Raising Capital? Follow These Public Relations Rules
Done correctly, a cleverly crafted public relations campaign can help take a company to the next level in more ways than one. Great publicity is a tool that Joy Schoffler, Founder of Leverage PR, has used to help start-ups and early-stage companies raise more than $20 million in capital, make the Inc. 500 list, secure Fortune 500 accounts, and experience tremendous growth. Whether you are a marketing associate looking to make a name for yourself, or the founder of your own company looking for ways to raise capital to grow your business, PR can take your career and company to the next level—if done correctly.
"My background and experience with PR is a little out of the norm," says Schoffler. "I spent the first half of my career growing early-stage companies and raising capital. When I looked back at how these companies were able to experience such incredible success, I found the one common thread: I used well crafted PR campaigns."
Sure, seeing your name in ink is thrilling for any business owner, but why stop there? If you believe that being quoted or highlighted in a reputable magazine or on television is the end of the line for your publicity efforts, you simply aren't thinking big enough. "By understanding the business environment and investor thought process, you can craft your stories to speak to investors and enable growth, not just get your name in the papers," Schoffler says.
There's a simple way to go beyond just being quoted and tell your story: Establish yourself as a thought-leader by producing content yourself.
"Positioning yourself as an expert contributor is the No. 1 technique start-ups in development looking to raise capital should use," explains Schoffler. "At the seed stage, investors are buying into you and your vision. Positive press that positions you as an expert is outside validation that you know your stuff."
Monte Lee-Wen, president and CEO at The PPA Group, says good PR took his company to the next level. "When we started we had an impressive portfolio and a superior business model, but no one knew that and being the one to tell them tends not to carry a lot of weight. Publicity helped our business raise tens of millions in capital, make the Inc. 500|5000 list several times, close over half a billion in commercial real estate and grow from a four-man operation to over a 100 employees."
When you want to leverage publicity for growth, remember that this is not a slight-of-hand trick to make investors think you're better than you are. Publicity is a spotlight. You must know what you're talking about; find your topic and speak to it intelligently. And instead of talking about you and your product exclusively, offer facts and metrics that support your claim--then tie in your company as further evidence of your claim.
"We used our publicity to show investors our past accomplishments and highlight our level of skill and market knowledge from a third-party perspective," says Lee-Wen. "Publicity served as an outside validation showing investors that highly trained media professionals believed in our abilities enough to use us as expert sources."
So how can you get noticed by investors through your PR campaign? Here are some great tips and "PR rules to live by" from someone who has done it time and time again: publicity expert Joy Schoffler.
Pitching is sales. Pitching your story idea to a journalist is like any sales situation. Be conscious of your words and how you use them. Focus on the elevator pitch and make it compelling, memorable, and relevant. Brevity is key; journalists do not have a lot of time. You have less than two minutes, (if you're lucky) to convince them—or at least inform and interest them. And, your story needs to be compelling enough to entertain the reader because that is the journalist's goal. Don't be dull or one-dimensional! No one cares about your new product unless it's mind-blowing—and even then, when was the last time you read a 100 percent positive product-or-service review? Think instead about your company's story as a plotline: what are the challenges you've overcome? What things are interesting about your company and why should they care? How will it make their life better?
Know your media contact. Do your homework before pitching a reporter or producer. Know what the journalist is about by reading their work and engaging with them in social media. Don't pitch a business reporter who covers Microsoft if you own a social media tech company--this is one of the fastest ways to alienate a reporter! Once you have studied their work and you know you have the appropriate contact, make it easy for the journalist to use your information. Send a brief e-mail (note the word brief) as they don't need or want to know your life story. Hyperlink your data, never send attachments. Then follow up with a phone call a day or two later. Make it short and relevant to a hot trend. The more complete your idea, the higher the odds of getting noticed by your reporter.
Raising Additional Capital. For companies in the middle of raising capital, highlighting previous investments in your company can be one of the best ways to raise additional funds. In today's business environment in which companies are struggling to even get loans, the media loves to highlight a success story. You can position investment-related stories in a way that uses the larger trends of the economic downturn or other relevant topics. You can position your firm as a "beacon of light," making it seem even more appealing. If the investor is well known in the community or in a prestigious investment firm, this is a great angle to get coverage.
What to do once you have coverage. it is important to use it to its full advantage. Every piece of coverage is outside validation that your company/product is viable. Make sure you are using your success to meet your overall goals. First, let all of your target customers and investors know about your coverage.
- E-mail your database letting them know your company was featured
- Spread the word via social media adding it to your twitter inventory, post to LinkedIn and your Facebook fan page.
- Ask strong connections in your industry and your friends to share the news, as the more hits your article receives the more likely you will be to receive follow on mentions
- Mention the article and link to it on your company blog
Next, if you have received national coverage, call your local newspapers and business journals and let them know about your coverage. They will often do a follow-up story, reporting from a local level.
- Build Investor and Customer Kits or add the press coverage to your existing kits. Include a press section in your investor or customer presentation and add the information to your product brochures and company and executive bios.
- Start building a News Room Section on your website including press releases, media coverage and a digital press kit. If there was a great quote from a journalist or analyst about your product, use the quote on your website and marketing materials.
- Have copies of your media coverage framed in the waiting room or lobby (if you have one) if it is a major award or significant press event.
- Measure the impact of your publicity in your investor presentations. This will serve two proposes: it will show investors that you track data and make your marketing assumptions more realistic.
- As a start-up or growth-phase company, you are often not only selling to customers, but also working to gain buy-in from new potential recruits. Good press coverage can help you negotiate better employment contract terms and lower wages if they think there is real potential. Having strong talent will make attracting attention from investors much easier.
A word of warning! If your company is not ready or your goals are not clearly defined, PR can do more harm than good. If you do not have a business plan and at least a brochure website up you could do more harm than good with a publicity campaign. Publicity is a spotlight that you can shine on your organization, and unless you are skilled at how you position it, it can have a negative effect.
Join me for in-depth details as I interview Joy on The Million Dollar Mindset podcast, Monday, February 13, 2012 at 2pm ET.
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.