The B2B Startup Funding News Playbook: 13 Steps So Simple Even a Founder Can Do Them
If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you (or the startup you work for) is about to complete (or has just completed) a funding round.
So now’s the time to hire a PR firm to get the word out, right? Maybe. Maybe not.
TL;DR: You can do this on your own, because making hay out of funding news is not rocket science, even if most tech PR firms would have you think it is.
A dose of reality: TechCrunch coverage is not a birthright for startups announcing a funding round.
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
Step 1: Recognize the Challenge
There’s an unprecedented amount of money going into startups. And this fact is so widely known that I’m not going to take the time to find a data point to cite or link to (take that, SEO gods!). This means there’s a ton of noise you need to break through and a bunch of other funding rounds fighting for reporters’ attention.
Combined with this tidal wave of funding news is the limited number of journalists who actually care. What does this mean? It means reporters can be picky as hell about what funding rounds they cover.
Step 2: Be Realistic
Your startup may be the biggest thing in your life, but not in the reporter’s. Ask yourself a hard question: “Does The New York Times really care at all about my no-code platform designed for horses?” (Okay, bad example: If you had a no-code platform that targeted a horse customer demographic, I bet the Times would be interested).
Step 3: Find 15 Outlets (or so)
There’s a law of diminishing returns when pitching startup funding news, so keep your target list manageable. Here’s how we generally break it down for B2B startups.
Local Outlets: 3+
Look in your backyard. What local outlets are covering tech and startups in your market? Your local business journal and newspaper are two obvious choices, but more and more cities have their own startup-focused (or startup-curious) outlets. We’re big fans of the team at Inno. Check them out and see if they cover your city.
Industry Trade Outlets: 2+
Too many B2B startups ignore the industry trades their customers read (or at least recognize and respect). Target the top of this group. Not sure which ones are best? Ask your customers. They’ll know.
Technology Vertical Outlets: 3+
Whether Web3 or AI or robotics or batteries, there are no doubt media outlets specific to the underlying nature of your startup. You should know these outlets already. For example, VentureBeat for AI, MedCity News for healthtech, and The Robot Report for, well, robots.
National Business Outlets: 3+
The chances are slim that startup reporters at Bloomberg or the New York Times are going to care about your early-stage startup. In fact, a startup reporter at Bloomberg told me a couple months ago that she wouldn’t consider a funding round unless the valuation was both on the record and north of $1 billion.
However, for big national outlets, you should skip the startup reporters. Instead, find the beat writers who cover the industry you’re aiming to disrupt – they’re much more likely to be interested. That’s how we landed coverage of this agtech funding round in Bloomberg.
VC News Outlets: 3
Here’s where I’ll save you some time. These are the names and emails of key VC funding news outlets. They run short one-paragraph mentions of every company funding round:
- Axios Pro Rata (email email@example.com)
- Fortune Term Sheet (email firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Strictly VC (email email@example.com)
They get their own line for obvious reasons.
Step 4: Find the Right Targets at Each Outlet Above
Go to each non-VC-newsletter outlet (local, industry trade, technology) and do keyword searches for relevant words.
For local press, you might search for terms like “startup” or “series A. That’ll show you the reporters who have covered this sort of thing before (look for recent coverage – a piece from a year ago won’t tell you much).
For industry trades, you might use the same terms, but maybe also more specific ones. If you’re doing AI in agriculture, search for “AI” in the ag trade pubs. If you’re in robotics for automotive, search “robotics” in automotive trade pubs.
Step 5: Check the Google Machine
To make sure you’re not missing any good targets, do a Google news search. Try terms like “(competitor) series A” or “(vertical) startup funding round.” You’re smart, I can tell, so it shouldn’t be hard to think of several more search phrases. That will help you find outlets that may care about your news (note: may care).
Step 6: Find the Targets’ Email Addresses
It’s generally not difficult to find a reporter’s email address. They’re typically located in a few key places:
- Their byline: Where their name appears at the start of the article
- Their author page: Click their name and you’ll probably go to their author page
- Their Twitter bio: Another common place to find emails
Still can’t find an email? Use an email-finding tool like Hunter (just don’t contact reporters at their personal accounts!).
Step 7: Ask to Share Your News Under Embargo
When a reporter agrees to an embargo, they’re agreeing to NOT run anything about the news until the time and date you state when you first reach out to them. But you have to get their agreement first. If you don’t, they’re within their rights to write a piece earlier than you want.
Here’s a typical embargo note. Keep it short (and even if you find multiple targets at one outlet, only pitch one of them – use your judgment on who is best):
Based on some of your recent work, I thought you might be interested in some funding news we have coming out on May 15, 2022 at 9:00 a.m. ET. I’d love to share it with you now under embargo. Does that work for you? If you need more information to decide, I’ve included it under my signature.
More info on the news
- Trend we fit in (why this news matters)
- What we do (plain English please!)
- First and only (or something else noteworthy)
- High level about the founder (former this, ex-that)
Most outlets don’t require more than a week’s heads up on embargoes, but if you’re gunning for TechCrunch coverage, hit them up three weeks early. And don’t just take my word for it:
Not saying this to be a diva. Straight up reality here! I am working three weeks ahead on news that's embargoed. With much less notice than that, I'm likely not able to consider covering.— Mary Ann Azevedo (@bayareawriter) August 30, 2021
Also, note that the funding newsletters listed in Step 3 do not need embargo outreach. Instead, just shoot them the news the day before in the afternoon so they can get it in their morning editions.
Step 8: Share Your Release Under Embargo
It’s kind of assumed you’ve already written the release. But if you haven’t yet, here’s a basic startup funding news press release template that can work for you (feel free to revise as much as you want – make it your own!).
Company X Raises $X Million (ROUND TYPE) to (VALUE PROPOSITION)
Subheader is typically another key message or noteworthy accomplishment / first / only
CITY, DATE -- [COMPANY X], [COMPANY X DESCRIPTION], announced today that it has raised [AMOUNT] in [SEED; SERIES A; SERIES B; ETC] funding, led by [LEAD INVESTORS / PARTICIPATING INVESTORS].
[PARAGRAPH ABOUT THE COMPANY / PRODUCT’S RELEVANCE IN THE WORLD – WHY YOU MATTER]
[QUOTE FROM THE COMPANY’S CEO OR FOUNDER. THESE QUOTES TYPICALLY SAY SOMETHING ABOUT HOW EXCITED OR PROUD THE COMPANY IS TO HAVE RAISED THE MONEY FROM SUCH A GREAT VC FUND TO HELP THEM CONTINUE THEIR MISSION. THE QUOTE SHOULD BE USED AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE COMPANY TO PUT FORTH THEIR MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGING. IF YOU HAVE A BRAND VOICE, THINK ABOUT USING IT HERE.]
[HERE, ADD A PARAGRAPH SUMMARIZING COMPANY X’S RECENT GROWTH – OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT SHOWS MOMENTUM (NEW HIRES, ETC) – AND EXPLAINING THE BREADTH / SIZE / SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM THE COMPANY IS SOLVING.]
[NEXT, ADD A QUOTE FROM THE LEAD INVESTOR. YOU CAN DRAFT ONE TO SEND TO THE INVESTOR FOR SIGNOFF; INVESTOR WILL LIKELY HAVE SOME TWEAKS AND THAT’S FINE.]
[NEXT, ADD A PARAGRAPH EXPLAINING WHAT THE NEW FUNDING WILL BE USED FOR, SPECIFICALLY. “EXPAND INTO NEW MARKETS” / “INCREASE MARKET PENETRATION” / “GROW ITS EXISTING BUSINESS AND PRODUCT LINES,” ETC.]
To learn more about [COMPANY X], visit [COMPANY X WEBSITE]
About [COMPANY X]
To learn more about [COMPANY X], visit [COMPANY X WEBSITE].
About [LEAD INVESTOR X]
[OFTEN, THE LEAD INVESTOR GETS THEIR OWN “ABOUT” PARAGRAPH. CHECK PRIOR PRESS RELEASES THE INVESTOR HAS PUBLISHED, OR THE INVESTOR’S WEBSITE, FOR THIS INFORMATION. IF YOU CAN’T FIND IT, ASK THE INVESTOR FOR IT]
To learn more about [INVESTOR X], visit [INVESTOR X WEBSITE].
Step 9: Follow Up!
Simply sending off the release during this embargo period is not enough. Even if reporters have agreed to an embargo, it doesn’t mean they’ve agreed to write anything, so follow up if necessary. And then do it again the next day, if necessary. If that doesn’t work, see if there's another target at the same outlet, and repeat the embargo process with them (though you should note that you previously sent the release to a colleague).
One thing that helps follow ups? Offering some additional detail – a big-name customer, interview access with an investor, or a list of available times to make it convenient to schedule an interview.
Step 10: Touch Base with Reporters the Day Before
Whether you’ve heard from the reporters since you sent them your release, and whether or not you’ve had an interview, send them one more note reminding them of when the embargo lifts and asking if they need more information.
Step 11: Send Them a Link to the Release When It’s Online
For any reporter on your list who didn’t respond or who ghosted you in the process, send them the link to the release (either to your site or to a press release distribution service like PR Newswire, Businesswire, or GlobeNewswire). Note: Press release distribution services should not be expected to lead to more coverage, improved SEO, or site traffic. The objective here is the optics of: “hey, big news here.”
Step 12: Track Progress (made a tracker spreadsheet for you)
There are a lot of moving parts here, so you should have a plan to track progress. At Propllr, we use a Gmail plug-in called Streak, which bills itself as “CRM for Gmail.” We love it, because it allows us to create pitch pipelines for each of our clients, perfect for tracking stages of outreach and knowing when to do follow ups. However, you can use a simple Google Sheet - I made this one for you to copy and use as your own.
Step 13: Regularly Get Back in Touch with Updates
During this whole funding news outreach process, your target reporters will be hearing from you a good deal. Don’t fall off the face of the earth afterward. You can skip following up with the VC newsletters, but stay in touch with the other reporters. Let them know about big customer wins, tell them what you think of their recent work on related subjects, share tips about trends you’ve spotted, etc.
Congrats & Good Luck!
There’s no way to predict all the twists and turns throughout this venture funding press release outreach process, but the framework should help you pull this off effectively and efficiently.
And if PR still seems like a lot to juggle with everything else you do, get in touch. We’d be happy to help!