Venture capital investors are in a position to wield incredible influence over startups they help fund, especially the lead investor of a capital raise. Clearly they are counted upon for their financial support, which can be considerable. But they are also relied upon for their startup business acumen, which includes a deep understanding of how to help startups scale and grow their business.
That means that VC investors are often asked for (or freely offer) their advice on key marketing strategies and investment decisions. This can include offering recommendations on which tech PR firm a startup should consider retaining.
As a longtime tech PR firm in Austin and with satellite operations in Houston, Denver and San Francisco, the Swyft team has seen its fair share of action working with VC funded startups. Here are some tips for VC investors who may be interested in learning more about how to provide the best guidance possible to a startup seeking to hire a tech PR firm.
Look for value
VC investors may have some familiarity with tech PR firms, but what they may not know is how to evaluate PR firms based on their potential for value they can bring to an engagement. As you can see below from the PR Agency Value Matrix Swyft created, there are always inherent risks involved when hiring a PR firm.
VC investors would be wise to evaluate any PR firms they recommend for how competitive the fees are relative to the competition and how well it performed for past clients. Don’t be afraid to check their references and carefully review their success stories before passing on the referral.
If a PR firm is over promising media coverage and is more expensive relative to the competition, you may want to keep your eyes open for other PR firms.
One size doesn’t fit all
There’s a certain temptation to recommend the same tech PR firm to every portfolio startup a VC investor funds. If a PR firm has performed well for portfolio startups in the past, then it stands to reason they will perform similarly with every new startup.
But that’s not always the case. Different factors can impact how well a given PR firm will perform on upcoming startup engagements. How much experience does the firm have in a particular technology vertical? What’s the current engagement fee relative to the competition and the kind of budget the startup has? Is the firm maxed out and able to dedicate enough senior resources to help a newly funded startup?
Carefully consider what each startup in your portfolio may need in terms of PR and determine whether or not the tech PR firm you have in mind is really the right fit.
Ignore the hype
PR firms are no different than other businesses. They will represent the firm in the best possible light, employing every marketing trick in the book to help them stand out against the competition. Just remember that your startup portfolio companies need results, not hype. So it’s best to thoroughly vet any PR firms you recommend beforehand (including Swyft!).
Ask to see their case studies so you can get a clear picture of the actual results they’ve generated for startups. Check their references and get a better idea of what they’re like to work with. If you want to find the best tech PR firm to recommend to your funded startups, then it’s wise to ignore the hype and conduct your own research.
Keep a short list to share
Rather than recommend one or two tech PR firms over and over again, a VC investor should consider maintaining a short list of 5-10 PR firms. That way they can always find a few agencies that will provide outstanding value and results across all manner of industries. This will also ensure a healthy level of competition for PR firms vying to win the startup’s business, further ensuring that value is delivered.
If you’re interested in learning more about startup PR and what you can expect from working with a tech PR firm, check out our other post about what VCs should know about startup PR.