SlideShare a Scribd company logo
The State of Startup PR ’21
& a Guide for Early Stage
Companies
PR can be one of the most effective
tools for early-stage startups.
• PR creates mindshare among potential
customers and second-order stakeholders
(e.g. employees, potential hires, downstream
investors)
• Press begets press. The more you do, the
more you get
• Brand awareness/recognition lift all marketing
ships - organic and paid become more
effective
2
But the conditions for early-
stage companies to
generate press are more
challenging.
Understanding the playing
field can help make your
efforts more successful!
Over the years, consolidation and layoffs have resulted in fewer and fewer
reporters, with ’20 and early ’21 bringing much steeper layoffs and pay cuts.
4
0
30000
60000
90000
120000
2008 2019
U.S. Newsroom Jobs
Source: Pew Research Center/Bureau of Labor Statistics, The New York Times
- 26% total jobs
- 51% newspaper
jobs
2020: ~37,000 news workers laid off, furloughed or pay cut
On the flip side, there are more PR pros than ever, with a
corresponding avalanche of pitches.
5
Sources: Bloomberg, Cision 2021 Global State of the Media
6.4
PR professionals
for every 1 reporter
In 1998, the ratio
was 1.8 to 1
100+
1 in 4 reporters get
pitches each week
Reporters are under pressure to file multiple high-
engagement stories each day, across multiple beats.
6
Source: Cision 2021 Global State of the Media
of reporters file 10+ stories per
week
33% of reporters cover more than
4 beats
53% 59%
of reporters agree that
audience metrics (views,
likes, shares) have changed
how they evaluate stories
Reporters are assessing how immediately compelling your story is,
and how well their audience will respond, before they agree to write the story.
Source: Crunchbase (Early stage = A/B rounds and unnamed rounds $3 - $15M); average early-stage round size Q1’21: $23M 7
And with rapidly increasing funding rounds and round sizes, early-
stage funding alone isn’t the compelling news it used to be.
Average round
size
+44%
Total early stage
dollars
Compared to 2020
average, early-
stage venture rounds
in Q1 ’21:
+3%
Number of
deals
+56%
Most tech and business outlets have at least some paywall; it’s
more competitive to get that easy-to-share, non-paywalled press.
8
Outlet Mostly Free Some Paywall Mostly Paywalled
Axios
TechCrunch
VentureBeat
Forbes
Fortune
Bloomberg
Insider
LA Times
New York Times
Wall Street Journal
Finally, Millennials and Gen Z primarily turn to social media for news, which
favors highly visual, highly shareable content (from traditional sources and
independent creators alike).
9
Source: YPulse, July 2020
In summary: fewer reporters +
more compelling pitches means
early-stage companies have to
work harder & smarter to
generate successful press.
But how?
The good news is that for companies who are smart about different tactics,
a successful PR strategy remains the same:
Offer a compelling story that’s interesting & relevant to
the reporter and their audience.
Before You Pitch:
the Strategy
First, perfect your “TikTok” pitch -
don’t make reporters (or anyone)
work to understand your business.
• It’s not just an “elevator pitch” (condensed
& comprehensible); it’s also compelling
and interests people in what you’re
building
• Explaining why the business matters >
conveying every facet of what you’ve built
• Reporters may be on your beat but aren’t
experts in your space; a great pitch helps
ensure the story you want
13
Then get clear on your angle, AKA why your news matters.
14
• An angle lets reporters (and their readers) know why someone should care
about why your news exists.
• Fundings, new hires, product launches, partnerships, etc., are exciting for your
team or community but are not always newsworthy or important to non-
stakeholders. From To
Rule of thumb: why would you read/share if it weren’t your
company?
15
Online learning leader [Company] raises $20M
[Company] launches new cybersecurity product
[Apparel company] reaches 1M customer milestone
From
[Company] raises $20M to tailor online learning for
adult career switchers
Cities are increasingly targets for ransomware
attacks. Businesses like [Company] can help.
Post-COVID shoppers are ready to dress up
again. Here’s the data.
From To
Build relationships with reporters
BEFORE you need them
• Identify the five top reporters in your
space and make an effort to be helpful to
their job
‣ Follow, engage & comment on Twitter without
constantly pitching them
‣ Send a short intro email offering to be a
resource for your area of expertise or the
trends in your market
‣ Invite them to a quick coffee or an event with
other entrepreneurs
16
And finally - get media training
It’s not enough to know what you
want to say - you need to literally
practice how to say it.
Your agency, comms team or VC
can help.
Ready To Pitch?
The Tactics
First, identify your goals with
this press moment.
• Press coverage is a means, not an end.
• Knowing what PR success looks like for
your overall strategy and each pitch is
key, e.g.:
• Inbound customer interest
• Credibility with hiring
• Downstream investor interest
• CEO thought leadership
19
Before a single pitch goes out, spend time figuring out how
to get to the right reporters.
20
• Don’t waste your time (or agency hours) pitching unlikely reporters. Ensure that your
target list covers your stage and your space.
• Spend time on reporters’ websites or Twitter feed to get a feel for their recent coverage
and style.
• Leverage your network (VCs, entrepreneurs) for a warm intro if possible but cold pitches
work all the time.
• Avoid simultaneously pitching multiple people at the same outlet.
• Beware the 50-person media list!
• Widest reach & credibility
• Good for SEO
• Builds awareness amongst
all stakeholders (customers,
investors, new hires)
• Targeted audience & expertise
• Will cover new hires, product
launches, partnerships
• Usually not paywalled
Consider both “mass” outlets and more niche/trade
publications - each can serve a valuable role.
21
Mass outlets
Niche outlets
(inc. trade & newsletters)
To exclusive or embargo? And, what’s the difference?!?
22
Exclusive = one reporter is
briefed on the story.
You can brief other outlets
after the exclusive runs.
Embargo = briefing multiple
reporters with an agreed date/
time to publish.
**An embargo must be agreed
BEFORE you share the news.
Exclusives usually aren’t necessary but can be a good choice to secure
coverage in a highly technical/niche space or if the story isn’t of mass interest.
Choose your timing wisely.
• Start pitching at least two weeks
before the embargo date.
• Most big companies want news to hit
Tues/Weds @ 8 AM. Consider Mon/
Thurs or even mid-morning
embargoes.
PRO TIP: Following one funding
announcement with another two months
later?
Congrats - but press coverage may be
harder without a new story
• Make it clear that you know the reporter covers
this space and type of story
• If relevant, reference past stories or subjects
• No mass mailings!
• A tailored pitch is more likely to get a response,
even it’s a pass
In an email pitch, less is more. Make it easy for reporters to
assess and respond.
25
• Relevant hook in the subject line
• 1 - 2 SHORT paragraph pitch with what
they need to know: the news, the
embargo date, the angle
• If requesting embargo, share enough
news to be interesting but don’t share all
the details until agreed embargo
‣ E.g. Share round size but not investors
RULE ONE: CONDENSE RULE TWO: CUSTOMIZE
And a pro tip: great visuals drive clicks and shares! Spend a
little effort on visuals to accompany the pitch.
26
Opt for high-color, horizontal images that stand out against
a white background. A little design goes a long way.
If possible, choose active imagery (or even simple GIFs!)
that bring your product or benefit to life
Try to avoid founder headshots, standard team photos,
logos or software screenshots
After the Pitch:
The Work Continues
Your own platforms and amplification plan are THE
key to success. One story amplified > lots of small hits.
28
• Prep friendlies with talking points and images & share press links as soon as
they hit.
• Leverage anyone with an influential online voice (blogger, influencer, VC)
and all “free” platforms - blogs, VC newsletters, LinkedIn - to amplify the news.
• Ensure your website is prepped for relevant lead capture, messaging, etc.
• Find ways to reinforce days and weeks after the announcement - not
everyone sees the news immediately
Remember: PR is not just a
moment, it’s a marathon.
• It’s not securing one story, it’s creating an
ongoing drumbeat of awareness
‣ Map out 6 - 12 months of press moments and
how you will execute them
‣ Find external consultants or resources to help if
it’s not an internal competency
• Constantly build relationships with reporters, via
social, events, or thought leadership
29
UPFRONT.COM

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Succeeding with early stage PR in 2021

  • 1. The State of Startup PR ’21 & a Guide for Early Stage Companies
  • 2. PR can be one of the most effective tools for early-stage startups. • PR creates mindshare among potential customers and second-order stakeholders (e.g. employees, potential hires, downstream investors) • Press begets press. The more you do, the more you get • Brand awareness/recognition lift all marketing ships - organic and paid become more effective 2
  • 3. But the conditions for early- stage companies to generate press are more challenging. Understanding the playing field can help make your efforts more successful!
  • 4. Over the years, consolidation and layoffs have resulted in fewer and fewer reporters, with ’20 and early ’21 bringing much steeper layoffs and pay cuts. 4 0 30000 60000 90000 120000 2008 2019 U.S. Newsroom Jobs Source: Pew Research Center/Bureau of Labor Statistics, The New York Times - 26% total jobs - 51% newspaper jobs 2020: ~37,000 news workers laid off, furloughed or pay cut
  • 5. On the flip side, there are more PR pros than ever, with a corresponding avalanche of pitches. 5 Sources: Bloomberg, Cision 2021 Global State of the Media 6.4 PR professionals for every 1 reporter In 1998, the ratio was 1.8 to 1 100+ 1 in 4 reporters get pitches each week
  • 6. Reporters are under pressure to file multiple high- engagement stories each day, across multiple beats. 6 Source: Cision 2021 Global State of the Media of reporters file 10+ stories per week 33% of reporters cover more than 4 beats 53% 59% of reporters agree that audience metrics (views, likes, shares) have changed how they evaluate stories Reporters are assessing how immediately compelling your story is, and how well their audience will respond, before they agree to write the story.
  • 7. Source: Crunchbase (Early stage = A/B rounds and unnamed rounds $3 - $15M); average early-stage round size Q1’21: $23M 7 And with rapidly increasing funding rounds and round sizes, early- stage funding alone isn’t the compelling news it used to be. Average round size +44% Total early stage dollars Compared to 2020 average, early- stage venture rounds in Q1 ’21: +3% Number of deals +56%
  • 8. Most tech and business outlets have at least some paywall; it’s more competitive to get that easy-to-share, non-paywalled press. 8 Outlet Mostly Free Some Paywall Mostly Paywalled Axios TechCrunch VentureBeat Forbes Fortune Bloomberg Insider LA Times New York Times Wall Street Journal
  • 9. Finally, Millennials and Gen Z primarily turn to social media for news, which favors highly visual, highly shareable content (from traditional sources and independent creators alike). 9 Source: YPulse, July 2020
  • 10. In summary: fewer reporters + more compelling pitches means early-stage companies have to work harder & smarter to generate successful press. But how?
  • 11. The good news is that for companies who are smart about different tactics, a successful PR strategy remains the same: Offer a compelling story that’s interesting & relevant to the reporter and their audience.
  • 13. First, perfect your “TikTok” pitch - don’t make reporters (or anyone) work to understand your business. • It’s not just an “elevator pitch” (condensed & comprehensible); it’s also compelling and interests people in what you’re building • Explaining why the business matters > conveying every facet of what you’ve built • Reporters may be on your beat but aren’t experts in your space; a great pitch helps ensure the story you want 13
  • 14. Then get clear on your angle, AKA why your news matters. 14 • An angle lets reporters (and their readers) know why someone should care about why your news exists. • Fundings, new hires, product launches, partnerships, etc., are exciting for your team or community but are not always newsworthy or important to non- stakeholders. From To
  • 15. Rule of thumb: why would you read/share if it weren’t your company? 15 Online learning leader [Company] raises $20M [Company] launches new cybersecurity product [Apparel company] reaches 1M customer milestone From [Company] raises $20M to tailor online learning for adult career switchers Cities are increasingly targets for ransomware attacks. Businesses like [Company] can help. Post-COVID shoppers are ready to dress up again. Here’s the data. From To
  • 16. Build relationships with reporters BEFORE you need them • Identify the five top reporters in your space and make an effort to be helpful to their job ‣ Follow, engage & comment on Twitter without constantly pitching them ‣ Send a short intro email offering to be a resource for your area of expertise or the trends in your market ‣ Invite them to a quick coffee or an event with other entrepreneurs 16
  • 17. And finally - get media training It’s not enough to know what you want to say - you need to literally practice how to say it. Your agency, comms team or VC can help.
  • 19. First, identify your goals with this press moment. • Press coverage is a means, not an end. • Knowing what PR success looks like for your overall strategy and each pitch is key, e.g.: • Inbound customer interest • Credibility with hiring • Downstream investor interest • CEO thought leadership 19
  • 20. Before a single pitch goes out, spend time figuring out how to get to the right reporters. 20 • Don’t waste your time (or agency hours) pitching unlikely reporters. Ensure that your target list covers your stage and your space. • Spend time on reporters’ websites or Twitter feed to get a feel for their recent coverage and style. • Leverage your network (VCs, entrepreneurs) for a warm intro if possible but cold pitches work all the time. • Avoid simultaneously pitching multiple people at the same outlet. • Beware the 50-person media list!
  • 21. • Widest reach & credibility • Good for SEO • Builds awareness amongst all stakeholders (customers, investors, new hires) • Targeted audience & expertise • Will cover new hires, product launches, partnerships • Usually not paywalled Consider both “mass” outlets and more niche/trade publications - each can serve a valuable role. 21 Mass outlets Niche outlets (inc. trade & newsletters)
  • 22. To exclusive or embargo? And, what’s the difference?!? 22 Exclusive = one reporter is briefed on the story. You can brief other outlets after the exclusive runs. Embargo = briefing multiple reporters with an agreed date/ time to publish. **An embargo must be agreed BEFORE you share the news. Exclusives usually aren’t necessary but can be a good choice to secure coverage in a highly technical/niche space or if the story isn’t of mass interest.
  • 23. Choose your timing wisely. • Start pitching at least two weeks before the embargo date. • Most big companies want news to hit Tues/Weds @ 8 AM. Consider Mon/ Thurs or even mid-morning embargoes.
  • 24. PRO TIP: Following one funding announcement with another two months later? Congrats - but press coverage may be harder without a new story
  • 25. • Make it clear that you know the reporter covers this space and type of story • If relevant, reference past stories or subjects • No mass mailings! • A tailored pitch is more likely to get a response, even it’s a pass In an email pitch, less is more. Make it easy for reporters to assess and respond. 25 • Relevant hook in the subject line • 1 - 2 SHORT paragraph pitch with what they need to know: the news, the embargo date, the angle • If requesting embargo, share enough news to be interesting but don’t share all the details until agreed embargo ‣ E.g. Share round size but not investors RULE ONE: CONDENSE RULE TWO: CUSTOMIZE
  • 26. And a pro tip: great visuals drive clicks and shares! Spend a little effort on visuals to accompany the pitch. 26 Opt for high-color, horizontal images that stand out against a white background. A little design goes a long way. If possible, choose active imagery (or even simple GIFs!) that bring your product or benefit to life Try to avoid founder headshots, standard team photos, logos or software screenshots
  • 27. After the Pitch: The Work Continues
  • 28. Your own platforms and amplification plan are THE key to success. One story amplified > lots of small hits. 28 • Prep friendlies with talking points and images & share press links as soon as they hit. • Leverage anyone with an influential online voice (blogger, influencer, VC) and all “free” platforms - blogs, VC newsletters, LinkedIn - to amplify the news. • Ensure your website is prepped for relevant lead capture, messaging, etc. • Find ways to reinforce days and weeks after the announcement - not everyone sees the news immediately
  • 29. Remember: PR is not just a moment, it’s a marathon. • It’s not securing one story, it’s creating an ongoing drumbeat of awareness ‣ Map out 6 - 12 months of press moments and how you will execute them ‣ Find external consultants or resources to help if it’s not an internal competency • Constantly build relationships with reporters, via social, events, or thought leadership 29