In the last decade the financial market experienced an exponential influx of venture capital into the and e-Business world, but when the new economy failed to return a profit and NASDAQ plummeted in April 2000, investors became wary of Internet start-ups.  Now factor in an Internet consulting company eager to announce its first round of funding equaling $16 million in August—a period when a smart Internet investment was an oxymoron that burned seasoned and novice financiers alike.  And so was set the public relations obstacle course.  

Granitar Incorporated, the Internet consulting and systems solutions provider in this scenario, completed a $16 million first round of private equity funding.  The account team consulted with Granitar and Agency experts to outline its objectives for the campaign to:

·        Successfully launch Granitar into the market

·        Increase mind share and awareness of Granitar as a company with staying power

·        Secure substantial media coverage beyond funding lists

·        Position the Company as financially sound and profitable entity in its competitive marketplace

·        Position the Company as a leading Internet services business, founded on a solid business plan

·        Schedule interviews with recognized editors and writers of local and national business and trade publications

The Agency determined that research would be the essential component in the execution of a successful venture capital campaign.  As a private Company in the midst of securing its first round of financing, Granitar had budget constraints for extensive research.  The team explored and used resources such as online search engines and publications from the Agency library to track relevant news from the beginning of the year to the anticipated time of the Granitar announcement.  Using these inexpensive resources permitted the Agency to conduct solid research and compile results as a cost-effective alternative to expensive and complex market surveys.  Consequently, the Agency worked the research efforts and outreach for the release into its baseline account activities and monthly retainer.

The Agency wanted to introduce the Company primarily to the local editorial community, but also sought some national exposure for further dissemination of the Granitar name and message.  Additionally, the Agency intended to use the media coverage to reach potential clients and business partners to increase revenue generation and earning potential for clients.  Finally, the Agency wanted to reach job seekers, both active and passive, to identify Granitar as a financially sound, profitable and growing company in a time of backlash.

Both negative and positive venture capital news inundated the market at the time of the planned Granitar launch, August 15, 2000.  During the week of the Granitar announcement, 227 additional venture capital releases crossed the major business wires.[1]  Faced with the obstacles of sparking the interest of harried editors in the VC space and providing them with an interesting angle to garner coverage, the Agency decided to use the influx of news to its advantage.

To draw on the current VC news, the Agency researched the editors in this space and analyzed the tone of their articles--all done within Granitar’s retainer.  In addition, the Agency researched and identified several VC outlets with the use of services already factored into the Granitar contract (i.e. Dow Jones interactive, Media Map, Press Access) and with free online search engines (i.e. Google, Alta Vista and Yahoo).  The Agency reviewed each outlet and read sample articles from each to determine which outlets would prove to be the most appropriate to pursue for Granitar.

Once equipped with solid background on each writer’s perspective on the current venture capital market, the team honed a pitch to address the major concerns and opinions of their targeted contacts.  In addition, the team considered the ratio of venture capital news releases announced per day to the number of reporters assigned to the financial beat and developed a concise pitch to communicate the news and address the inundated state of the market.  In doing so, the team created an angle and played off the sympathies of the targeted editorial contact.  The team also researched and accommodated each contact’s preferred day, time and avenue to receive information.  Respecting the work schedules of our editorial contacts was a key element in the success of the venture capital campaign.

Given that Granitar’s funding paled in comparison to other companies profiled in the sample articles the Agency gathered, it became more pressing to develop a compelling hook. The Agency researched and read additional articles on the current state of venture capital funding in publications such as Business Week, Wall Street Journal and New York Times (See sample articles).  Although outside of the target list, these publications provided the team with market insight that aided in creating a compelling angle for Granitar.  Using the information collected from the team’s research, the Agency decided to position Granitar as an Internet company whose strong business model, team and consulting service appealed to investors, which secured the start-up $16 million in funding in a time of cautious investors.  The team’s extensive industry reading revealed that the VC announcements that secured coverage were based on the new Internet start-up--companies with solid business models, executive teams and proven past experience.  Unlike articles in the past that praised the entrepreneurial spirit of the 16-year-old CEO, the news trend during the time of the Granitar announcement focused on the solid

The Agency secured substantial editorial coverage for Granitar’s venture capital announcement and managed to stay within the budgeted segment of the monthly retainer.  Prior to the Agency’s editorial outreach, Granitar’s Web site was void of impartial third-party endorsements.  At the conclusion of the venture capital campaign, the Agency garnered 17 editorial placements and one radio interview with the Boston Business Journal.  In addition, the publicity resulted in one closed sales lead for Granitar and a spike in Web site visits.

Outsourcing research to a third-party firm is one route an agency can pursue, however, it is costly to conduct.  By handling the research internally, the team gained more insight into the financial market; their contacts; and the type of coverage surrounding venture funding of Internet start-ups—experience and knowledge that could not be culled from a simple market survey.   
The extensive research compiled by Sterling Hager prior to its editorial outreach contributed greatly to the successful execution of Grantiar’s venture capital campaign.  Taking the time to research the current state of the market equipped the team with substantial background.  This enabled Sterling Hager to develop and pitch a compelling story that sparked the interest of our defined targets and consequently secured Granitar the coverage needed to meet the campaign goals. The planning and execution of this campaign is testimony to the notion that successful public relations is achieved through analysis, strategy and planning.   It also highlights that quality research need not be expensive to be comprehensive.

[1] This information obtained through a Dow Jones Interactive search of the following wires for releases containing “VC” or “venture capital”: Business Wire, Canada Newswire, CNN Disclosure (Canada), Government Economic Data, MZ Presswire, and PR Newswire.