VC funds: stop fucking around and hire an internal communicator.

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Photo by Slidebean on Unsplash

If there’s one frustrating thing about VC funding right now, it’s that communications is a massively weak area for so many of the companies who I’ve seen raise. And no, I’m not talking about marketing. I’m talking about the wider strategic implications of branding and comms.

There’s no understanding of what comms actually entails.

  • How to handle public crises or shifts in public opinions.
  • How to express the message and the value of the business or product.
  • How to build a non-growth-hacking-spamming-bull-fucking-shit relationship with the press.
  • What their brand is, and what their brand isn’t and what the hell that actually means.

When these functions or expertise areas are actually addressed by startups, it’s either perfunctory or its a low priority task for a growth marketer whose focus is on the bottom line and the growth metrics, and they don’t — frankly — know branding and comms.

The funds who back these startups take their positioning, their message, their content, their communications and their branding incredibly seriously. They run events. They run thought leadership designed at contextualising, not just converting. They know the wider implications of all their actions are a matter of communications.

But their startups don’t have a clue.

Or worse?

So where am I going with this?

I know the teams at some funds look carefully at how they can help the startups in their portfolio. For example, some of these folks have even hired internal HR/talent managers whose job is to help their companies hire.

Well you know what? That’s an awesome model. Sure, it’s closer to a PE model, as was pointed out to me on Twitter, but honestly I think it matters. The role of the fund, once they’ve invested, isn’t to walk away. It’s to do everything possible to help their investment succeed, and I see this is being a way to do that.

VC funds should be looking to put an internal comms specialist into their teams to work with their startups. To help them with their positioning, their context, and when shit hits the fan as it frequently does, with their crisis comms.

You need to create a role where a qualified PR, storytelling and comms specialist works with the profile companies once per week, particularly with their leadership and marketing teams. It’s a valuable approach, and it’s one that I just don’t see enough of.

Based on the comms failings of many companies who have actually raised, from Bodega to Juicero, whose skills in branding and positioning were almost ludicrous…this is something you need. Stop fucking around and hire for it.

Joan Westenberg is an award winning Australian contemporary writer, designer and creative director. She is the founder of branding and advertising firm Studio Self. Her approach to messaging, communication and semiotics has built her reputation as a writer, and she has been named as one of the leading startup voices in Australia by SmartCompany.

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Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, The AFR, SF Chronicle, Junkee. founder tinyspells.xyz / thisisstudioself.com ✨ She/Her.

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