There’s no question that the startup tech industry, with the notable exception of AI, has fallen on hard times for well over a year now. 

According to Crunchbase, July 2023 saw the second-lowest level of VC funding since the startup tech reset started early last year. In fact, venture funding is down a whopping 38% compared to July 2022. 

More and more tech startups are having to rely upon thinner funding rounds, longer gaps between fundraises, and bootstrapping techniques to stay afloat. 

All of this begs the question: what, if anything, should tech startups do about PR?

The answer is simple. Don’t throw in the towel. Better to keep your PR machine humming even as your revenue and funding sources are challenged. That’s because, if done well, it’s still one of the best ways to support your growth marketing efforts in a scalable manner.

Here are some PR tips to keep in mind as you seek to grow your B2B startup’s brand reach and revenue opportunities during this unprecedented downturn in VC funding.

Stay in touch with trade journalists

Startups, especially early-stage startups, don’t always have a constant supply of ‘breaking news’ in the form of new product launches to share with the trade press. That shouldn’t stop you from keeping in touch with influential industry journalists to stay top-of-mind for any future articles they write. You never know when a journalist may need a quote from an expert in your field, so having a cordial relationship built up with them could pay dividends.

Don’t give up on trade shows

It’s true that trade shows are often the most expensive line item in a startup’s budget. Nor are they always the most reliable ways to net new leads and close sales. But the halo effect of attending a trade show supported by an effective PR strategy is hard to measure in leads. Most B2B technology startups have longer sales cycles on average, meaning that having a multi-touch marketing strategy is essential to staying top-of-mind among your target buyers. Flanking your in-person trade show marketing activities with a solid PR plan will amplify your brand reach and make a lasting impression on your target audience as they consider their future buying options. 

Experiment with messaging

Most startups are familiar with the lean startup model where you develop an initial technology solution to a perceived problem, then send it out to the real world to see how the target buyers engage with your creation. The engagement, and sometimes lack of engagement, gives valuable insight into how you can pivot your offering to better attract and satisfy your target customers, ultimately building a scalable and profitable business. PR is no different. Agencies like Swyft work with B2B tech customers to identify a variety of messages that may, or may not, attract the attention of reputable news outlets. The key is to experiment with messages, design campaigns you think will attract media attention, then measure performance afterward to determine what, if any, pivots can be made to drive better results. 

Earned contributed content 

Every startup has potential thought leaders it can turn into brand ambassadors and opinion leaders. Whether it’s someone from the C-Suite or engineering or product mangers, these are people who are at the top of their game and have experiences they can translate into articles you submit to news outlets. Not every publication will accept ‘earned’ contributed articles (earned referring to non-paid media placements), but it’s worth approaching your related industry news outlet to ask if they do. It’s a great way to build up your brand reach and reputation, as well as that of your employees. It can also be a boon to your SEO linking strategy.

Sponsored articles are powerful alternatives

We now recommend that our customers strongly consider paying for a year of membership to Forbes or Fast Company as a contributing writer. Forbes has a long history of providing thought leaders a way to post their content through its various “Councils.” The fee is modest in light of what you get: 10 articles printed yearly on Forbes’ high domain authority website, the chance to respond to periodic expert quote requests and incredibly high search results for published articles. These sponsored articles are considered the gold standard in thought leadership for key executives in startups.

Accolades and awards 

Every startup should try to win as many awards as possible. Why? They are a low-cost and fairly low-effort way to get more attention for your business and technology. Whether it’s making it to your local business journal’s fast-growth or best-workplace award or winning a prestigious industry or technology award (e.g., Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies), startups can gain incredible validation and attention for their efforts. Startups that make the Inc. 5000 often get mentioned in a local business journal along with mentions in Inc. Magazine. 

Final thought – be a contrarian:

Bad times are the best time to press the accelerator down on your PR strategy. That’s because many others in your industry are cutting back, nervously waiting for signs of a turnaround. The media coverage you win in a downturn will change the narrative of your startup into one that is led by innovation and brilliant ideas. Target buyers that see you in the news today will remember you long after the economic malaise is over, potentially putting you ahead of the competition for their next purchase.

Need creative ideas and high-level talent to jumpstart your PR strategy? Contact Swyft today for a free PR consultation!

[Photo credit: Austin Distel]

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