6 PR best practices learned from 6 fundraising announcements

Benjamin Romberg

Published on September 29, 2022


Fundraising is maybe the most exciting and nerve-wracking aspect of building and growing a startup. It takes a lot of energy to tell the right story, and founders can spend the early years going from VC meetings to fundraising announcements, to new VC meetings, and so on.

These announcements are also a big deal for marketing and communications teams. Successfully raising funds is the best occasion to get real press for startups. It’s one of the few company events with actual news value. So you want to be sure to make the most out of the occasion.

At Spendesk we’ve gained our fair share of experience with fundraising announcements, growing from Seed stage to a Series C extension that brought the company to a unicorn valuation in early 2022. So here are a few lessons we’ve learned along the way to help founders and startup comms teams nail their first fundraising announcements.

1. A few million in the bank is not a story on its own

Fundraising is an occasion for media to talk about your startup, but you still need a story. Why does it matter what your company does? Why do investors think it matters? Why did you raise funds at all, and what are you planning to do with the money? Why now?

Sure, some media in the ecosystem will just publish “Company X raises Y amount at Z valuation,” and that’s fine. It’s also true that it gets easier and easier with every fundraising round as amounts grow and valuations go up.

But ultimately it’s in your interest to have a real story to share that people find interesting and will remember – especially if you want to start reaching an audience outside of the ecosystem through bigger, more prestigious media.

And this is a win/win. A strong brand story is more likely to be featured by media. And a fundraising announcement is your chance to share that beautiful brand story, knowing that a juicy figure opens the door to that media.

In other words, this is a golden opportunity for PR. Make it shine.

2. Less can be more

The spray and pray tactic is rarely a good idea in PR, but especially with big news where you want maximum reach. And counterintuitively, you often have a better chance to make a bang if you hand-pick a few media outlets with a big audience and work with them closely. Speak to them under embargo or even exclusively before the announcement.

With growing success (and fundraising amounts) you might be able to talk to more and more journalists under embargo, at least in your home market. But in the early days, and especially in foreign markets, journalists will often only settle for an exclusive.

A few targeted, tailored pieces will be far more impactful than countless identical press releases on the newswire. And you can have those easily after the embargo, anyway.

3. More money = more friends? Not with journalists

You know the inconvenient paradox: if you don’t have an address, you can’t open a bank account. But if you don’t have a bank account, you can’t rent an apartment. PR can feel the same way.

If you don’t have a real story, journalists won’t give you the time of day. But if you don’t have the journalists, there won’t be a story. In PR, you always need both.

Most startup comms teams don’t have a press network, which means you need to build your network now for long-term success.

Even if you raise big rounds and can spin a real success story, you still need to build a network first. If you’ve never talked to a journalist before, it will be much harder to convince them to publish your fundraising news when the time comes. (That is if you manage to reach them at all.)

4. Be prepared to not be prepared

It’s a nice feeling when you have chosen the announcement date and can work back from it with a detailed project plan. And with every fundraising round you feel more comfortable (although the excitement never really stops).

But even if you’ve thought about everything in your plan, there are always things that will be out of your control. That one journalist, your safe bet, is on vacation. A big media outlet finally responds and wants an interview with your founder – right now or the story is dead.

Or worse: the news gets leaked. This happened to us twice at Spendesk.

The first time, we were very stressed about it. The second time it was still annoying, but we knew it could happen and were prepared to react.

Especially the few days before the announcement, the pressure is high and you need to be super reactive, flexible, and ready to make decisions on the spot. Just accept that you cannot be prepared for everything.

5. Ask for help

Especially in the early days of a startup, you don’t have a big PR budget, and for your first fundraising announcements you might not even have a dedicated communications person. Many founders manage their first announcements by themselves or trust their first marketers (without PR experience) to handle them.

The smartest thing to do in this case: ask for help! Even with a smaller budget you can hire a freelancer to support you, or maybe an agency on a project basis. And if you don’t have any budget to spare, you can still ask your network to share the contact information of a journalist you really want to talk to or a media list they have used in the past.

Last but not least, ask your investors! At Spendesk, we were lucky to always work with great communications teams at the VCs that invested in the company. Investors also want to see their names out there in the world, and will be more than happy to help make announcement day a success.

6. Leverage the internal excitement

It’s always great to see how excited the whole team gets when a new fundraising round is announced internally. There is this shared feeling that this is the reward for all the hard work you’ve put in together.

For founders and comms teams, this internal excitement also presents an opportunity. Encourage and help your team to spread the news with their network on the big day! Even if your focus is to maximize media coverage of your news, you should not underestimate the potential reach on social media.

And it’s also a great way to involve the whole team in the project, no matter which department they’re working in. Not everyone is a comms expert, so you should help your team tell the story you chose for your announcement – on brand, and with the right messaging.

At Spendesk, we always prepare a few fun assets for the team to share. One of the favorites from our last fundraising round was a video announcing our achievement:

{% video_player "embed_player" overrideable=False, type='hsvideo2', hide_playlist=True, viral_sharing=False, embed_button=False, autoplay=False, hidden_controls=False, loop=False, muted=False, full_width=False, width='1920', height='1080', player_id='86427669535', style='' %}

Put these PR best practices into action

As we said at the beginning, a fundraising announcement is almost unparalleled for startup comms people. You don’t get many opportunities to make this big a splash - maybe once a year at most. So you must take full advantage of it.

But these 6 tips really apply to most PR activities. You always need a clear grasp of the story, a strong network, help from inside and out, and the ability to adjust to new circumstances.

As with all things communications, it’s a mix of good preparation and plenty of tenacity. And hopefully also lots of fun. Very few moments are as exciting as a big fundraising event. So enjoy it!

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