Nadia Kelly, founder of tech PR firm Burlington PR, shares some key advice on how you can make your press release stand out.
A successful funding round is a milestone, the result of hard graft, endless meetings and perhaps months of uncertainty. After all the work, you want to mark it with an announcement.
Funding releases are the ‘hooks’ for journalists, a reason to write about your company right here and now. And they’re an excellent opportunity to showcase your business, but they are also a challenge.
Here’s how to make your release stand out:
1. Decide on your objectives
Your aim could be to attract new talent or new partners, scare off potential competition or attract new customers.
Whatever your objectives, being able to define them clearly will help everything else fall into place.
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2. Evaluate your business
Write a question and answer list on your company, covering the good, the bad and the ugly. The key positive messages will emerge clearly from this.
Don’t forget the basics: Who are you? What is it you’re announcing? What is unique about your product? Why is this a pivotal moment?
Whatever your product, you will need convincing evidence that somebody wants or needs it, and that they will pay good money for it.
Why is your solution better than other options? The fact that you use AI, for example, isn’t enough. You need to explain why AI makes your solution better.
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And don’t forget the bad and the ugly. What is the worst question a reporter could ask? You may be able to pre-empt it in your release. You must certainly be ready to answer it in an interview.
With a clear idea of your objectives and your story, you are ready to write.
3. Your words and your audience
Avoid jargon and clichés. Resist the temptation to dub your company ‘the Amazon for pet-pampering’ and go easy on the rhetoric of ‘disruption’. Journalists have heard these pitches too often to take such claims on trust.
If your business ‘disrupts’, explain exactly how.
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Establish a core proposition – why your product provides a benefit that customers will pay for.
The answer will be unique to your company, but never forget the target audience.
Consumers will need to know what benefit it provides to them. Retailers will want to hear that it will fly off the shelves. Potential employees need to know they could be working at the leading edge of their particular skill. Rivals will want to copy you – make sure they know you are so far ahead that they don’t stand a chance.
4. People make news
People give a story colour and life and your release will be stronger with that human element. Who are the founders; what is their back story; and why did they found this company? There might be a story to the company’s creation?
Did the idea come to you while living in a monastery in Guatemala?
Or perhaps your company (like Transferwise, for example) is solving a problem the founders themselves once faced?
Show you are an interesting person who can talk articulately and it will pique a journalist’s curiosity.
The same applies to the VC’s involved – who are they and why are they interesting? If you are a gaming company and your VC already invested in King Games and Supercell, then mention it!
5. Money talks
The bigger the number the better – reporters like big numbers.
There are often good reasons why companies are reluctant to give precise funding figures. However, increasingly, journalists will not cover an announcement without a number.
But while money talks, there must also be a story to tell. The big number begs the question: what’s so great about this company that people are investing all this money? The modest number needs to have a powerful story to stand out.
You also need to explain how you will make money. Ideally you will provide honest sales and earnings targets.
6. Supporting Materials
Customers: If you have well-known customers then mention them – with their permission – it establishes credibility.
Statistics: Meaningful and impressive growth or market statistics will lift a release, but you must be prepared to back-up them up.
Quotes: The quote is an opportunity to express your personality, motivation and strategy. It must be to the point and pithy, and the best quotes sound like a real person speaking, not a paragraph from a brochure.
Sometimes several co-founders all want to be quoted, but we recommend just one spokesperson for the company and a quote from the lead investor. If you have amazing angels or co-investors, think about including them too.
A great image can be the clinching factor. A professional photo shows the team as people, not just disembodied words on a page.
Include a high resolution image of your logo and of your product being used.
8. Get your press release approved
Approval for a release often takes longer than expected, especially if there are multiple investors. Make sure you build in enough time for this.
9. An important reminder
Remember the Q&A you drew up at the start? Look at it again and sharpen up your replies, ready for any interviews.
10. When to issue your release
If you defined your objectives clearly, the answer to this question may be obvious – for example, you may want to break your news just before a major industry conference.
Equally, you may wish to avoid releasing news when reporters are going to be too busy or distracted – a new iPhone launch will overshadow all other tech news.
Check that your preferred journalist is not on holiday and think about the holiday season in general.
Most people are away in August and news is thin. Journalists may be hungrier for your release, but there will be fewer readers and key people may miss the story.
In September, a flood of releases tends to appear, so the bar to getting published may be higher. But the ‘back to school’ mood means people may be looking for the next big thing – which could be you.
11. Target media list
This will depend on your business and your objectives. We start with your top 10 list of media and approach them, one by one, in order of priority. The best outlet for your objective gets the first chance at the story.
The first target may be happy to be briefed alongside other reporters, but they may want an exclusive – it’s worth considering.
If you are unsure who your target media should be then Google who has written about your nearest competitor or on a similar story and build your target list from there.
It is important not to pester journalists, before, during or even after you have issued your announcement. A gentle reminder might not go amiss, but constant queries or requests for feedback risk irritating reporters. Questions such as, “Are you ready?” “How is it going?” and “How was it for you?” are rarely welcome.
Exclusive or embargo?
Both of these approaches have advantages and disadvantages.
Sending to a wide range of journalists could mean lots of coverage. However, you might be unlucky and get no coverage at all. Meanwhile, an exclusive offer to one outlet may guarantee a good article, but rival media might not follow up the story.
There is no single right answer. All roads lead back to clearly defining your objectives.
What if there’s a leak?
Stick to ‘no comment’ and it will still be news when the time comes to announce. Reporters will understand you are just doing your job.
Only consider bringing forward your embargo if a reporter breaks the story with all the key facts.
Don’t forget your own media channels
Use your own blog, Medium page and social media channels to tell your story.
A blog post can tell the story in a more personal way, or turn it into a conversation.
Make sure you have your owned media in order before the funding news breaks.
Nobody can guarantee you will get coverage and sometimes even the best story doesn’t find its audience. PR is an art – it’s about influencing outcomes, rather than controlling them.
However, funding is a key milestone and a rare opportunity to garner some publicity.
The funding provides the hook; use it well, and it will allow you to show-off your business plan, your product, your team and your vision.