How to Tailor VC Communications to Your Audience
Iterative methods from a European VC firm’s VP Communications
It should surprise no one that venture capital is an increasingly competitive space. 📈
This is excellent for entrepreneurs who have greater choice in selecting long-term strategic partners. It’s inherently a trickier landscape for VCs to communicate their unique advantages towards founders plus convey why that matters to a startup’s future.
Brand relevance/differentiation, effective storytelling, and an authentic message that resonates all remain critical.
Welcome to the role of communications within a VC, (which itself doesn’t have to be ultra competitive.) As I flew past my first-year milestone at Earlybird this fall, delivering marketing, PR, and communication support for our family of funds and a growing pan-European portfolio, I decided to share my best practices along the way – stay tuned for the kicker at the end! 🌶
Hopefully these reflective methods serve others when considering new roles or adapting communication plans. (I’m curious: are these methods relatable in other organizations — including startups or corporates? LMK.)
I’ve focused on a) championing our portfolio companies (who deserve all the limelight & embody the investment thesis), b) conveying who comprises the investment teams and showing how they tick (so that new founders can identify them and reach out), and c) listening to a global startup ecosystem.
Explore this inclusive 3x3 approach and an extra surprise.
I. CONSTRUCT 🛠
💕 Collaborate across VCs to build a vital peer group. I frequently reach out to comms leaders at other VCs and the portfolio to offer help, share learnings, or simply brainstorm. When Clubhouse was all the rage, we explored How to Fix VC with Data with Andre Retterath, then co-hosted a talk with 4 VCs alongside Fabian Heilemann to help early stage founders approach fundraising. Later in the year, Cem Sertoglu from Earlybird Digital East took part in Tzvete Doncheva’s EcosystemsGiant event to open up VC networks.
💥 Bring change where you see it’s needed. I highlight organizations that make VC more accessible like Founderland and Included VC. In support of Earlybird initiatives like Vision Lab for migrant entrepreneurs in Germany or office hours for female founders, with APX and Join Capital, I spread the word about involvement. I help ensure underrepresented people get opportunities for speaking at events, and that more female-founded or migrant-founded startups can reach out to me for channeling investment evaluation.
📸 Develop relationships with great journalists, talented photographers & videographers. These relationships take time to grow. Allow for that. Keep curious. Research what journalists are writing about. Push yourself and your team to craft stories that matter. What’s true for PR can be applied to other areas. Namely, always remember the first rule of marketing: no one cares. So it’s your duty to change that. Look outside of yourself or beyond your startup for a broader set of industry trends, an untold angle, or an unused format. Since we know from Dan Taylor that press photos matter, I’m very happy to recommend local photographers to startups: Alex, Beto, and Moritz.
II. CAPTURE 🕸
🎙 Interview interesting leader types to share their perspectives. Check out our Earlybird’s View publication on Medium where we hear from C-Levels insights across the portfolio (like INNOVO , Fraugster, XAYN). We also feature investment rationales, or offer deep dives into growing industries such as FoodTech/AgTech by Paulina Lutz.
🔑 Learn from founders. Watch them on the frontlines of problem-solving or product growth. Take for example an Earlybird Health diagnostics company that used their tech to improve patient outcomes during the corona pandemic, or how to move from a developer to tackling product-led growth.
📈 Observe company developments. Examine initial roots (Wonderpath), rapid growth to unicorn status (Aiven), a rebrand to include a new range of customers (Nuri), great funding and awards for marketing along the way (Getsafe), complete decentralization (ShapeShift), massive expansion of reach (Fintech OS), or an IPO (UiPath).
III. DELINEATE ✒️
⚡️ Establish new workflows and processes. This will affect your content production or distribution across social media channels, or impacting different internal functions (HR, Investor Relations, Investment Processes, etc). This means you must deeply consider your content strategy and development, who you can leverage content from, the time it takes to develop that content, stakeholder approval, and distribution. Plan accordingly.
💬 Discover new ways to communicate. Pursue opportunities to showcase team member insights on podcasts like OMR, Startup Insider, and Medtech Money, or produce a video series on health investments that helps founders prepare for proper Due Diligence. You might navigate multiple languages!
✏️ Improve your writing. Communication is key no matter your industry, geography, or role. I often remind myself not to mix the writing and editing stages. Try writing first and freely without editing yourself. Once you liberate your ideas, sleep on them. Then attack them mercilessly with edits. These are two separate flows; both are necessary to improve your first draft. Plus, only after publishing do you catch more mistakes to go back and fix. Find some genius social media marketers and writers’ tips I collected here.
Through this, you’ll likely gain more experience in diplomatically facilitating consensus to find a common voice or convey a core message. There’s fundamentally a great opportunity for inclusive communication to deliver thought-provoking value, expand visibility, and spread more opportunities.
So use it! 🙌🏽
Ready to set sail? 🛳
If you want to navigate these seas with me, I am soon expanding my department of one. 😅 So let’s be in touch via LinkedIn or Twitter and please apply if you want to work with me in a dynamic setting, support motivated founders, learn from seasoned investors, and shake up VC a bit.
Also, if you are down to collaborate as more of a VC/startups comms collective or share tips of your own, then let me know!
Thank you for reading. Please 👏🏽 or share if this resonates for you.
For more, visit us on LinkedIn and Twitter or via Earlybird Venture Capital
Both photos here by Alex Klebe