PR Note to VCs: We are on the Same Side!

By Bob Geller, Senior Vice President, NY

As PR professionals, we, unfortunately, sometimes feel like we must run two types of programs: the ones we know from experience will work, and the ones we must use to placate VCs.

Before I go too much further, let me state that my goal is not to antagonize VCs. Quite the opposite, we very much appreciate the financial motive force that VCs provide for our up-and-coming tech clients.

My goal is to promote greater understanding and mitigate non-productive situations where executive teams sometimes get conflicting signals from PR people and investors (this can also apply to other stakeholders such as sales teams, boards, etc.).

What often happens is that our clients’ executive team gets a note from the VC alerting them the competition has just issued news or was featured in an article. The VC wants to know what our response will be: “What are we announcing, and when?!!” Before you know it, there is a four alarm fire drill, forcing everyone into a reactive mode.

This situation is typified by an email my client contact recently wrote to her team about just this type of situation. She stated it very eloquently and I repeat it below:

“I know that you guys get a lot of heat every time our VCs see press releases from a competitor posted on PR Newswire.

It occurred to me that I’ve never communicated a few things about these tactics:

1) It’s not the way to get news

2) How often do you see these things truly materialize into press articles (vs. direct copies from other wire services like Yahoo Finance)

3) However, I’ve never worked at a place where press releases didn’t get the sales guys and VCs fired up

4) This is mostly a vendor:vendor drama (vs. influencing prospects) as we all have each other’s names in our Google search

5) Exception: when a company is public, then it’s a stock drama

6) Doesn’t mean we don’t need to ramp up the PR pipeline – and we’ll have lots to announce this year from a product standpoint alone”

Do PR people sometimes need to react to unexpected events? Absolutely! And, sure, it can be disconcerting to see the light shining on the competition.

But it is tough for anyone who is not close to a program to have the full picture of planned tactics, opportunities that are in the pipeline and overall strategy that is needed to decide whether a reactive response is warranted.

The PR team, in general, is tackling a number of priorities, as dictated by goals laid out in PR plans that are constantly being adjusted and tuned in conjunction with the vendor’s internal team (I find myself needing to emphasize that, although we do generally want to generate a drumbeat of news, its important to watch the signal-to-noise ratio, as most people tracking and writing about tech can see through empty announcements, and too many gratuitous releases can work against the goals of a program. We want to be smart and not necessarily just reactive.)

At the end of the day, VCs and PR people want the same things. We are all interested in doing great work for great clients, leading to value creation, which does not happen overnight or within the span of ever-diminishing news cycles.

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