Why Talking to Media Is a Crash Course on Pitching to Angel Investors
Here's how to use media interviews to learn and prepare for the tough investor questions
Entrepreneurs already understand that getting media attention helps with user aquisition, customer traction, making a mark in the space where you play, and attracting investors. If an angel or VC sees that you're already getting getting press mentions, they'll be more likely to think you're in demand, because reporters are true trendhunters and understand what consumers want in an intuitive way.
This is the obvious benefit of talking to media: It's social proof. Sure, investors want to be able to say that they were responsible for discovering the next great startup founder, and so you may think getting press would work against that perspective. But highlighting media attention up front on your deck shows VCs and angels that you have been already vetted by influencers and trendsetters. If a journalist is interested enough in your story and product to want to write about you - particularly an influential one - you're already way ahead of the game.
But there's another secret benefit you get when you talk to media, and entrepreneurs often find out accidentally, when they're in the middle of fundraising.
It's the fact that when you start finding the angles that work with reporters — those pitches that actually get them to respond to your email, and to write articles about you — you are actually learning how to talk about your product with your target audience and also to investors, who need to know your value up front.
Here's how pitching to media will help you pitch to investors.
You’ll find your narrative arc
An arc is the sequence of events in a plot, with peaks and plateaus in the narrative. A PR campaign is really just a fight to figure out what arc works for your audience. It's almost like finding the missing puzzle piece — what's the one angle that writers will love?
For example, let's say you are trying to get press for your beauty brand. If you find out that editors are responding really well to the story that is all about one particular ingredient that no one else uses in their formulations, you know that's a winning strategy, so you expand that storyline as far as you can take it. Or you realize that your founder storyline is getting the most attention — so you want to use that narrative to death.
Understanding what narrative arcs or storylines work best with media — the ones that have them beating down your door — should be an aha moment for you, because this is also the angle that investors will be drawn to. If you can take your VC's and angel investors through that same narrative arc, they'll connect the dots more quickly and have the same aha moment themselves. Painting this picture is very important.
You’ll learn more about your competition
Investors like to say that when a founder says they have no competition, that's a giant red flag. That's because there's always a competitor not too far behind — or at least someone who is doing something similar. But the flip side is that if there truly is no competition, it means that there is likely no market for your product. If no one is solving the problem you're solving, then how do you know it's an important problem to solve? Overal, a founder should find at least some form of competition to talk about in their pitch to investors.
There are two ways that getting media will help you understand your competition. For one, the more you dig around the web for information about how to pitch your brand to press, the more you'll find articles about competitor's stories. You'll learn how reporters are talking about them — what they're highlighting, what talking points they may have crafted, and what stories are most important to them.
Second, when reporters ask you the hard questions about your competition, you'll have to dig deep and come up with thoughtful answers - how do you truly differ from them? You'll come out of these interviews with a better idea of who your competition is, how to differentiate yourself from them — and most importantly, how to talk about this with investors. Because, trust me, investors will ask you about competitors. Make sure you don't say the wrong thing.
You’ll stress test your central thesis
Reporters will at some point in your career start asking you tough questions, not because they want to see you squirm, but because they want to write a really great story that their readers will love. There's nothing wrong with that. As a result, they will likely be the first person to see gaps in the central thesis of your value proposition. They are on the outside looking in — whereas you're on the inside, and have been living and breathing and creating your product for many months, maybe even years. Reporters and bloggers will see things you don't.
The beauty of this is that the questions they'll ask will likely be the questions an investor will ask you during an email exchange, a Q&A or an actual pitch. Even better, if you proactively answer these hard questions in your deck or pitch you will stand head and shoulders above other founders. The VC will see you as someone who is extremely thoughtful around the market and the problem you are trying to solve.
You'll stress test yourself
There is nothing more nail biting than talking to media for the first time. That first interview is challenging because you don't know what to expect, what questions will be asked, or the kind of impression you will make on the reporter. When you are thrown into the Zoom or Skype call, you'll have to think quickly on your feet and know how to respond to difficult questions, as well as how to create good rapport with the person you are speaking with. When you have several interviews under your belt, you'll feel more comfortable meeting with investors and answering questions succinctly and effectively.
There are the obvious benefits to sharing your story with media but there are also those that will make your investor pitch stronger, more thoughtful, and more effective. Treat it like a crash course on learning how to talk to angel investors and VC's, and show them your value.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor