PR and press outreach

Red Cup strengthens online networks and builds media attention for an  equity online funding platform.

VENTURE.co is a Vermont-based equity funding platform where project creators can crowdsource a team, build a business plan, create financial offerings and attract investors. VENTURE.co has a complex narrative, and the task at hand was to build a network around that story.

In our early strategy sessions we agreed that we needed a series of signature blogs to help the potential user understand how to use the platform. Case study blogs work well for this: The focus is on a use case, often featuring a real user of the site, and we use the blog to walk the reader through the experience of the site’s benefits.  This approach also allowed us to feature early adopters and leaders in the platform, and they in turn repaid the favor by sharing the (free) publicity on social media. Red Cup is providing editorial assistance for all venture.co blogs.

VENTURE.co has to appeal to two groups:  a group of startup founders who list on the part of the platform called Designbook, and the investors who will back them. We supported our blog work on social media, by posting links to new blogs to Facebook and Twitter.

For Red Cup, network building often starts with signature content demonstrating domain authority and thought leadership. You need to “own the space” intellectually and emotionally. You need to show potential users how they will benefit from signing up and becoming customers. Blogs and videos are a good way to get started.

The next step to network building involves advertising, boosting posts on Facebook with ads, running ads on Twitter when appropriate, and also on Outbrain. The key to success on all of those ad platforms is to dial in specific audiences and to use them in concert with press outreach.

All three techniques – social media, advertising, press outreach – work together in Red Cup’s plan.

Our first pitch for VENTURE.co involved its Designbook platform. Designbook was facing a fight – with Facebook. The social media giant was taking issue with Designbook’s use of the word book in its name. There were legal issues to talk about, trademark issues as well, and this was of interest to journalists.  When I pitch to journalists I start with a curated list. We send media advisories to thousands of journalists. When appropriate, we hand-pick the journalists I want to pitch, and we write each pitch, one pitch at a time.

To break out how the Facebook story unfolded: I worked closely with venture.co staffers and together we pitched the story to 139 different journalists. Several of those journalists were writing for big outlets like the Wall Street Journal, but they didn’t respond immediately.  In the meantime, we received coverage for our story from the Associated Press, local Vermont television, newspapers and public television, Ars TechnicaPandoDaily, The Daily Dot, blogs about trademark and intellectual property, and more. The governor of Vermont held a press conference about Designbook’s fight for its name, and issued a press release. That was a watershed moment, and the tempo of media coverage increased. The coverage was building from a regional perspective to a national perspective. 

Twitter exploded with mentions of the story, and news aggregators picked it up. Boston Magazine called, wanting to cover it, and then the Wall Street Journal called, sent a photographer, and ran a story that put Designbook center stage. It’s worth noting that the Journal writer who wrote the story was not one that I originally pitched, and the Boston Magazine writer who wrote for that magazine was not one that I originally pitched, either. Why did that happen?  I attribute it to something like a “surround sound” effect. The story gets loud enough that it becomes almost impossible to ignore. We work hard to “orchestrate” that effect, but of course we have no real control over whether it will happen.

We have also pitched venture.co as a leader in localvesting (local investing), fintech, and medtech finance. Each pitch has a specific group of journalists and bloggers who will spark to it. Since Red Cup is an agency partner with PRnewswire, we access a database with 800,000 journalists in it. We send our media advisories and press releases to specific interest-driven segments of that database, track email opens and handle follow-ups. We track all internet mentions using Mention.net. Since we are also an agency partner with Mention, we access really sophisticated tracking. We can pinpoint the most influential voices speaking about you or your brand and go talk to them.

Since the Wall Street Journal story, the company has been featured in the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and more. Red Cup is working with VENTURE.co to develop thought leadership presence with a blog series, a forthcoming ebook, and appearances on podcasts.