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3 PR Strategies to Help Your Startup Attract Investors Here are three ways pre-launch startups can use PR to secure funding.

By Evgeniya Zaslavskaya

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Launching a product is a thrilling milestone for any startup. And it's the most obvious time to use PR to support your quest for world domination, along with the impending funding announcement that will no doubt follow. But what if you have a pre-launch startup?

For example, Airbnb used press releases to generate buzz about its platform before it even launched. The company's first press release, issued in 2008, announced the launch of its website and invited people to sign up as hosts or guests. And in April 2009, Airbnb received $600,000 from Sequoia Capital, which was a turning point for the future market leader.

My PR agency works not only with startups but also with venture capital and hedge funds. They all say in one voice: Media presence matters. Of course, articles alone won't pave the way for you to succeed. Investors consider a variety of factors when making decisions. Still, a personal brand and unique expertise that attracts the attention of the top-tier media helps to build investor confidence in you, laying the bricks for future growth.

So, here are the strategies you can employ to use PR to land funding without ruining your chances of being covered at launch.

Related: How PR Can Attract Investors and Add Value to Your Startup

1. Define your target audience

Before diving into the deep end of PR, take a moment to understand your target audience, just as you might research who's at your poker tournament table before you play. Who are they? What are their pain points? How does your product solve their problems?

Identifying your future clients' needs and preferences will inform your PR strategy and help attract investors with a vested interest in your product's success.

Remember, investors themselves are also part of your target audience, so you need to know what matters to them. A tip: VC companies receive more than 1,000 proposals a year and are primarily interested in businesses that require an investment of at least $250,000, as stated in Embroker. According to Harvard Business Review, more than 30% of deals come from leads from VCs' former colleagues or work acquaintances. Other contacts also play a role: 20% of deals come from referrals by other investors, and 8% from referrals by existing portfolio companies.

Building your brand as a founder, and becoming the champion in your niche, is a great way to be referred, talked about, and strengthen a VC's view of your team — a metric that remains top of mind for potential investors.

2. Use all types of PR, and not just the obvious ones

While much attention is paid to product launches and funding announcements, there are many other types of PR a pre-launch startup can leverage.

Data stories, where you use the millions (or billions) of data points needed to make your solution work to find interesting, and often contrarian, insights, are massively underused. If you have data showing that a situation is much better or worse than the understood norms, there's a story in that.

By offering data stories to tech publications as guest articles, you'll raise your position on the leaderboard of known subject experts, which will strengthen an investor's view of you and your team.

Expert commentary is also underused and can be a great way to introduce yourself to your target journalists. By offering quotes on the day's topic, while in your particular niche, you can get your name in lights and be seen as a guiding voice. By the way, one study shows that PR campaigns that include an expert comment in the original press release have 64% more placements than those that do not — so don't underestimate commentary power.

They say content is queen and king. With strategic content marketing, such as blog posts, videos and podcasts, you can cleverly sprinkle keywords related to your company throughout your material. This not only pleases the SEO gods but also positions your company as a wise sage in the industry.

For example, the painting app Procreate created a YouTube beginner's artist series, which gave it a way to attract new users. And thanks to transcription and wise SEO choices, this made them a name in that artistic niche.

Self-publishing is a great way to build a platform that backs up your expert credentials, including in the eyes of investors. You can publish on LinkedIn, Medium and Substack, for example. And consistency is key. Try to have a new commentary on your niche topic at least once a week.

Just be careful not to announce your startup or talk about your product, or journalists won't want to write about your launch when you're ready to open the floodgates because you already made the announcement yourself.

Related: 5 Effective Thought Leadership PR Tactics for Your Startup

3. Journalists hold the keys, so get to know them

Journalists and reporters are like gatekeepers to the arena of media. To capture their attention, establish relationships before your product launch on social media, share insights and offer exclusives. Remember, a little flattery never hurts, either.

Be aware of the sheer amount of competition you'll face. Top-tier tech journalists receive 100-400 pitches daily from startups that want them to write their stories. It's often critical, and always wise, to have experienced people working for you when attempting to gain media coverage.

According to HubSpot Blog Research, the most effective pitches are personalized to each recipient's interests. So, customize your pitches, show genuine interest in their work, and make them feel like they're an integral part of your journey.

Investors crave trust like plants crave sunlight. You can build a fortress of trust around your territory by strategically promoting positive stories, sharing tales of triumph and showcasing your expertise.

PR can make a splash before you're ready to jump

Launching a product is like jumping off a diving board — exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. But with a well-crafted PR strategy, you can make a big splash and catch the attention of both your future customers and potential investors.

Understanding them is crucial for effective PR, so identify their needs first. Leverage data stories and expert commentary for media attention, use content marketing and self-publishing, and engage with journalists to enhance visibility — and don't forget about personalized pitches to build relationships and aid media coverage.

After all, trust is key to winning investors, especially for a pre-launch startup, so use every tactic in the game to promote positive stories and showcase your expertise.

Related: How Public Relations Builds Trust and Credibility for Your Startup

Evgeniya Zaslavskaya

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor


Evgeniya Zaslavskaya is the founder and CEO of ZECOMMS AGENCY, a communications agency that provides PR services for companies and startups in the field of IT and investment in the regions: North America, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and Southeast Asia.

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