Launching is one of the primary concerns of early stage companies. Before you reveal yourself to the press and the public, you’ll need to make important decisions about everything from when to announce your launch, what kind of PR agency to hire (if any at all), how to best position your story to the press, and who should be responsible for media strategy internally.
Hear from Michael Tannenbaum - founding member of Brex - and Margot Edelman - Vice President of global public relations digital agency of the year - Edelman – as they discuss tips and best practices on how to have a successful debut and, most importantly, maintain momentum post launch.
The slide deck below is referenced in the video and is also included as an attachment to this post, so please feel free to download.
When are you ready to launch?
You should launch your startup when you have something to announce: some combination of funding, product launch or partnership. In order to be able to get press for the launch, you need to have your story well-defined and crisp, which includes why you started the company and what problem you are solving.
It’s also important to remember that you need to have established your marketing data attribution framework – you need to be able to track where your leads and customers come from, otherwise you are not fully taking advantage of the launch. On a related note, you should have a quantitative definition of success – identify how many leads are you trying to drive for customer acquisition, partnerships and job candidates.
Lastly, but in some ways most importantly, you can only launch when you have an owner of the outcome. This doesn’t necessarily need to be your spokesperson for media, but it often is.
Stealth Mode and Launching
One important consideration for maximizing press is that before launching, you should be operating in “stealth.” This means you have a minimalist website with little information about you and your product, and your founders have limited social media presence about their new venture. Your company should not have a Facebook, YouTube, AngelList, Twitter, LinkedIn, Glassdoor or any other account with meaningful information. Any information you have out there can be used by reporters if they hear about your funding round or product, and if this happens, you may not be able to control the timing or the messaging of articles written about you, therefore ruining your launch strategy.
For more information about the size of the startup market in stealth, please see our blogpost on that topic.
In effort to provide transparency to startups navigating the same decisions as we did, we are sharing our own experience. This is not an official endorsement of any decision path or product decision.
Brex launched in June 2018 and operated in stealth mode for a year-long private beta before that date. Operating without a public presence made it tough to hire employees and get partnerships, but it was worth the sacrifice. Brex wanted to maximize the press and word-of-mouth for its launch, so waiting to release everything at once proved to be the right decision. To generate press, Brex co-Founder Henrique Dubugras met with ten reporters in New York City and San Francisco, all in person. We used an embargo strategy, meaning all the reporters were permitted to write about Brex on a mutually agreed upon time, at which point Brex issued its press release and the articles went live.
Brex’s head of growth managed the launch, but its spokesperson was the Co-Founder and CEO. Brex defined the goal of getting 1% of the pageviews to signup for its product and estimated 50,000 page views. Brex actually only received around 30,000 page views at launch but signed up 2.5% of them, so exceeded its acquisition target.