a source for future work.

If the pitch isn’t working

If you’re pitching and pitching without any traction, consider moving back your launch date a couple weeks. If that backup date still doesn’t get any bites, I’d recommend publishing your own story on your company blog (if you have one), making a LinkedIn article, or seeing if an investor would write a post about you. Even if you do get a press placement, these are great things to have ready to go and post shortly after the article goes live. So keep your wider team updated on where things stand and how they can help.

While landing a press placement is exciting, I truly don’t think it should be at the top of your priority list as a new founder. And the comms community is somewhat divided on this, but I don’t think you need to put out a press release, either. You or your investors’ can just put the story in your own words and distribute it through your own networks—you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the outcomes this can drive for you, especially if you follow the advice above about crafting your story.

Tags: Primers