One of the advantages of being a leaner startup/ scaleup is agility. When a shock strikes the landscape you’re in, you should be better situated than most to move to higher ground and secure yourself for the opportunity ahead while larger lumbering competitors are still braced.

But when it comes to your communications strategy, you have to acknowledge that it’s dependent on the attention of your audience. And if you’re in what we call “unsexy tech” (B2B), that means your customers might be included in that audience still slowly acclimatising to the new world.

So how do you make the most of your ability to respond quickly, without wasting the effort by being totally out of sync with an audience that’s potentially still adapting?

Here’s some simple guidance based on our experience and what we’re hearing from founders and their customers in the midst of this struggle.

Good content IS thinking (and vice versa)

When you have limited resources, spending time thinking about what material you want to put out in the world could feel like a waste.

But it’s easy to forget that really great content requires really great concentration around a topic, which often brings opportunities for discovery and creation.

With so much of the commercial world on pause, this is a great time for the kind of deep thinking and consideration that creates value across everything from your product, to your go to market strategy, through to your content. Involve your team as much as possible.

It’s all part of the same picture. And some time off the treadmill to truly explore it is something that shouldn’t be wasted.

Reconsider your objectives

By now, it’s clear which deals have gone away for the short to medium term and aren’t coming back. But that doesn’t mean those relationships are gone.

The best organisations look at their sales process as one of developing and deepening relationships, which will eventually make you the obvious choice as a helpful partner. That objective can continue through this time, and indeed has been deepened in many cases by the uncertainty everyone is facing.

It’s time to ramp up your measurement and weighting of process in the start and middle of your sales lifecycle — perhaps including more stages, lengthening them, reconsidering what you have and what’s useful to share throughout.

Use this time to orient your sales team toward using content in these ways for the long game and those skills should pay off just as much when the world returns to normal.

Think about longer term plays that usually wouldn’t be feasible

How many times previously did you spend 6+ months on one mega piece of campaigning content?

People are busy, but this is a great opportunity to build up something large and valuable for when we return to normal times. If you managed to talk to 2x people a week in the next 3x months, that would be a resource of 25 interviews that you could assemble in useful content in various ways.

Think about how you can use the assets like relationships in your industry that don’t go away. Think about how you can create opportunities for exposure and connection among an audience possibly frustrated by their current lack of reach.

As they say, the only better time to start than yesterday is right now. This is a window any smart marketer finds themselves dreaming of in normal times.

Building a startup requires every founder to tackle areas where they have no experience. However, unfamiliarity can make those challenges seem harder than they really are.

A particularly good example is PR and Comms around funding. This might be one of the earliest events that feels like a natural time to approach the press.

The good news is, it’s also really simple to do yourself and you should be able to get as good results as any tech PR agency.

The secret lies in focus and simplicity.

A note about uncertainty

Media relations is a fundamentally uncertain discipline, especially early on. You could get all the technical aspects 100% spot on, and even have a great story — but sometimes fail to cut through on the day because there’s another big announcement or event that sucks the oxygen out of the room.

In situations with uncertain outcomes like this, it’s natural for some people to try and sink more and more hard work into preparation to maximise their odds. Unfortunately, this misunderstands the nature of the beast, and only makes it more painful if the dice happen not to roll in your favour on the day.

The best way to approach media relations is with focus on simplicity, and spread of your bets over time. Send a shorter initial pitch to a smaller group of just the right people. Make it really nice and easy for them to tell you they aren’t interested. Find multiple opportunities to make your introduction and increase their understanding of your business over time.

Your long term goal is to make it a more reliable and resilient process by gradually building relationships with the people whose job it is to write about companies like yours.

Now, how does this apply to your Series A?

Perfect pitch

The first important step is to realistically grade the “quality” of your story. This involves dimensions like:

  • Investors — are they the top in your sector, with great portfolio, significant exits, ex-operators on the team, a platform? Or is it unknown/ pure finance, geographically obscure, 
  • Round value — Is this a big Series A? A confusing second seed round? A generally smaller “EU” Series A? Especially think about how you frame this with an eye on what you will be announcing next.
  • Evidence — can you highlight big new customers, partnerships, breakthroughs in scale, user numbers or similar to support why people should pay attention?

Let’s say your business just raised the biggest cybersecurity Series A in Europe from the top VC in that area to deliver a project for the MOD. 

This is a good story, because of how it relates to the strongest independent actors and context around you.

Now, the structure for a good pitch is extremely important. It looks like this:

HEADLINE
* FACT 1: Who cares?
* FACT 2: Exhibit A
* FACT 3: Exhibit B

If you can’t get a journalist’s attention with this structure, you won’t get it by spending hours more on a press release.

Let’s go through how to make each section as compelling as possible:

The Headline

This should be more than “CorpCo raises Series A”. That’s the “event”, not the story.

A good story requires tension. For example: “MaxCo Series A provides alternative to WhatsApp for Government”

That’s conflict, with a hero taking on the “big bad”. Equally you can create tension by challenging the reader’s existing beliefs — perhaps you are bringing a certain eco future forward, or achieving something most don’t think is possible.

Just the facts

The next section must now make good on the headline’s promise. Think of it like a lawroom drama: you’re standing in front of the jury you have put forward your argument, and now you must show the exhibits of evidence that support your case.

Fact 1 must make the headline real. Why would you be able to achieve this mission? What is the bigger picture this is part of?

For example: “MaxCo was established by the original WhatsApp team, to reverse the impact they had on society.”

Fact 2 might show your product’s reach today, geographically and at scale, or reference growth.

For example: “MaxCo tech is currently being used by 10M people, including the British, French and American Governments, growing 200% in the last 3x months.”

Fact 3 could be the “black and whites” — how much did you take, from who? Is there anything else you haven’t used yet that makes you stand out?

For example: “<INSERT BEST INVESTOR NAMES HERE> are leading the round, which raised an angel round from Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama.”

All you need to achieve with this pitch is a “yes” from the journalist. If they are interested, they will ask for more info, which you can provide — and in doing so, create specifically what they need.

Target with care

In reality, there are only a handful of journalists in the world who write about funding announcements.

What’s crucial with any list like this is you don’t just copy and paste it without thinking. Go and read what these people write — if you can’t find an article like the one you are expecting them to write about you, it’s not going to happen.

Briefing under embargo

This is the act of setting a date when the news will break and telling journalists ahead of time. This is helpful to journalists because it gives them time to make the story as good as possible — to interview people if they want to, to ask questions, to perform acts of journalism.

It also gives you a bit more flexibility in getting the story out there.

Your very first email should be along the lines of: “We are X and have a story coming up next week, are you happy to take a look under embargo.” Don’t send them any detail until you have that confirmation in writing.

The announcement itself

It’s worth having a central asset to promote in public. I don’t think it should be a press release. Why would you trap a good story in such a stuffy odd format? Nobody likes reading press releases, not even journalists — and once you have the pitch above, it covers off the key facts so they won’t get lost.

Instead, prepare a post for your website which is effectively the article you’d want someone else to write. Start with the problem and context to set the scene. Think about why this moment matters for ANYONE BUT YOU.

You can quote your investors in here (even better if you can quote from a post they have also published elsewhere.) And think about this linked relationship between the various assets on the day. It’s great if you can share a draft with the journalist and tell them the URL where it will go live, so they could link to it if they want.

There’s a lot more we could talk about… (Exclusives? Only if you have to. Quotes? Make sure they don’t repeat your other points, and don’t use cliched phrases like “excited”.)

… but for now, this should give you a fighting chance if you want to announce your own story.

One of the reasons I founded Augur is because I believe too many agencies take really talented people and completely waste their time.

They squeeze them dry on hopeless, demanding clients, shackled to ancient inefficient processes and force them to crawl across coals just to be rewarded fairly.

We can do better.

Augur is growing and we are looking for the people who will become new cornerstones of what we build.

We believe the people who make agencies thrive are the hard workers that short-circuit bureaucracy and prioritise ruthlessly to make things that matter happen.

We don’t believe everyone has to be a jack-of-all-trades. We believe there is one core unit of success in this business: getting shit done. If you get that right, you can involve your specialism alongside it, whether that’s data, creating material, delighting clients, or anything else.

Benefits of working at Augur include:

  • Unlimited R&R days
  • Quarterly bonus scheme
  • Company iPhone and MacBook
  • Gym contribution
  • Mobile working kit
  • Headspace
  • “virtual share” scheme — the longer you are here, the more you benefit.

Here’s what we’re looking for — but, if these ideas resonate with you, we should talk anyway, regardless of everything below.

Email augur+jobs@augur.co.uk.

Strategists

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This is the primary unit of Augur. Our Strategists make things happen.

If you have a few years of experience and are looking for an environment where everything is designed around delivering strategy, measuring it effectively and iterating on it for clients, this is for you.

It includes:

  • Campaign management and execution
  • Campaign iteration: suggesting strategic, creative campaigns that grow the business
  • Development of skills inc. attention to detail and refining systems
  • Market awareness, including new channels and industry trends

This is a sketch. If you think it sounds interesting, fill in the blanks for us by emailing augur+jobs@augur.co.uk and let’s have a coffee to improve it together.

Incubation and Acceleration

Duckling
The future of Augur will be built on finding fresh, raw talent that we can nurture and train before other agencies get their grubby mitts on them.

The focus of our Incubation programme is similar to the startup world: We invite intern-level individuals to pitch us an idea for a project to work on across 3 – 6 months. We will then commission the best ideas, and support them to achieve it, while they learn about how we work.

The project should relate roughly to areas where our interests overlap — for example:

  • Delving into Google Analytics, measurement and evaluation in excruciating detail
  • Writing every single day, including regular features ideas that will help them learn about our industry
  • A video project that gets under the skin of our clients’ challenges and produces an episode a week

They will have to justify this endeavour against their wages, building in a mindset that is aware of the value of work, against the effort put in.

If they thrive in this unique opportunity, we will move their project into Acceleration, providing more resources or learning from it to integrate it into Augur’s processes.

This project is an experiment, and will be driven by the success of the first participants.

To take part, contact augur+jobs@augur.co.uk and tell us how you would use the time.

Like many, I ended up in tech PR through ignorance. When I showed up for my first interview, I didn’t know what PR was (something like advertising?) and I didn’t know what this “press release” was that I had 30 minutes to write.

But something must have gone right, because not long after that I found myself nestled in front of a tidy desk for my first day at work — still with no idea what PR was.

The good news was, with social and digital flooding into the industry, it turned out neither did anyone else. I found myself arriving to an industry half in crisis because they could see the old ways were dying and half in blissful ignorance as the rug slid out from under them.

What I also found was that the world had tilted toward the internet I had grown up on. As a precocious youth with a father who worked in tech, I’d wasted hours on forums and newsgroups, totally immersed in the original social web.

So when introduced to Twitter, I still may have not known what a press release was — but I knew this was a language I could speak.

I quickly became the cliched Account Exec evangelising the latest thing: Google Wave, Google Buzz, Google+ (and even a few non-Google projects) — I was the man taking them all seriously. 

I’ve since come to understand this is from the same instinct that makes me sit in the front row at standup shows: I want to try and experience the thing first, by myself, before I let others influence my view.

But as I watched platform after platform collapse, or evolve in disappointing ways, I also learned another significant lesson. From the latest to the ancient, some things that don’t change. Ultimately, whatever the means, people have the same drives, instincts, fears and desires they have had for thousands of years.

And so, a crucial lesson of my career has been: write strategy that optimises for the things that do not change.

This means things like:

  • People trust other people, not brands.
  • They especially trust people like them.
  • They are all trying to achieve something — and if you help them, they may be grateful.
  • Some people just want to be heard (think about complaints on social media.)

The principles of marketing aren’t really changed by developments in technology or new channels — It’s just our ability to fulfill them that does.

People became effective at broadcasting messages and not listening to their customer because really there was no simpler scalable route for some time.

PRs became effective at relying on journalists and publications to help spread their story, because there was no other channel. 

But that’s just not true anymore.

By focusing on the higher, strategic level, by not saying “we’re going to do a social media strategy now” or, god forbid, “a Twitter (or Mastadon) strategy”, we can achieve more.

So when reviewing your strategy, it’s worth asking: have you found a way to appeal to the human habits that stay the same, or just a way to tweak the tech and algorithms to produce a short term result?

I know which I’d rather work on.

We’ve been writing again, this time for Influence, the official publication of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

Cash obviously keeps you alive — but if you don’t really achieve momentum on the other three, you aren’t developing an engine that can sustain value for the long term. In many ways, getting that cash in the bank builds a more resilient system to be able to pursue the more important priorities.

And yet, how often do agencies place bets that threaten these priorities for trivial financial return?

Every time they take on a mediocre new client for a few grand in the forecast, they are leveraging a true cost for the team, brand and potential to attract future clients. You not only frustrate and waste the time of talented people, you undermine their interest in your agency and their job at the same time.

I get the idea of owned, earned, paid (and people add shared, but how is that not earned?) However, it feels like it’s phrased so tactically, and without a relationship or journey between the different elements. They are just smushed in a single hierarchy.

In practice, this means it can feel a clumsy way to outline a strategy, sitting each in their silos and making choices about where ambiguous elements must sit.

Instead, we’ve started to use a different taxonomy:

  • Meaning
  • Material
  • Reach
  • Systems

These four areas not only cover the general categories of strategy we put together, they also relate in a way that feels more engaged and relevant.

Defining Meaning can stretch from mission/ purpose, to simply clarifying the pitch or the key themes you want to beat the drum for.

From this source, you can then develop Material  (not “content”, never “content”) which explores those ideas, and captures them in a way that is useful to your strategy (and your audience.)

Having put all that work in, it’s nothing without ensuring subsequent and growing Reach, by developing the audiences and relationships that bring in eyeballs — from mailing lists, to sponsored social, to a handful of valuable influencer relationships.

And underneath it all are the Systems that make it work. For us, principles like Objectives and Key Results, evaluation with Google Analytics and automatically updating dashboards, things like “founder therapy”, which we use to generate interesting article and commentary ideas on a regular basis.

If you want to work strategically, you need to set out your toolset and approach in a way that inherently serves it. This feels like a way to do that, which matures the PESO categorisation for our own purposes. It allows us to think better — and demonstrate more clearly to companies we work with, how and where we will provide real strategic value.

There are many reasons I chose to focus Augur on “unsexy” tech. But one of the key ones is that I believe the nature of PR and marketing is a really good fit for the B2B market.

The incentives align better

In consumer marketing, brands try and reach “most people”. They want big publicity splashes. And most people just want to get on with their lives.

The best they can offer is sometimes a glimmer of light entertainment. But 99% of the time, they are still interrupting normal programming to get it in there.

By contrast, our clients help other businesses make more money. Most of the time, anyone running a business wants to improve how they do it. However, if anything, they are often too busy to make it enough of a priority.

When we target, it’s most often by characteristics like job title or industry specialism. It’s not because we think you are vulnerable to coercion, it’s because we know you’re looking at e.g. translation to help your business grow, and we work with a company that fundamentally does it differently.

We lead with content and insight

B2B Tech really means B2B innovation. It means what’s next. It means the new way of doing things and a potential source of advantage over the competition.

That also means that it’s a constant process of keeping track of where the tech is going next, if you hope to use it to help your business.

We help this happen. And what it means is, if we do use paid or targeted in strategies, it’s almost never to just force information in front of an audience — it’s to surface insightful material that others found useful, for more people.

The time of B2B decision-makers is more valuable than consumers. So you have to use it even more wisely. If you don’t directly hit a need they have, and if you aren’t producing material that strikes that need anyway, you’re in trouble.

The rewards make sense

If one of our clients wins a new customer, that can be worth many multiples of our fees per month. Deals of hundreds of thousands. Pipelines of millions, partnerships that open new territories and opportunities

If we produce any kind of asset that helps bring in more of the right kind of lead or close them once they are already in the process, the impact can be enormous.

In that context, where lifetime value is enormous, our fees make sense very quickly as part of customer acquisition costs.

If instead, you’re relying on some obtuse relationship between coverage in the tabloids and downloads of your app which then convert through in app purchases for 99p, then probably don’t renew, you’re getting into a mess of causality that, frankly, I’m just not interested in.

Where privacy matters

Now, with GDPR coming in, this doesn’t mean privacy is something you don’t think about in B2B. It just means that, if you’re doing it right, you should be ticking most of the boxes of the new policy anyway.

Every incentive aligns to give you good reason not to try and reach everyone but to create great material, that is of ultimate relevance to your small and specific audience — then attract them toward it.

More than consumer, and more than ever, B2B marketing just makes the most sense to me.

Notion Capital asked us what makes great PR for B2B Software-as-a-Service businesses.

We tried to break it to them gently that most shouldn’t even think about it until they reach the right stage.

Listen in to learn more.

Of all disciplines, you should expect technology PR to change with the times.

Here’s a 10 facts about how we work, and most importantly, the actions we take to deliver a demonstrably different service.

1. ENGINEERED MORE EFFICIENTLY

Modern work can be a mess of information overload, sprawling spreadsheet plans and bureaucracy that slows action to a crawl.

We put everything in one place: Asana. Here, you can see all upcoming tasks, find every document and directly comment or ask questions. And we support it with intelligence channels in Slackand files in Google Drive.

2. MEASUREMENT MADE MEANINGFUL

Ad Value Equivalent, coverage, estimated reach are all pointless if your comms plan doesn’t relate to your sales funnel.

Augur’s measurement process is driven from Google Analytics (or better, if you’re using it). Choose from a measurement menu that asks questions like: “of every visitor last month that became a lead, how many saw content in their journey?”

3. WORKING FACE-TO-FACE

How can an agency accurately represent someone they don’t understand?

By spending time with your team in person every week, we get under the skin of the company faster. So when we tell the world what you think, it’s the truth.

4. OWN YOUR STORY, OR DIE TRYING

You are a newswire. And the opinions section of your vertical target media. And an industry commentator. And an advocate of your customers. And an educator of your users.

If you want to be.

If you want authority, you need to start authoring it. Shuffled press releases behind closed doors pale in comparison to publishing your story on a regular basis anyway and giving the right people an early peek because it’s relevant.

Don’t duplicate and add to the noise. Find your signal and amplify it.

5. AMPLIFY WITH CARE

Embrace the real cadence of your company story. Not every step you take is a moon shot, and that’s okay. A flash in the pan will always appear less natural than consistent, growing fission.

Proper amplification should push more out of a story engine that’s already working independently — not compensate for its absence.

And a word about paid social. If we can directly target the people that journalists used to, in an easily measurable manner and on a basic budget, we’re doing it.

6. EXPERIENCE BEYOND AGENCIES

We have written for Wired, Quartz, The Guardian, Telegraph, Tech.eu and more. We’ve led PR and Comms for a $750m global tech startup from Series A to C. We’ve managed communities of 3000+ tech journalists and PRs, with members from Apple to the Economist, TechCrunch and beyond. Variety of experience spices our advice.

7. RESOURCING ATTENTION

The ‘hours’ agencies sell don’t exist, they are just 8 units of abstract value. That works great if you want to sell a dozen hours of an office junior and moments of the MD.

Augur simplifies this by resourcing teams across 4 units of attention per week. By being less granular, our plans reflect the value we offer across Strategy, Creation and Engagement. You pay for our value, not just our time.

8. UNSEXY IS THE NEW SEXY

How do you persuade a trendy teenager to become an advocate of a fizzy drink brand? Honestly? We can’t see why they should.

But if you ask what a decision-maker or industry commentator has to gain by being aware of the coming wave of change in their sector, that’s something else. Our clients’ technologies help other companies grow. And that shows how good they are at their job.

9. RELATIONSHIPS COME FIRST

Every time a journalist simply copies and pastes a news announcement, the world becomes a worse place. We want key people to question and engage with why you matter, not just trot out easy coverage.

That’s what generates the kind of third party endorsement your team can use to reach new people and drive sales. If you can build understanding, then solid coverage and customers will come.

10. A BETTER PROPOSAL PROCESS

Agencies traditionally try and knock your socks off with grand pitches before they have even spent a day working on your account.

At Augur, we start with a one page strategic spec — our diagnosis, guiding strategy and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). If we agree this is along the right lines, we kick off a small proposal project, where we interview your leadership, your team, everyone we can get our hands on to help us write a full 6 – 12 month plan.

Makes sense, right?

Get in touch.

  • Joining BookingBug and card-linked offers platform Birdback
  • Augur mentoring at Level 39, Barclays Techstars Fintech Accelerator, Notion Capital and more

Money makes the world go round. But often too slowly, inconveniently and on the bank’s terms.

Fintech promises to present a glass of icewater in this hellish landscape. What’s more, London’s history as a financial capital means it is literally made to nurture the greatest fintech companies in the world.

In the consumer world, yes, there are wiser ways to transfer money across borders now. But in the B2B world, that’s where fintech is really rewriting what’s possible.

We know, because in 2016, we made leaps in helping them tell that fintech story.

Win-Tech

With GoCardless, we have been working together since its latest funding round, revealing its unique position to build the first global payments network on debit.

Soon after the initial work, Co-founder and CEO Hiroki Takeuchi said:

“Our first project with Augur was intended to be a one off around an important piece of news. However, the speed and effectiveness with which they advanced key relationships and delivered against our KPIs convinced us to add ongoing PR to the marketing mix.

“We are now working together on a smart, integrated PR strategy that will support the next stage of GoCardless’s growth.”

With Pleo, we helped introduce the product to the UK community, amplifying its launch and its victory at Pioneers.

Co-founder and CEO Jeppe Rindom said:

“Even a great story will flounder without great implementation. Augur helped us refine our pitch for the UK, identify key audiences and kickstart the relationships that will serve us as we grow.”

“Their understanding of what’s important in B2B and Fintech is outstanding in their industry.”

For Augur

2017 is about really showing the world what a PR agency can do when you re-engineer it to better fit for fast-growing technology companies.

Coming next, we will reveal what Augur has been doing to create a PR service that isn’t just different in rhetoric — but demonstrably different in its design. Rethinking the old PR incentives, we are aiming to do what older established agencies can’t (or won’t.)

More to be revealed very soon.