Five PR Tips for Founders Launching a New Venture
Apr 24, 2020 Jason Morris
It’s been months and maybe years since you first came up with the idea. You’ve identified a big problem, built a small, scrappy team to solve it, and brought on a seed investor or two to help you build your business. You think you’ve found product-market fit and the future is bright. It’s time to tell the relevant world -- future customers, employees and partners, friends, former colleagues and classmates, and extended family -- what you’ve been working on.
But you’re a technologist at heart. You might be a new college grad or a former product manager at a successful company, so your experience with public relations, speaking with media and leading internal and external communications at a company is limited.
So what do you do? How do you take the first step toward positive notoriety for you and your team with audiences that matter? Here are five PR tips for founders thinking about launching their venture.
1. Start with your story
Most people in casual conversation will ask you, “What do you do?” It’s the common way to think about your job or your business, and so most people feel comfortable leading with “the what.” The issue is that “the what” is pretty boring and too rational from a storytelling and PR standpoint. You have to develop “the why” in your story to reach audiences on an emotional level, drive engagement and prompt them to take action.
For example, if you’re a fintech startup that helps an underserved segment of the market get affordable loans to buy their first home, your answer to “what” versus “why” is pretty different. “What do I do? I am the founder of a fintech startup in the mortgage financing space.” Compare that to, “I founded a company that helps the forty percent of people who can’t get home loans through a conventional bank access money they can afford to purchase their first home and build financial equity for their family’s future.” It’s a more human and emotional way to look at what you do.
2. Preserve the PR assets no one knows about yet
You can’t spell “news” without “new.” It’s really important that what you announce is new information to the outside world and that means not promoting too much before you launch. Unveiling the identity of your investors, team members you’ve hired, the amount of financing you’ve raised and who your early customers are can all help motivate reporters to write about your announcement if details are kept under wraps.
There are other things that are interesting that you can and should share as part of the launch which will help humanize your story and drive interest. Anecdotes about your fundraising experience, a mistake you may have learned from building your company or a personal story about how you became interested in solving the problem all will help people connect more. Talk to someone with PR experience to help you story mine and allocate your launch assets to maximize success. Which leads to tip #3...
3. Ask for help
You shouldn’t expect to be an expert in PR or marketing. You are probably at a stage where you can’t or shouldn’t engage with a PR firm on a sizeable retainer, but there are still resources you can tap to help you plan and execute your launch or provide a sounding board for your story.
Who do you ask? Most experienced venture firms today have at least one person on their team responsible for helping portfolio companies plan for their initial launch or find an agency or a consultant who can help. If yours doesn’t, then ask your investing partner who they might know at their other portfolio companies or who can steer you in the right direction. You might also know other founders or have someone else in your network who knows someone. The key is to ask for help.
You don’t walk into your first investor pitch (or any) without preparing and you shouldn’t do that for a company launch either. It’s critical you practice your story, starting with the “why” to get adept at telling it. If you don’t tell a coherent or interesting story, then the journalist may not cover the news. You need to prepare for tough questions, and understand the medium (print, online, broadcast, podcast) to adjust how you deliver information accordingly.
Ways to prepare without a media training expert helping include: writing your story down to help get comfortable with it; asking an advisor or a PR expert to run through a mock interview with you; get familiar with who you’re speaking to, the audience they serve and what might resonate with that audience. If you work with an agency or marketing partner at one of your investors they can help you prep.
5. Manage your expectations
If you’re building something meaningful and enduring, and you execute well, then your launch is one small step in a long journey. There are a number of things outside of your control that could impact it. Things like an editor cutting a story, major breaking news or a reporter who couldn’t give your story the focus it deserves. You could do all of the right things and still the launch could be impacted by things you can’t control.
The key is to understand that this is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time and effort to build a brand name of any significance, and your company launch is one moment in time. You won’t nail every interview out of the gate, so be self-reflective about how you did, but know that there is no substitute for practice and repetition when it comes to speaking about your company externally.
Launching your new venture is an incredibly exciting milestone and is something that is worth considering, even in a down economy. If it is something you’re considering doing but you’re not sure if you’re ready, ask an advisor or investor. If you want an outside opinion, we’re also happy to chat with you at email@example.com.