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M13’s RocketGuide to Early-Stage PR and Communications

Our comprehensive guide gives lean teams all the early PR tools to shine like the best.

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By
Christine Choi
Christine Choi
By M13 Team
Link copied.
July 3, 2024
|

7 min

✨ Highlights from this RocketGuide✨

  • The brand flywheel — An overview of how all the pieces of a scalable brand comms function fit together, even at the early stages. This includes your website, social channels, visual brand, earned media, and more. 
  • Fundraise announcement example — An example of a traditional fundraise announcement, what information is in there, and why. This is useful for crafting both a press release or a blog post announcement.
  • Fundraise announcement timeline — Announcing a milestone takes time and prep work. Use our activities timeline to get the most out of an announcement—and learn why you should start earlier than you think. 
  • [Template] Fundraise announcement timeline — Download our timeline to start planning now.

According to a recent study, the number two leading reason startups fail is poor marketing strategies and execution. In today's competitive landscape, brand marketing is more important than ever.

Brand communications touches every aspect of your business. Brand at the early stage includes PR (or "earned media"), social media, thought leadership, and events, and strong branding improves investor decks, product marketing, and internal comms. Done right, with a commitment to iterating quickly, the function keeps your startup top of mind, impacting customer purchase decisions, talent hires, fundraising, and more.

Whatever your experience, our comprehensive RocketGuide to Early-Stage PR will help you announce your near-term company news and, more meaningfully, activate your brand comms flywheel to achieve business goals going forward.

For more seasoned brand managers, today you may have fewer resources and more audiences to reach in a fragmented media landscape. You may also not be getting feedback that translates into traditional metrics. Our RocketGuide may spark coordination for greater consistency across your available channels, make your assets work harder for your brand, and help you iterate faster to improve engagement. The way we consume content is ever-charging—so let’s go!

The brand flywheel

Even at the early stage, you’re already building the daily habits of a scalable, effective brand comms function. And you’re probably already getting feedback that shows that content matters. 

In a media landscape where news and social media are weighed equally, publishing your own content is essential. According to Edelman’s 2024 Trust Barometer, B2B buyers prefer “digital discovery” over a sales call, with 75% of respondents saying a specific piece of thought leadership content led them to research a product or service they were not previously considering.

Learn where your content can be amplified by checking out the brand flywheel.

Please note: This guide is best suited for desktop viewing.

Who is this for? Defining your audience 

Brand comms involves a range of activities, but its overall purpose is to connect your audiences with a memorable narrative about your company.

Narrative + engagement = brand reputation, built over time.

Understanding your priority audience(s) helps you build relevant content and an execution strategy to reach them. Audiences to engage at the early stages are: 

Customers: Understanding what matters to them helps shape helpful educational content that demonstrates your expertise, boosts sales, and builds trust.

Talent: Brand communications can attract and retain talent. Top talent is drawn to exciting, well-funded startups, and momentum—fueled by content, press, and awards—builds excitement around your brand. Encourage your team to share your story with their own networks and acknowledge them when celebrating milestones. 

Investors and partners: Effective brand communication helps raise capital. Research from Hard Numbers shows companies with the highest media coverage see a 35,635% increase in funds raised from their first event to Series B. Yes, investors are people too, and they’re checking out your social.

Media and opinion-makers: Unlike ads, earned media can’t be bought. An article from a trusted outlet that mentions your company can boost both awareness and credibility. Build relationships with reporters by following their work and engaging genuinely. Don’t just pitch—nurture reciprocal media relationships.

Crafting “sticky” messaging from the get go

Your investor decks, sales decks, job descriptions, and social posts are starting to tell the story of your company. To reach a wider audience, it’s time to dig deep and craft a compelling narrative, which starts by objectively answering the question: Why should I care? 

Consider additional questions to uncover compelling stories that can be authentically told by you in person or on a call (without slides!).

Company messaging: Spend time with your leadership team to create your company messaging. Unique stories matter, so pick concrete anecdotes that help you stand out. 

  • Why does your startup exist? 
  • What is most compelling about what you do? 
  • What is a memorable compliment from a customer?
  • What’s an ideal headline (8 words or less) for a news story about your company? 
  • What will a journalist find most interesting about your company right now? 
  • How has your product or service disrupted an industry norm? 
  • What unexpected insight have you/your company discovered that will impact the future?‍

Founder messaging: Your audience and reporters want to know your reasons for being an entrepreneur and what it took to get your business off the ground. 

  • What is your personal stake in the problem you are trying to solve? 
  • What is your founder origin story?
  • What or who inspires you? 
  • What unexpected quality about you makes you the right person to innovate in your specific area? 

Mistakes are made to learn from. As you practice sharing your story out loud and activating the flywheel, your narrative will get even more precise—and stickier.

Early-stage PR: announcing your first fundraise  

Let’s now prepare for your first news announcement, which for early-stage tech founders is often your first fundraise. 

Explore two Rocket Guides templates to help you get going. First, our interactive fundraise announcement timeline—and the accompanying template you can download—will help you identify what to start doing ahead of your announcement.

Please note: This guide is best suited for desktop viewing.

Our example fundraise announcement identifies the basics you should cover for either a traditional press release or a more personal blog. 

Please note: This guide is best suited for desktop viewing.

Three basics every startup should do 

Even if you’re not quite ready to draft your first announcement, here are three things you can do to activate your brand flywheel:

Keep your social channels active. When reporters and investors look you up, they will look to social for signs of life, traction, and to see who’s on your side. Build a trust-based relationship with your community with a consistent cadence of insights, partnerships, educational tips and news. Save time by reposting content across multiple channels. (And if you absolutely don’t want to get active on social, don’t set up “zombie” channels with no followers that make it look like you have nothing to say.) 

Win hearts and minds, starting with those already on your side. Activate your network of stakeholders so they get emotionally invested in your team’s progress. Get them excited to receive interesting content from you to post on their own social channels (they’re influencers too). 

Relationships matter—and not only when you need something. Stay informed and get to know reporters and experts who cover your industry. Nurture these relationships, learn what matters to them and what they’re writing about (and what’s overlooked), and see what events they’re planning where your insights can be useful. Be brighter together.

The road ahead

Our RocketGuide may make you reconsider engaging earned media: It’s a lot of work. You may also start thinking about how to resource for brand comms. At the early stage, you may have people on your team already doing adjacent work. Other options are to hire an agency or consultant on a project basis or ask your investors for help. If you're an M13 portfolio company, reach out to us—that’s what we’re here for. 

Whether it’s now or later, you will need to scale brand comms as your company and responsibilities grow. A brand comms executive who has a seat at your table from the beginning will help you anticipate public perception risk early, before it’s too late to identify and address structural problems. 

Whereve you're at, knowing how brand comms works is a great first step and will establish realistic expectations.

Ready to learn more? Check out our full RocketGuide to Early-Stage PR

✨ Highlights from this RocketGuide✨

  • The brand flywheel — An overview of how all the pieces of a scalable brand comms function fit together, even at the early stages. This includes your website, social channels, visual brand, earned media, and more. 
  • Fundraise announcement example — An example of a traditional fundraise announcement, what information is in there, and why. This is useful for crafting both a press release or a blog post announcement.
  • Fundraise announcement timeline — Announcing a milestone takes time and prep work. Use our activities timeline to get the most out of an announcement—and learn why you should start earlier than you think. 
  • [Template] Fundraise announcement timeline — Download our timeline to start planning now.

According to a recent study, the number two leading reason startups fail is poor marketing strategies and execution. In today's competitive landscape, brand marketing is more important than ever.

Brand communications touches every aspect of your business. Brand at the early stage includes PR (or "earned media"), social media, thought leadership, and events, and strong branding improves investor decks, product marketing, and internal comms. Done right, with a commitment to iterating quickly, the function keeps your startup top of mind, impacting customer purchase decisions, talent hires, fundraising, and more.

Whatever your experience, our comprehensive RocketGuide to Early-Stage PR will help you announce your near-term company news and, more meaningfully, activate your brand comms flywheel to achieve business goals going forward.

For more seasoned brand managers, today you may have fewer resources and more audiences to reach in a fragmented media landscape. You may also not be getting feedback that translates into traditional metrics. Our RocketGuide may spark coordination for greater consistency across your available channels, make your assets work harder for your brand, and help you iterate faster to improve engagement. The way we consume content is ever-charging—so let’s go!

The brand flywheel

Even at the early stage, you’re already building the daily habits of a scalable, effective brand comms function. And you’re probably already getting feedback that shows that content matters. 

In a media landscape where news and social media are weighed equally, publishing your own content is essential. According to Edelman’s 2024 Trust Barometer, B2B buyers prefer “digital discovery” over a sales call, with 75% of respondents saying a specific piece of thought leadership content led them to research a product or service they were not previously considering.

Learn where your content can be amplified by checking out the brand flywheel.

Please note: This guide is best suited for desktop viewing.

Who is this for? Defining your audience 

Brand comms involves a range of activities, but its overall purpose is to connect your audiences with a memorable narrative about your company.

Narrative + engagement = brand reputation, built over time.

Understanding your priority audience(s) helps you build relevant content and an execution strategy to reach them. Audiences to engage at the early stages are: 

Customers: Understanding what matters to them helps shape helpful educational content that demonstrates your expertise, boosts sales, and builds trust.

Talent: Brand communications can attract and retain talent. Top talent is drawn to exciting, well-funded startups, and momentum—fueled by content, press, and awards—builds excitement around your brand. Encourage your team to share your story with their own networks and acknowledge them when celebrating milestones. 

Investors and partners: Effective brand communication helps raise capital. Research from Hard Numbers shows companies with the highest media coverage see a 35,635% increase in funds raised from their first event to Series B. Yes, investors are people too, and they’re checking out your social.

Media and opinion-makers: Unlike ads, earned media can’t be bought. An article from a trusted outlet that mentions your company can boost both awareness and credibility. Build relationships with reporters by following their work and engaging genuinely. Don’t just pitch—nurture reciprocal media relationships.

Crafting “sticky” messaging from the get go

Your investor decks, sales decks, job descriptions, and social posts are starting to tell the story of your company. To reach a wider audience, it’s time to dig deep and craft a compelling narrative, which starts by objectively answering the question: Why should I care? 

Consider additional questions to uncover compelling stories that can be authentically told by you in person or on a call (without slides!).

Company messaging: Spend time with your leadership team to create your company messaging. Unique stories matter, so pick concrete anecdotes that help you stand out. 

  • Why does your startup exist? 
  • What is most compelling about what you do? 
  • What is a memorable compliment from a customer?
  • What’s an ideal headline (8 words or less) for a news story about your company? 
  • What will a journalist find most interesting about your company right now? 
  • How has your product or service disrupted an industry norm? 
  • What unexpected insight have you/your company discovered that will impact the future?‍

Founder messaging: Your audience and reporters want to know your reasons for being an entrepreneur and what it took to get your business off the ground. 

  • What is your personal stake in the problem you are trying to solve? 
  • What is your founder origin story?
  • What or who inspires you? 
  • What unexpected quality about you makes you the right person to innovate in your specific area? 

Mistakes are made to learn from. As you practice sharing your story out loud and activating the flywheel, your narrative will get even more precise—and stickier.

Early-stage PR: announcing your first fundraise  

Let’s now prepare for your first news announcement, which for early-stage tech founders is often your first fundraise. 

Explore two Rocket Guides templates to help you get going. First, our interactive fundraise announcement timeline—and the accompanying template you can download—will help you identify what to start doing ahead of your announcement.

Please note: This guide is best suited for desktop viewing.

Our example fundraise announcement identifies the basics you should cover for either a traditional press release or a more personal blog. 

Please note: This guide is best suited for desktop viewing.

Three basics every startup should do 

Even if you’re not quite ready to draft your first announcement, here are three things you can do to activate your brand flywheel:

Keep your social channels active. When reporters and investors look you up, they will look to social for signs of life, traction, and to see who’s on your side. Build a trust-based relationship with your community with a consistent cadence of insights, partnerships, educational tips and news. Save time by reposting content across multiple channels. (And if you absolutely don’t want to get active on social, don’t set up “zombie” channels with no followers that make it look like you have nothing to say.) 

Win hearts and minds, starting with those already on your side. Activate your network of stakeholders so they get emotionally invested in your team’s progress. Get them excited to receive interesting content from you to post on their own social channels (they’re influencers too). 

Relationships matter—and not only when you need something. Stay informed and get to know reporters and experts who cover your industry. Nurture these relationships, learn what matters to them and what they’re writing about (and what’s overlooked), and see what events they’re planning where your insights can be useful. Be brighter together.

The road ahead

Our RocketGuide may make you reconsider engaging earned media: It’s a lot of work. You may also start thinking about how to resource for brand comms. At the early stage, you may have people on your team already doing adjacent work. Other options are to hire an agency or consultant on a project basis or ask your investors for help. If you're an M13 portfolio company, reach out to us—that’s what we’re here for. 

Whether it’s now or later, you will need to scale brand comms as your company and responsibilities grow. A brand comms executive who has a seat at your table from the beginning will help you anticipate public perception risk early, before it’s too late to identify and address structural problems. 

Whereve you're at, knowing how brand comms works is a great first step and will establish realistic expectations.

Ready to learn more? Check out our full RocketGuide to Early-Stage PR

The views expressed here are those of the individual M13 personnel quoted and are not the views of M13 Holdings Company, LLC (“M13”) or its affiliates. This content is for general informational purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal, business, investment, tax or other advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters and should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of this content. This content is not directed to any investors or potential investors, is not an offer or solicitation and may not be used or relied upon in connection with any offer or solicitation with respect to any current or future M13 investment partnership. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Unless otherwise noted, this content is intended to be current only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in funds managed by M13, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by M13 is available at m13.co/portfolio.