How Big Venture Rounds and Bigger IPOs are Changing Tech PR

Mar 16, 2021 Keith Giannini

Record-breaking IPOs, mile-high valuations and a more competitive media environment are driving major changes across the tech PR landscape.

While the long-term impact of these changes is yet to be determined, we can look at the immediate effect on technology vendor PR strategies.

Doubling Down on the Business Story, Not the Tech Particulars

B2B technology companies provide tremendous value to our society. They are the backend plumbing that delights us with two-day shipping, immediate money transfers and endless content for binge-watching. However, B2B tech companies also love to talk about technology, which is often similar-sounding at best or utterly confusing at worst. 

Now more than ever, the media is less interested in what a technology does versus what it enables. How does your company’s tech impact its customers’ bottom lines? 

While most journalists still want to know if you're cloud-native and where you fit in the tech stack, they're more concerned with your customer and partner traction. Sharing specific numbers is often off-the-table for private companies, but be ready to disclose some kind of metrics to validate your business value. Most reporters will be happy to hear about some combination of revenue range, percentage of revenue growth, number of customer or partner logos, growing average recurring revenue, or the like to effectively communicate that there’s a successful business behind your technology. 

Increased Funding News Competition and a Focus on Valuations

You may have heard that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. You may have also heard that shutdowns and work-from-home mandates have not prevented the United States venture capital community from pouring a record-breaking $130 billion into startups in 2020, a 14% increase from 2019. And while deal volume fell slightly year-over-year from 6,599 in 2019 to 6,022 in 2020, it has only resulted in larger average rounds, making it harder to secure meaningful coverage for those $30 million dollar series B announcements. 

Breaking through in a sea of $100M+ funding rounds is difficult. On top of that, journalists want (really, really want) to know a startup’s valuation. The new rule for late-stage funding is to disclose your valuation, which is great for companies like our client Databricks, but more challenging for earlier-stage organizations still short of the magical $1 billion valuation. 

What this all means for pitching funding rounds is:

  • Get your story down, including the “why you matter” messaging (more on that later), growth numbers and differentiators.

  • Contact the media under embargo as far in advance as possible, as more runway allows flexibility on both sides.

  • Be prepared to answer the valuation question — and make sure the C-suite, finance and marketing are all in agreement on what you’re planning to disclose. As a private company, the choice is entirely yours; giving a valuation range or talking about the round as oversubscribed are common messages, but just make sure whatever you say is accurate.

Drafting off the Larger Technology Players

Recent widely-reported technology company successes in the financial markets means that once-obscure B2B technology vendors have the opportunity to get more attention from mainstream business media. However, while the education baseline for B2B technologies has been raised, you still need the right narrative.

Companies across the IT ecosystem are trying to play off of AWS, Microsoft and Google to get noticed, so while there is opportunity for smaller startups, the competition is fierce. For instance, threading the needle between having something interesting to say about the world of cloud data without coming across as self-serving is no easy task. To quote Inkhouse CEO Beth Monaghan, one of the best methods for threading that needle is finding the tension in your story

The process for uncovering the tension is a little different for every organization but it starts with imagining a world where your company doesn’t exist. How is that world worse off and how do you make it better? If you can answer that question, it puts you on the path to telling a unique, tension-filled story that generates much broader interest and awareness than product “speeds and feeds” ever will. 

The relationships between media and tech companies has certainly changed. And it’s challenging all of us to become better storytellers to stand out. 

Topics: Media Relations, Earned Media, IPO Communications, valuations, tech PR
Keith Giannini

Whether it’s big data, mobile, application development, analytics, virtualization, data science, artificial intelligence or cloud, Executive Vice President Keith Giannini is dedicated to helping clients distill complex enterprise technologies into consumable storylines and thought leadership campaigns that resonate with key opinion leaders to move the business needle.

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