SaaS PR and Your IPO: 3 Factors to Support IPO Readiness

A successful initial public offering (IPO) involves planning and effort. For SaaS marketing and PR professionals, that planning starts long before the pre-marketing phase initiated by investment banks. Keep in mind, leveraging PR to support a desirable financial exit isn’t just about having an IPO communications strategy. Public relations can support the factors that contribute to the perception of IPO readiness, including:

  • Category creation
  • Brand awareness 
  • Positioning

And we’re not the only ones who think so. Marketing leaders with experience scaling companies like Datadog and Snowflake from early stages through IPO recently explored these factors — and how they relate to IPO readiness — in a discussion moderated by ICONIQ Growth general partner Doug Pepper.

“The journey to an IPO is as unique as the company embarking upon it,” said Doug in a recap of the session written with ICONIQ Growth’s Brad Delaplane. “But no matter the path, every organization must ensure that investors are receptive to the company’s story. Through category creation, positioning, and brand awareness, the marketing function plays a vital role in how a company’s public readiness is perceived by the market.”

As a SaaS PR agency working with companies at all growth stages — from startup to publicly traded — we’ve seen time and again how PR can impact category creation, brand awareness and positioning for any SaaS company, not just those looking to IPO. 

So, if you’re a marketing or communications professional working for an organization eyeing an IPO, or just someone looking to influence a target audience, here’s a look at three factors that play into perception — and how PR impacts each.

Category Creation

There are several ways to leverage PR when creating a new brand category. We often advise clients looking to establish a new category to consider a combination of thought leadership and product-based announcements. 

While product-based announcements — and the traditional assets like press releases that go with them — might seem obvious, pairing these announcements with thought leadership develops a regular cadence of media coverage. It also provides a vehicle for the company to introduce important keyword phrases and tell a larger story about industry needs. 

When it comes to category creation, successful thought leadership campaigns include consistent messaging and bold statements. Saying something bold sets thought leaders apart from other spokespeople by offering something new to the media, which, in turn, helps to secure media coverage.

As BLASTmedia PR Director Kate Johnson shared in a recent article about PR for category creation, “‘It’s time to abandon business intelligence tools.’ [is] a pretty bold statement to make, especially when you’re technically calling out major BI brands.” But it was the kind of comment BLASTmedia client Logi Analytics needed to land an article in Extra Crunch and continue building the story around its new brand category of embedded analytics. 

Kate goes on to point out how brands can leverage company news or data, in addition to bold statements to support category creation efforts.

“Analysts often provide a sense of third-party validation when creating a new brand category because they offer insight and data points from other industry players. Pushing relevant company news or owned data as a PR campaign alongside thought leadership is another way to build credibility.”

PR efforts to support category creation don’t just impact perception; they can also help with the IPO process later on. As the team at ICONIQ explains, “if the company establishes itself in a distinct category many years in advance of the IPO, then the process of writing the S-1 will be much more fluid.”

Brand Awareness

When our team asks new clients for PR goals, they usually start with “increasing brand awareness.” And while PR isn’t the only way to generate brand awareness, it is often one of the most cost-effective. PR, and the media coverage generated as a result of PR efforts, provides third-party validation, while also allowing the brand to retain a level of control over messaging (more on that in a bit). Some even argue that more earned media mentions signal more brand awareness.

Generating brand awareness involves getting your brand in front of the right people. For B2B SaaS brands, that audience often includes one — or more — of the four pillars of B2B SaaS PR: investors, employees, partners and customers. One of the best ways to get your brand in front of these audiences is through media coverage.

Brand awareness can be challenging to quantify, so consider this example of the relationship between media coverage and brand awareness: BLASTmedia supported Veritone (NASDAQ: VERI) during a product launch. PR efforts around the launch resulted in more than 20 media briefings and 15 articles in business and technology outlets — including two pieces in Barron’s. The initial article in Barron’s was credited with a boost in the company’s stock price which traded $3.29 higher the Monday after the piece ran.

Positioning

Unlike brand awareness, positioning considers what the customer thinks about a brand and how the brand is distinguished from competitor offerings in the minds of a target audience. 

As with other factors playing into the perception of IPO readiness, thought leadership is also helpful for positioning. A SaaS company looking to influence how its target audience sees the brand could seek out opportunities to comment on industry events, contribute a quote about an industry trend, or draft and submit an article educating others in the industry. These all are examples of thought leadership. 

Other media relations efforts also contribute to positioning, especially those leveraging the media and other industry influencers to build credibility. For example, customer stories — like a recent story about our client Phenom and customer Southwest Airlines placed in The Wall Street Journal — provides third-party validation of Phenom from both the media outlet and the customer. 

PR is an effective and important way to support category creation, brand awareness and positioning for any SaaS company — including those not yet preparing for an IPO. For those looking to ensure that investors are receptive to the company’s story, PR isn’t just effective in developing the perception of IPO readiness; it’s vital. 

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SaaS PR: Agency Insights on What’s Working in 2021

As a SaaS PR agency, we’re always seeking to understand what PR strategies work when it comes to securing media coverage and driving value for B2B SaaS brands. By comparing different strategies implemented across the agency, we’re able to generate insights most internal and agency teams aren’t privy to — after all, our team works with over 60 B2B SaaS brands! 

Curious what we’ve learned so far this year? Take a look at a few of the insights gleaned by members of our SaaS PR agency team in the first few months of 2021:

Pairing announcements with data and thought leadership helps SaaS companies stand out from the noise.

Coming off a year where M&A deals totaled $634 billion, a 91.8% year-over-year increase, the first quarter of 2021 also marked an all-time high for global funding. It’s an exciting time — but all that excitement also leads to a great deal of noise. 

To rise above the chatter, it’s not enough for a SaaS company to simply distribute a press release about funding or a new acquisition.

“Our most successful announcements in Q1 were paired with one of three things:  company metrics like YRR, customer number, valuation; data — earned data, like surveys, owned data like platform metrics or industry like TAM; and access to third-party spokespeople supporting our messaging, such as investors or notable customers,” said BLASTmedia Director of Success Meghan Matheny.

For SaaS companies without company metrics, data or outside spokespeople, making the announcement one piece of a larger campaign can also increase visibility.

“We’ve augmented the success of announcements with thought leadership that enforces the key message surrounding the news,” explained BLASTmedia Director of Success Lydia Beechler. “For example, we highlighted how traditional business intelligence has failed enterprises alongside a data report on the benefits of embedded analytics (a new subset of BI).”

Reacting to competitor IPO news provides a way for SaaS brands to join industry-wide conversations.

Nearly 20 B2B SaaS companies IPOed in 2020, and with companies like Qualtrics and DigitalOcean taking their place on the exchange this year, expect SaaS IPOs to make more headlines in 2021. 

For companies not aiming or ready to go public, news of IPOs within a given industry presents opportunities for building thought leadership.

“We’ve leveraged IPOs — specifically those that saw significant increases in stock prices after their stock market debut — to highlight the relevance of an industry that a client fits into,” said Lydia. “This not only shows the significance of the IPOing company but tips a hat to the potential others in the market have for growth.”

According to BLASTmedia Director of Success Kelsey Sowder, reacting to IPO news “works especially well when our clients have bold stances on companies IPOing. For example, if a client thinks an IPO is happening just for the company to raise capital or if it won’t actually advance the industry, these stances tend to garner more media interest.”

G2 and other review sites provide a jumping-off point for customer quotes and stories.

Known as the world’s leading B2B software-and-services review platform, G2 is a trusted resource many prospects use to vet software solutions. But it’s also a great SaaS PR tool.

Our team has been harnessing the power of G2’s platform for years as a way to build thought leadership by securing coverage on G2’s Learning, as well as to showcase brand momentum and credibility by leveraging Grid Reports and other G2 rankings.

In 2021, the team has found new ways to leverage the review platform by identifying customer quotes to include in marketing materials like press releases and award submissions.

Beyond pulling quotes, the team also used G2 as a jumping-off point for identifying possible customer advocates willing to speak to the media and customer stories — an essential SaaS PR tool (more on that in point #4).

“We leveraged G2 reviews as a starting point to identify customers that might be willing to speak to media on behalf of a client,” said Lydia. “If they’re willing to say it on G2, they may be willing to say it to The Wall Street Journal!” 

Incorporating customer stories into press releases and contributed content provides a new avenue for leveraging an essential SaaS PR tool.

We know that customer stories are an essential tool for SaaS marketers. After all, as PR Director Kayleigh Jones recently shared, “as a B2B SaaS company, your customers are your biggest champions. No one is better positioned to advocate for your solution than the organizations using it every day.” 

Meghan agrees. “Customer stories are a key tactic to garner top-tier interest. When beginning work with a new supply chain client, we offered a customer story to Forbes, resulting in coverage (their first piece). Besides giving us the foot in the door with top tier, incorporating use cases (anonymized or not) into quotes and contributed content is a useful way to demonstrate practical application.”

Though some of our clients have customers eager to speak with the press, that isn’t the case for all SaaS brands.

For those new to generating customer stories or dealing with customers who might be hesitant to speak to the press, PR director, Katie Cessna recommends focusing on customer commentary that allows for more touchpoints with the customer to start. “We’ve seen success taking a step-by-step approach with our client’s customers,” explained Katie. “Instead of immediately leveraging them in an interview, we first quoted the customer in a release, scheduled a call to discuss their experience with our client and then used that information to pitch out their story to reporters.”

Kelsey points out integrating a customer story into a piece of contributed content, also known as a byline, is also an option — especially when the customer is concerned with messaging or doesn’t have time to commit to press interviews. “This approach works well because, typically, the information we’re leveraging has already been approved by the customer for use by our clients. And, with bylines, we’re better able to control the message and paint a full picture of the customer’s use case.”

Securing the right coverage to connect with a highly engaged audience might require pursuing opportunities behind a paywall.

More and more, paywalls are becoming part of the typical media landscape. While paywalls can make sharing media coverage challenging and constrict the size of the audience, Meghan says the trade-off is the ability to get in front of a highly engaged audience.

“Many of our clients are embracing the quality of the coverage over the limited eyeballs because it means there is a greater chance of engagement and bringing a prospect into the sales funnel,” said Meghan.

According to BLASTmedia VP Grace Williams, that highly engaged audience can lead to benefits beyond brand awareness: “We’ve seen plenty of clients benefit from coverage behind paywalls. A quick example: After a single contributed piece on Extra Crunch, TechCrunch’s subscription product, our clients are seeing 200-300 referral visits and even a few conversions.” 

This is the year to shop around and pursue newswire alternatives.

As part of her year-end SaaS PR predictions, Grace commented that 2021 would be the year “audiences wise up to newswires — kind of.”

“In 2021, marketing and comms leads will start considering the broad spectrum of places outside of a wire we can place releases,” explained Grace. “A company blog or, if you have some extra budget, a paid posting in a trade publication are valid options to consider and can often have the same impact as a newswire posting (minus the syndications).”

Q1 showed us that these services still have their place — when asked, multiple members of our SaaS PR agency described newswires as “useful.” However, a press release on a newswire service isn’t the only (or even the best) way to show a steady cadence of news.

“For clients in niche industries, we’ve recommended using other avenues like Industry Dive’s press release form,” Katie shared. “The Industry Dive sites are improving their capabilities and looking to provide similar services to a wire service. By posting to specific publications, you have a better chance of reaching your target audience based on what that publication covers.”

For SaaS companies looking to stick with a traditional wire service, Katie says there are options. “We’ve started to see clients use other wire services (WebWire, NewswireNext) that are more affordable and get the news out there beyond their site.”

Looking for more SaaS PR insights? Contact Lindsey Groepper to learn more about partnering with our SaaS PR agency.

3 Types of Proprietary Data for Strong SaaS PR Campaigns

Becoming a go-to source for journalists, instead of a source of annoyance, is the ultimate goal for SaaS PR professionals and their clients. A reporter reaching out proactively because you’re the expert and have provided them with valuable information in the past is a sign you’ve made it. So, how do SaaS brands reach this PR pinnacle? Many ways, including commenting on topics important to a journalist instead of just the company messaging, being candid and available, and the subject we’ll dive into today: original research for SaaS PR campaigns.

Proprietary data, defined as any set of statistics controlled solely by a company, allows brands to become the research-backed authorities on a given topic. While data as a PR tool can sound like a huge lift, requiring a data scientist and pivot tables, original research comes in many forms — and doesn’t always require a master’s degree. 

We frequently work with our clients to find the best avenue for creating proprietary data. Below are three ways to do this, including examples of times we helped clients earn media coverage for their data. 

Survey Data

Surveys are one of the most common ways our clients collect data. By either using their own email list and software like SurveyMonkey, working with a research partner like InAct or an analyst firm like Forrester, SaaS brands can create research reports with insights no one has seen before and that support or refute market assumptions. 

We’d recommend professional surveys for SaaS PR campaigns, as they do not require an on-staff data analyst. A partner can help craft questions that yield statistically sound results, have access to respondent panels for filling in the contact gaps in owned email lists and create reports with key learnings, making the findings digestible. Our PR teams can use those findings for months, pitching the report first as news, then using individual data points in contributed content. 

For example, our client SlickText did a survey on consumer behavior during the pandemic, and we earned trade coverage like FSR Magazine and Modern Restaurant Management, reaching their target audience of hospitality leaders. Also, our client Moz does an annual survey-based State of Local SEO report, an asset we use to earn coverage on an ongoing basis. 

Anonymized Platform Data

Most software companies are sitting on a wealth of data, waiting to be mined! Trends across the customer base can be a great way to create compelling, data-backed storylines and simultaneously show off what the platform can do. Take this example from last March from our client Chorus.ai. The company connects to software like Zoom, records and analyzes sales calls, so during the pandemic, the company’s AI picked up fascinating insights around what calls looked like, such as: 

  • 50% of COVID mentions occurred in the first 10 minutes of a business conversation 
  • Over the past four weeks, COVID mentions on calls have increased 2.5X
  • While the number of business conversations held steady over the past two weeks across the board, infrastructure companies saw a 9% increase and security saw a 14% increase in productivity, while HR tech and recruiting saw a 33% decrease
  • Markets hit hardest by the virus are rebounding, including NYC which saw a 13% decrease in productivity and is back up 11% WoW. Chicago is increasing 12% WoW (from its 20% decrease), and SF is increasing 8% WoW (from its 5% decrease)

By using data as a PR tool, the BLASTmedia team earned coverage like this feature from Insider

The two most common objections from our clients on proprietary data are 1) “But Kim, we can’t share our customer data – they’ll flip!” But, by anonymizing the data and only sharing trends, that shouldn’t be an issue. 2) “But Kim, we don’t have anyone to analyze this data!” This one is tougher. There is likely someone on your team who knows the product well and is a data nerd that would be willing to help, if you only ask. 

Aggregated Data

If a SaaS company doesn’t have the budget for a professional survey or the data chops to mine their platform, another option remains: publicly available data. This option doesn’t require much budget, but it’s all elbow grease. This involves combing publicly available sources like SEC filings or backend code of websites to create reports with original findings. 

We’ve had a few clients do this, including identity-based, anti-phishing company Valimail. The company put together a report, “2020 Election Infrastructure Remains Vulnerable to Email Hacking,” based on the company’s analysis of hundreds of domains related to state and local governments, campaigns, PACs and election system manufacturers. With a timely hook of the 2020 election and data journalists hadn’t seen, our PR team earned coverage in trade outlets like Tech Toolbox and national news like NPR.

If you’re looking for a partner to help you ideate original research and amplify it with earned media, we’re it. Drop us a note to learn more about our B2B SaaS PR services.

How AI Application is Impacting the Future of IT

According to a 2020 survey by Tata Consulting Services, in 12 out of the 13 major industry verticals, IT is the most frequent user of AI and more than 46% of IT organizations at large corporations have incorporated AI into their work portfolios.

Just like any type of technology, AI comes with its own risks. However, as AI continues to evolve and expand, circumstances like the pandemic have made the benefits clear in the world of IT. 

How are the applications of AI currently poised to impact the future of IT? Thought leaders from Moogsoft and InterVision provide insights on how AI applications are already allowing IT teams to increase effectiveness and add business value:  

AI in a Self-Healing IT Infrastructure

Imagine you’re running late and sprinting through a busy airport to catch a plane. Your heart rate has dramatically increased and when you get settled on the plane, it won’t go back to its normal rate. This soon could turn into a fatal problem. In this instance, the body should be trained to heal on its own and get back to its normal rate. In this way, the body is similar to a self-healing IT infrastructure, which allows IT teams to quickly get back on track by fixing issues before they become a million-dollar problem.

When a system shuts down due to software malfunction for an extended amount of time, that company loses an average of $301,000-$400,000 per hour. IT and DevOps practitioners, now more than ever, must do whatever they can to keep systems up and running and stay under budget. The pressure is on, but if they don’t have access to the proper tools and technology, this makes their job extremely difficult. Through automating the incident management process, a self-healing IT infrastructure allows IT professionals to boost their productivity and focus on building new products and developments which in return will increase revenue.

“The idea of a self-healing IT infrastructure doesn’t have to be a distant vision,” explained Adam Frank, VP of Product and Design at Moogsoft in a recent piece for DevOps.com. “In fact, the democratization of cloud computing and advanced data science has put the required observability technology within reach of teams of any size with any budget.” 

In the article, Frank goes on to explain the biggest advantage of using AI in IT: it allows developers to operate less and innovate more. IT teams, just like the rest of us, have faced many challenges this past year. The more that can be taken off their plate, the more effectively they can do their job. A self-healing infrastructure is a prime example of AI opening endless doors for the IT industry.

AI in Data Cloud Management

Another way AI is positioned to make IT teams more effective is the use of this technology in data cloud management.

“Data intelligence, or the use of data to glean useful information, allows a business to both increase revenue and their position in the market,” explained Jeff Ton, Strategic IT Advisor at InterVision, in a bylined article for InformationWeek. “But the continual multiplication of data and its sources are making an already substantial challenge even more laborious. [The] emphasis on data is where artificial intelligence (AI) can play an especially useful role.”

Ton goes on to explain how AI can accelerate business time to value. “By leveraging the cloud and AI for the storage, collection and analysis of data, a business can monetize information in a fast, effective manner. The cloud is perfectly positioned to assist organizations in AI because of its unique ability to provide businesses with flexibility, agility, scalability and speed that other models of infrastructure simply can’t achieve at the same level. If the core of a business isn’t managing a data center, then the cloud is all the more appealing, since it allows IT teams to focus on the value-driving projects that will truly make a difference for employees and customers. AI is one of many innovations to get there, and the cloud is the foundation upon which to enable AI to do its work.” 


The use of artificial intelligence within the IT sector and other industries is only going to grow with the global value of the AI market expected to surpass $89 billion annually by 2025. Want to join the conversation around the future of artificial intelligence? Contact Lindsey Groepper at BLASTmedia to find out how our team can help!

2021 SaaS PR Predictions

This time each year we work with our clients to put together predictions for the year ahead, and for the past few years we’ve been taking our own advice and creating SaaS PR predictions of our own. 

Looking back on a year that, to put it gently, went completely off track, I was surprised to see many of our predictions for 2020 panned out (on the PR front). This year, we saw fewer SaaS marketing execs using share of voice as their standalone metric to measure the success of PR. We also saw a much closer integration between our clients and their customers — so much so that we now offer to interview and write customer stories on behalf of our clients.

When I sat down to think about 2021, a few things immediately came to mind. Yes, some of those things are related to the pandemic and how it impacted the way we do work, but other trends were well underway beforehand.

Paywalled journalism means we must adapt 

It’s happened to all of us — you see an interesting story shared on Twitter and click to learn more only to be hit with a paywall. While it can be frustrating, paywalls actually make a lot of sense. Think about it: you pay for Hulu with no ads, you pay to join Dave Gerhardt’s Patreon marketing group, you even pay for access to workouts on Peloton — why wouldn’t you pay for unlimited access to news content created specifically for your interests? 

As talented journalists continue to fall victim to shrinking newsrooms, they’re increasingly turning to platforms like Substack to grow followings of their own. Most recently startup reporter Eric Newcomer left Bloomberg to start Newcomer, a subscription newsletter about startups and venture capital. Earlier in the year tech journalist Casey Newton left The Verge to start Platformer, and before that Fortune’s Polina Marinova Pompliano left to build The Profile. I anticipate many more will follow suit. 

Earlier in the year, I sent a few questions on paywalls to Travis Bernard at TechCrunch. He launched TechCrunch’s subscription platform ExtraCrunch just a year earlier. His newsroom faced a choice: broaden coverage to drive up advertising impressions and therefore dollars, or double down on a smaller, more engaged audience willing to pay. They chose the latter. 

So, what does this mean for those of us in SaaS PR? Get creative about what you consider an “outlet.” It no longer needs to be TechCrunch or Forbes to count as meaningful coverage for your brand. Encourage your client/boss to look past vanity metrics like unique monthly visitors. As journalists are building their audiences, these metrics may or may not be available. 

Build relationships with emerging publications (including podcasts), and get comfortable with explaining the value of coverage behind a paywall to your client. Sure, there are challenges (namely, sharing on social) but the inherent value is the already engaged, paying audience. And, ask your CFO for more room in the 2021 budget for news subscriptions. 

Speaking slots will become even more difficult to secure 

Now that Neil Patel, Jay Baer and Seth Godin can speak at 10 conferences in a matter of days — what’s left for the rest of us? I am halfway kidding but, if you think securing speaking slots isn’t going to get a lot more difficult in 2021, you should reassess your goals. 

  • Exhibit A) Many events well into 2021 are still going to be canceled, creating fewer overall opportunities.
  • Exhibit B) For virtual events, travel, and its associated costs, are eliminated. This means we’ll see the most well-respected speakers speaking more often.

Those two items lead to a lack of opportunity for anyone not already an established keynote. My advice? Keep your events/speaking team focused on small, local or industry-specific events to build your reel until events and speaking slots become more widely available, hopefully in 2022. 

Audiences wise up to newswires — kind of

For better or for worse, 2021 is not the year the newswire dies. In simple terms, newswires have value because we believe they have value. So, until your CEO stops forwarding you Google Alerts he has set for competitors’ press releases with the “why aren’t we getting this type of press” note attached, newswires are a necessary means to a “make the CEO happy” end. 

In 2021, marketing and comms leads will start considering the broad spectrum of places outside of a wire we can place releases. A company blog or, if you have some extra budget, a paid posting in a trade publication are valid options to consider, and can often have the same impact as a newswire posting (minus the syndications). 

While wires themselves are likely to remain a piece of your PR puzzle in 2021, I think most SaaS PR people will no longer find value in the “outreach” efforts offered by wire services. The claims they send your press release “directly to the newsrooms of all the top media publications,” while technically true are completely useless. And, candidly, in eight years of doing media relations, I have never seen a single organic story run as a result of this type of distribution.

Deskside meetings are *finally* put to bed 

This is one area of PR that has certainly been impacted by the coronavirus, and I think for the better. Speaking specifically within the realm of SaaS PR — desksides are no longer an impactful way to communicate with journalists. Now that desks themselves (at least the kind in large office buildings) are few and far between, deskside meetings have become a relic of our PR past. 

As we’ve learned over the past year, we can be just as impactful and collaborative without being in person. Instead of forcing a press tour to work because they’re what you’re used to, set availability for your executive or spokesperson over the course of a week. Slot in interviews as they make sense for availability and interest on both sides, and if the meeting requires a product delivery, send it ahead of time. Make sure to get updated contact information for the journalists, though, since they’re likely not in an office. (PS — phone etiquette changes when it’s a cell phone you’re calling. Proceed with extreme caution.) 

I think I speak for all of us when I say we’re looking forward to putting 2020 behind us. But, for a year that turned out to be quite challenging, it sure did teach us a lot — especially when it comes to communication. 

Never has it been more important to put time and effort into what you’re saying, who you’re talking to, and why you’re saying it. From communication to your employees on a shift to working from home to communicating to the world what you stand for, putting thought behind your words is never going out of style. 

What do you predict 2021 will hold for SaaS PR? Share with us on LinkedIn or Twitter