As the technology sector’s profits have surged during the COVID-19 pandemic economy and the pace of deal-making has quickened, venture capital firms with the strongest brand awareness among founders often have the edge in getting their foot in the door first.
Many of these most successful venture capitalists are undoubtedly already leveraging PR to stand out from the competition and using content marketing to push their public profiles to new heights. So, how does a firm stand out when many of the top players have already opened up the content firehose and stepped up their public relations efforts?
PR and content marketing can and should be responsive to the news and trends of the moment, but every PR move and piece of content should play into the long game of building brand awareness around what a VC firm stands for and how they can help advance their portfolio companies—or founder—mission. Regardless of whether the pandemic-fueled tech bubble bursts soon or dramatically reshapes the VC landscape in the long run, a venture capital firm that invests in the PR and content marketing necessary to bolster its brand can count on seeding its reputation far and wide within the minds of founders long before that first meeting.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Aug. '21 Financial PR/IR & Professional Services PR Magazine
(view PDF version)
Smart content development
Never lose sight of how content can impact your brand in the long run, especially when a VC firm’s story is typically just a Google search away or a quick scroll through the social media feeds. You want to think about content beyond just capturing an isolated success story or news event, because it also represents part of the latest chapter in your firm’s unfolding story.
Each piece of content should ideally have a long shelf life and usefulness well beyond its initial publication. Longer content such as thought leadership articles can yield smaller, snackable content bites that can be distributed as blog posts or social media snippets later on.
A content series can also more deliberately represent a VC firm’s story over time. Your firm can showcase partner experience and expertise through podcasts focused on lessons learned from past and ongoing investments, or create a series of videos with founders about how to put together compelling pitch decks.
As always, data insights are key to gauging whether or not your content creation efforts are reaching the right audiences and having the desired impact. This not only helps with decisions regarding the overall strategic direction of a PR and content marketing campaign, but also provides additional feedback that can inform the next piece of content.
Cultivating your people’s voices
Beyond having a record of investment success, a VC firm’s brand is about its people and their stories. This is more important than ever at a time when many startups have their pick of possible investors. Many founders are looking to connect with a network of mentors and business partners who share a similar vision of what the future can be and also provide the support necessary to help them achieve that future.
A consistent PR strategy and carefully curated content can broadcast what VC firms have to offer beyond just buckets of money in terms of thinking and resources. Each blog post, podcast and video should be an opportunity to showcase your people’s voices in ways that strengthen the success narrative around your firm’s brand. Partners and portfolio company founders can act as both thought leaders and cultural ambassadors in broadcasting your brand’s achievements and mission to the world.
Any firm that has partners or founders who can be standard bearers for increased diversity in the VC world may also enjoy more media opportunities to put the spotlight on the organization’s overall brand. A 2020 study by Women in VC found that just under five percent of all U.S.-based VC partners are women and that just 33 percent of those are women of color. At the same time, Crunchbase found that the amount of funding going to female founders dropped from 2.8 percent in 2019 to 2.3 percent in 2020.
Strategic media relations for VCs
VC firms should be executing a strategic media relations campaign around their brand, and they should be helping secure PR for their portfolio companies as well. There are numerous ways to advance a media campaign through thought leadership, commenting on news of the day and pitching with an eye on industry trends.
This necessarily requires building and maintaining solid working relationships with journalists and news organizations, including understanding how to work with the popular media narratives of the day. But there’s also a growing array of opportunities to connect with influencers on various social media platforms to broaden your reach and tell your story. After all, many VC firms have already recognized the power of these new personalities and storytellers by investing directly in the growing creator and influencer economy.
There may even be a chance for some firms to create their own media platforms. Andreessen Horowitz has launched a media website called Future that features tech industry perspectives for an audience of tech insiders. The firm plans to build up Future’s own unique brand to differentiate it from that of Andreessen Horowitz.
Most firms are unlikely to match Andreessen Horowitz’s media investment. The firm has about 25 employees in marketing who work on content and PR for the firm, as well as for the hundreds of companies it has invested in. Smaller but similarly celebrated firms such as Benchmark have managed to compete alongside Andreesen Horowitz based on the strength of their brands and partner networks. But every single VC firm is facing more direct competition from swarms of new investors who are willing and eager to make deals as fast as possible.
Every seasoned venture capitalist knows it’s ultimately up to them to close the deal with their startup of choice. In the fast-moving and highly competitive market for tech investors, clever PR moves and smartly curated content have become vital in telling the story of your firm’s past successes and future trajectory—and selling founders on the vision and opportunities that your organization has to offer.
Three key takeaways:
Take control of your story. Everything searchable online or in a social media feed can become part of your story. Own that story with a consistent content strategy.
Know your voice. Every person speaking for your firm needs to amplify your brand. Let individual perspectives and stories shine while weaving them into the larger narrative of the organization.
Explore storytelling opportunities. A coordinated media campaign can boost your brand and the associated brands of portfolio companies. But don’t stop there; connect with new storytellers or develop your own storytelling platforms.
Todd Barrish is President and Founder of Indicate Media.