Katerina Antonova, Founder & CEO of Aeris PR, Talks About Working With Tech Startups

By Grit Daily Staff Grit Daily Staff has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on September 27, 2022

Katerina Antonova, know to most as Kate, is an expert in public relations and strategic communications. She is a founder and CEO of Aeris PR, a result-oriented boutique agency that helps tech startups and VC firms from the US and Europe to develop brand awareness and increase exposure. She has over 10 years of expertise in PR and has helped a number of companies with media relations, growth and fundraising. Kate is a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Thrive Global Contributor, and an author at Grit Daily and Business2Community. Kate also is a PRSA and GWPR member. Furthermore, she actively supports women in business by creating and developing the “Womenpreneur club” community.

Fostering tech brands in all their diversity, from FinTech and AI to EdTech and HealthTech, Kate asserts that PR in tech is a distinctive niche in communications that requires a special approach, knowledge and expertise. We sought to find out what makes her field of activity different and how her agency makes its clients’ stories matter in the mind-blowingly rapidly changing world of tech.

Grit Daily: You are the CEO of a boutique PR firm. What is special about it for tech startups?

Kate Antonova: I started the agency for two reasons: because the rapidly developing technologies of today inspire awe in me, and because I know that communications is what I love to do most and what I want to do most in my life.

So, because I wanted to help emerging companies to get more visibility, to get investments, to develop and spread their technology, I decided to create a PR agency that would be focused on tech startups.

It gives our clients plenty of advantages. First, we have gained serious expertise in target media that every startup wants to get into. We have developed a wide network of journalists’ contacts and relationships with them, so we are completely in our element with tech media and don’t have to try to establish contacts from scratch, as big PR agencies covering all kinds of clients do.

Secondly, we are deeply involved in the technology agenda. We know the industry news, its trends, what’s hot and so on. Actually, I can say from my experience that a non-superficial approach is what many clients are seeking in their prospective PR partners. It matters for successful and long-standing relationships that we are on the same wavelength with the companies that we work with; that we speak the same language and share the same interests.

On top of that, we know the market and the audience that our clients are most interested in. This knowledge base that we are constantly expanding helps us choose the best media outlets and media opportunities for each of our clients.

Grit Daily: You say that you are a client-oriented firm. What does it mean for you, and do you have a profile for companies that you work with?

Kate Antonova: Long-term relationships are the best format of cooperation in any area, and it is particularly so for public relations. It helps to achieve efficient outcomes for both sides, to develop and go hand-in-hand with “clients for life”, as our team calls them. The nature of our work is that we deliver results that have a big delayed impact, that is why lasting cooperation is what we foster the most with each of our clients.

Looking together to the future builds trust between partners, resulting in the most valuable and reliable business relationships.

From our side, we are always flexible and proactive in implementing our part of the partnership. Working in communications, we always choose cooperation and long-term commitment.

I have heard many stories of unsatisfying business relationships leading to loss of money with getting no or scant results, or when business communication happens in a sluggish or sleazy manner.

This is not the case with us. We care about having our clients go a long way with us and show them that we are the right partner to address again and again.

Grit Daily: What makes your KPI-driven approach different from other agencies? Doesn’t everyone promise results nowadays?

Kate Antonova: For one, just a few public relations agencies on an international or local level offer what is called a “result guarantee”. PR, particularly PR in high-level media, is a highly unpredictable field of endeavor. Many people still confuse it with advertising, which has an obvious tie between the amount of money you pay and the number of placements you get. PR is about building relationships with journalists and ensuring that they find your clients fascinating so that they do editorial content.

What distinguishes Aeris PR is that, despite these volatile factors and everything that cannot go as planned, we have the obligation to deliver the number of publications that we set at the start of our work.

There are some agencies that promise results like us, and surely, some of them deliver them. But unfortunately, what I have mostly encountered for the 10 years of my practice is that many agencies deliver results in the form of publications in low-ranking, cheesy media. It certainly makes clients disappointed and feel let down with their unmet expectations.

Our ruling principle is that we work only with Tier-1 and Tier-2 media, that is to say, target sources with decent traffic and domain authority. Any publication that we deliver is a high-quality piece in a high-quality media outlet.

Grit Daily: What do you guarantee to your clients, if anything?

Kate Antonova: In our agency, the KPI-driven framework is not an optional service; it is the only way we can work. We always provide a certain quantity of publications, not just wallow through our monthly fee contracts with no results.

We literally put the pre-discussed number of publications in the media at a certain level into the agreement and commit to delivering these results.

Everybody wins from this format of work. We are transparent with our clients from the very beginning, we state all the conditions. As clients, startups don’t have to worry about what they will get in the end and this saves their time and nerves.

Grit Daily: Why do you have this startup focus in the first place? Isn’t PR usually the domain that startups choose to leave to DIY efforts?

Kate Antonova: Sure, bootstrapping PR is a very common practice, simply because many early-stage startups can’t afford to pay for professional services. 

However, just when a company raises its first investment, putting a budget on PR is always the right thing to do. Why? Because of the combination of several factors—the first of which is the possibility to allocate a budget. Secondly, there is a strong need to raise credibility, when nothing is more important than to find new users, attract more investors, and grow the product as a result. Then, across all stages of growth, there are lots of tasks that the startup team needs to do, which leaves little time for PR, and thus it has to be delegated to professionals.

There is one point that we always emphasize to our clients: PR isn’t about making immediate sales, it is a long-term strategy that prioritizes awareness. Public relations is not sales-devoted, but at the end of the day, our efforts build and improve brand reputation, add value to startups and help them stand out. Ultimately, it improves deal flow.

Grit Daily: We know that you also work with VC funds. What are the peculiarities of doing PR for them, in comparison to startups?

Kate Antonova: We help boost their image, placing them in the relevant media where they can be seen, which makes the media list the first difference.

We focus very much on their credibility and credentials—in contrast to startups, where it is naturally essential to highlight the product or service. Venture capital is a very trust-based area, so reputation is the foundation. And this is definitely something you earn not by advertising but by public relations.

Speaking of the nature of coverage, with VC, we more often distribute news than with startups, focusing on target financial and business media outlets. Also, thought leadership is very important for venture capital firms because, in a field where authority means so much, interviews and opinion pieces are the best way to establish your weight.

As you can see, we apply different approaches with VC funds based on appropriate objectives, audiences, and tools that these firms possess. At the end of the day, our goal is to ensure VCs are attractive to startups and investors.

By Grit Daily Staff Grit Daily Staff has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Grit Daily News is the premier startup news hub. It is the top news source on Millennial and Gen Z startups — from fashion, tech, influencers, entrepreneurship, and funding. Based in New York, our team is global and brings with it over 400 years of combined reporting experience.

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