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A startup’s launch shouldn’t be treated as a one-time PR opportunity. It’s just the beginning.

We're featuring our Q&A with Brian Mast of 104 West Partners on PR strategy, storytelling for startups, and key insights from our Pitch Deck Interest metrics.

Last week, we launched the DocSend Fundraising Network, featured it on Product Hunt, shared the story of how it was built to remove bias from the fundraising process. This week we’re featuring key insights from our Pitch Deck Interest metrics and our Q&A interview with Brian Mast of 104 West Partners on messaging for startups, communicating your company values, PR strategy, and more.

Q&A with Brian Mast – Partner, 104 West Partners

Brian has more than 25 years of marketing, public relations and communications experience in the high-tech, consumer and health care fields. As Partner, Managing Director of Client Services at 104 West Partners, he is responsible for the day to day management of the agency, its clients and business development. This Q&A has been edited for length and the full version will be on our blog.

When is a good time for a startup to bring in a PR agency? Do they need to have a PR strategy in place or should the agency help provide that?

There are a couple of different times when a startup can optimally engage a PR agency for external communications. Early on, before they go to market, a startup typically needs help with messaging. Just because they have a company name, website and maybe some basic messaging doesn’t mean they are ready to talk about their company in a compelling way to the media or even the marketplace as a whole. They need to develop messaging with a critical audience in mind – the media.

After a startup has solidified their messaging, then they need to launch – sometimes coming out of stealth – and introduce themselves to the market. A launch shouldn’t be treated as a one-time opportunity. It’s just a beginning. A good agency will develop a communications plan that both launches the company and sustains a dialogue with the market over time.

We’re entering into a time where people prefer spending their money with companies that have similar values as they do, how do you approach that with your clients?

We advise clients that they need first to be very clear on their own values and ensure that they are communicating the values with their employees. This is critical not only because employees are the frontline ambassadors for the brand, but also, and maybe even more importantly, because a company needs to build authenticity from within. The company then needs to determine how vocal or outspoken they want to be about their values. Either way, the company needs to communicate its values and act on them.

Most importantly, the company needs to be genuine. Don’t adopt values to gain an audience or customers. Defining company values and building them into a narrative isn’t just the domain of large brands. Identifying values and how they are incorporated into everything your company does is important in the early stages of a company’s development.

What guidance/strategy are you recommending to your clients right now?

Communicating your product, service, or point of view in the middle of a pandemic, economic crisis, and social justice movement is not easy. It requires the self-awareness that regardless of how important a piece of company news is to you, it may not always be as important in the grander scheme and it may not fit into the timing of what the media wants to write about. It also requires precision and sensitivity in terms of language and messaging. The wrong news release at the wrong time – however well-intended or authentic – may create the exact opposite effect.

Unfortunately in the past few months media outlets have had to layoff or furloughs staff. This means the remaining reporters and editors are busier than ever. We are guiding our clients to communicate only relevant news and information, and to use other channels beyond traditional media.

How has DocSend helped with the media relations aspect of PR?

Our agency uses DocSend in a couple of different ways to share content with our media contacts. When we are pitching stories in advance of an announcement, we will share the content via DocSend. We prefer not to send attachments in emails to reporters, so it’s better to provide a link.

We also use DocSend to create a branded media kit. This is helpful for earlier-stage companies that haven’t built a robust newsroom. We can set up and add to a media kit within minutes. This tool was critical when we helped our client Mojo Vision launch their prototype smart contact lens earlier this year. We had requests from all over the world for visuals of the technology and we were able to quickly respond to requests with the media kit in DocSend.

Is there anything else you want to add or highlight?

Increasingly, good communications is not a one size fits all enterprise. It takes a much more selective and targeted approach. It takes patience and intelligence. Startups should understand that communications is not all about getting “the story” and certainly not about just getting publicity for publicity’s sake. Not all press is good press.

The business of telling stories (and how to do it)

Telling your product story is just as important as telling your founding story. Here are 5 things to think about when telling your product story.

Good Leaders are Great Storytellers

The ability to tell stories that inform, persuade or inspire supercharges every part of company building. Read it on the First Round Review.

Would you like to be featured in a Q&A?

Each week, we focus on a fundraising theme and share insights from an investor, founder, or industry expert and wanted to extend this opportunity to our readers. If you’re interested in being featured in our newsletter or on our blog, you can reply to this email or reach out to [email protected] with a topic you’d like to cover.

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