Is it important for a VC firm to have a content strategy? I believe the answer is yes, and here’s why.
Content helps you grow your authority and reputation which leads to a better standing in the industry and consequently, access to better deals.
Just ask Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures who’s been running his popular AVC blog since 2003. If that’s not convincing enough, consider Brad Feld. He and his cohorts have turned Boulder, Colorado into a startup mecca in no small part thanks to Brad’s writing efforts and numerous podcast appearances.
Blogging puts VCs at the heart of the Startup experience. They become in tune with the marketplace, engender trust and connect with the best entrepreneur prospects.
If you have money, you will always get deals. But if you have the right mindset along with the money – and communicate it – you’ll get those once-in-a-lifetime deals, the unicorns.
With that said, there can only be one more objections…and we’ll cover that next.
I’m Too Busy
The problem with blogging, podcasting, and YouTubing is that executing a content strategy of any sort is time consuming and tedious.
You might say to yourself. “Self, some people are gifted creatives with plenty to say, but that’s not me. Ergo, content is not something I should be doing.”
Don’t worry. I’ve taken that into consideration. However, if you are a gifted content creator like Brad Feld, Alan Brody, or Fred Wilson, all the better.
I will tackle the issue of content strategy as if I’m writing this for a very busy VC with no time to spare and absolutely nothing to say.
So, to summarize. For a VC firm to even consider it, the content strategy must be:
In considering this strategy, I’ve also taken into account the content landscape. In other words, is there an audience for what I’m about to propose? And the answer to that is a resounding YES!
Let’s get started.
Showcase Your Portfolio
Choose your weapon. It could be a pen, a microphone, or a camera.
Regardless of the medium [writing, podcast, or video], a VC firm will have a portfolio of startups each working on something interesting.
In each startup, there are men and women who are passionate and who are experts in what they do. These men and women make for great conversationalists and can offer a wealth of information to the general populous.
Does this strategy meet our stated requirements? You bet.
Interviewing such people is an effective way of bringing attention to the VC firm itself. It’s easy in the sense that you don’t have to think of “what content should I publish today”. And it’s effortless since the interviewees do most of the heavy lifting, intellectually speaking.
Showcasing the startups from your portfolio meets all three of our stated requirements.
Who’s doing this?
Open View Partners out of Boston does this very effectively, and they’ve even expanded the field by making their blog accesible to startups who are not in their portfolio.
Here’s a video Open View did with my cofounder Dan Cristo.
Showcase the Hopefuls
How many meetings does an average VC take with perspective startups?
For most VCs, that number is in the 100s per month, and each meeting is chock full of drama, tension, hope, desire, and priceless information for future founders. Why not record those meetings?
Of course, not everyone will feel comfortable being on the show, but that’s ok. Some startups will be fine with it and that tells us something about them, don’t you think?
What does this strategy look like in practice?
Think Shark Tank but with little bit more friendly guidance, and a lot less staging.
Does this strategy meet our stated requirements? You bet.
It’s effective in showcasing your VC firm as transparent, a quality highly valued in today’s startup culture. It’s easy since it’s part of the VC’s workflow already. And it’s certainly effortless in the sense that you don’t have to think of content to create, the content comes to you.
Above: Lori Cheek pitching sharks. Cheek’d removes “missed” from missed connections.
Be the Soapbox
Many startups don’t have a blog nor do they want one. A content strategy can be a distraction and there are valid reasons for a startup to skip it altogether.
It would help if this was frictionless for the content creator. For example, a UX designer at startup X doesn’t need to know how to use WordPress or obtain a username/password in order to publish content on the firm’s blog. Just write something up in Word and email someone@VCfirm.com
If you make it that easy, and if you make it known, you’ll get plenty of takers.
And if that content can then be shared by all employees of all startups in your portfolio [see next section for more on that], plus syndicated to INC, HuffPo, or a similar content outlet, then all the better for everyone.
Does this strategy meet our stated requirements? You bet.
It’s effective at raising the firm’s profile since content is being published and shared [see next section for more on that]. It’s easy since you don’t have to write it. And it’s effortless since we don’t have to come up with the content itself.
Be the Hub
What if a single article on your firm’s blog could onboard a thousand users for one of the startups in your portfolio? How far would that go in ensuring that your investment in that startup pays off?
Say you have 10-20 startups in your portfolio. Each startup has 10-20 people. That’s 100-400 people who could act as sharers of the content published on your firm’s blog.
400 people sharing 1 article across Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn equals 2000 shares. And those are only first-degree shares. Some of those 2000 shares will get re-shared several times over.
Multiply that by the number of articles published per week. Say, one article per day Mon-Fri, and you get 10,000 guaranteed weekly shares.
Also, consider that these are not just any 400 people. The startup ecosystem is tightly nit, so you’re content will spread like wildfire under these circumstances.
Why would employees at startups share other people’s content?
Because they know that when you publish their content, the other startups will share it in kind.
You could even formalize your status as the hub by creating a Triberr tribe.
The 5th Strategy
Your content strategy could be the fuel your portfolio startups need in order to be successful. In fact, a mere associating with your firm could virtually guarantee the startup’s success. And that is a great position for a VC firm to be in.
There is a 5th strategy you need to be doing, and a 6th strategy which you should be avoiding like the plague [this 6th strategy also happens to be the go-to strategy for most firms].
You’ll have to email me to find out exactly what those are.
My panel is with:
Chad Parizman – Director, Convergent Media @ Scripps Networks Interactive
Ethan Fedida – Senior Social Media Editor, Strategic Partnership Manager @ The Huffington Post
Bryan Nye – Social Media Analyst @ Henry Schein
Michael Belfer, CPA, CGMA – Partner @ Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP
The subject is how to create viral movements with digital media.
Going Viral is Bad?
The benefits of going viral are obvious to most. How you might get there is an art form as much as it’s a science. And it’s exactly the topic of an upcoming panel, so here’s the link one more time. If you’re in NYC area, I really hope you join us.
However, in this article I’d like to address three reasons why going viral is bad.
1. Virality Costs Money
A while back I spoke at a Brand Innovators conference where Fernando Machado [one of the masterminds behind the hugely successful Dove campaign] said that Unilever didn’t spend any money on making the Dove campaign go viral.
This is the video in question, I’m sure you’ve seen it.
Virality for free certainly sounds very impressive. No money was spend, the campaign was a huge success. It all sounds like a giant win in Unilever’s column.
In his very next breath, Fernando mentioned that there was a team of about 24 people [if my memory serves] who made up the core team, with various experts who got hired to execute different phases of the project.
For example, a creative team was assembled in order to conceive of the idea, the videographer was hired to shoot the video, a sketch artist was hired to sketch, people were invited to participate, coordinators were hired to coordinate, the editor was hired in order to put the asset together for user consumption, and so on.
If we assume that about 40-50 people were involved in making the Dove campaign a reality for a better part of the year, we come to the conclusion that the Dove campaign was indeed very costly. My guess is about 2 million dollars in salaries alone.
This is the kind of cost that most startups and content creators simply can’t afford.
However, Fernando and his team did accomplish something incredible; virality on Dove’s terms.
As the Dove campaign spread, the message that Dove wanted to deliver didn’t get appropriated and twisted by someone else. Which is more than I can say for our next example.
2. Virality Usually Backfires
When a corporation does spend millions of dollars to put a “free” viral campaign together, it usually backfires.
The most recent example is Starbucks’ #RaceTogether campaign.
I hope you’ll bookmark it and give it a listen when you have more time.
In case you’re not familiar with the campaign, here’s the short of it.
Starbucks forced its employees to initiate a discussion with customers about racism. I’ll spare you the details, but the campaign concluded with most people feeling dumbfounded by it.
John Oliver captures the sentiment quite nicely.
In other words, Starbucks couldn’t accomplish what Dove did. Starbucks’ campaign got derailed by the controversy, while Dove’s message remained unchanged as it spread.
And while I disagree with Fernando on the point that Dove’s virality came for free, I admire him and his team on their ability to keep the campaign “on message”.
And just for good measure, I’ll insert another example here.
Last year, NYPD launched a campaign asking Twitter users to submit pictures of themselves posing with NYPD cops and use the hashtag #mynypd, promising some would be posted to the NYPD Facebook page.
Within hours, a deluge of images depicting police brutality, violence and controversial tactics started trending on Twitter. Source
Virality usually backfires, in a big way.
3. Virality = Traffic and Traffic = Bad
Most people think that traffic is good. I’m here to tell you that traffic is bad.
If you opened a coffee shop and had 1000s of people walk through it every day but no one purchased anything, you’d have traffic, but you would also be broke.
It’s no different online. For example.
My goal with this site is not to bring traffic to it. My goal is to bring highly targeted visitors who will take some action. For example, sharing this post would be nice and convenient for you. Simply click here.
Another goal of mine is to have you join Triberr. It’s a place where you can get more shares for your content and it’s not for everyone. It’s for bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers. If you don’t fit one of those categories, I really don’t care if you see my content or not.
And your goal should be the same. Get highly targeted visitors, rather than riff-raff, and riff-raff is exactly what virality brings in.
It’s worth asking why everybody thinks that traffic is so desirable?
It’s because traffic IS desirable if what you’re selling is ad space. For everybody else, traffic is a cost center.
Look around. Do you see any ads? What about your online property, are you showing ads on your site?
If the answer is “no, I show no ads”, then traffic [and virality] shouldn’t be your goal. If the answer is “yes, I have ads”, then ask yourself how much money are you making with those ads and how much are you hurting yourself by having those ads on your site, and reconsider.
Sorry if that got little preachy :-)
Doing it Right
For all those reasons and more, going viral is bad. However, if you still want to know how it’s done the right way, join me at CoInvent.
Verizon and AT&T are using a new-fangled technology to track your every move and yesterday, Al Jazeera invited me to talk about it on their Morning News.
The segment is only 4 minutes long and covers the basics so I figured I’d write about it from 3 different angles in order to give you a more complete picture.
The Technology Angle
The technology is quite fascinating actually. Continue Reading →
The conversation went something like this.
Dana: Hey Dino, do you want to… (gets interrupted)
Dana: …take a pie in your face?
Dana: Too late, you already said yes.
It was all in good fun and it was all for a good cause, NYC’s Feral Cat Initiative.