Have you picked up this month’s Forbes magazine yet?
The August magazine cover featured Kanye West. In June, it was Serena Williams. This September, it’s Daniel Dines – the co-founder and CEO of Robotic Process Automation tech company UiPath, our client.
Getting our client on the cover of a major business publication took months of coordinating, many airplanes and train rides, and late nights for Nicole Metro, an account manager for the UiPath~V2 team, and Toni Iafrate, the VP of Global Communications at UiPath — and it’s something that makes all of us here at V2 incredibly proud.
Last week after the magazine hit stands, I sat down with Toni and Nicole to get their perspective on what “makes” a Forbes cover story. Check out what they had to say for some PR best practices and what a story like this means for a business like UiPath:
How did the relationship with Forbes kick off?
Nicole: Alex Konrad, the editor who wrote the story, has been on our radar for a while now because he covers hot enterprise software companies and compiles the Cloud 100 list. For the past year or two, we’ve been keeping him updated on company news (funding in particular), but what really prompted an initial meeting was UiPath’s debut on the 2018 Cloud 100 list at No. 14. Because of that and UiPath’s business momentum – which included multiple impressive funding rounds with top-tier investors like CapitalG and Sequoia – we secured an introductory meeting between Alex and UiPath’s CMO Bobby Patrick and Managing Director of the Americas Coenraad van der Poel in December 2018. It was in that meeting that Alex mentioned he wanted to do a feature story on UiPath, though he felt it would make sense for us to check back in later in the year to get the ball rolling.
Over the next few months, we continued to keep the relationship with Alex warm – sending him UiPath news and checking in on story plans. Finally, after UiPath’s Series D round in April – which valued the Romanian-founded and NYC-based company at $7 billion – we reconnected with Alex to push the story forward. We booked an hour-long meeting for Daniel and Alex to meet for the first time in June, and quickly learned just how deep Alex wanted to go – spending not just an hour or two for a briefing with Daniel, but DAYS with him and other executives/employees, customers, partners, investors etc., and offering to travel anywhere in the world to make it happen. From there, Toni and our team devised a plan to give Alex an exclusive look at UiPath’s office in Bucharest – the city where the company and its founder/CEO were born – and a day in its U.S. headquarters in NYC. The idea was to allow Alex to really get to know the business and Daniel for an eventual feature story in Forbes timed with the 2019 Cloud 100 list. While we were hopeful, at that point we didn’t know it’d be for the cover story. In fact, we didn’t actually know it made the cover until the night before it hit stands when Daniel attended the Cloud 100 event in San Francisco.
It takes a lot of time, and a lot of people, to get a story like this complete. What was the process from start to finish?
Toni: Alex was clear at the outset, understandably, that the Bucharest trip in July would make or break the story. We – meaning myself and the V2 team – had to put together a lineup and agenda of spokespeople for Alex in Bucharest – both traditional spokespeople and others who weren’t necessarily “trained” for media – so that Alex got the information he needed and in the order that made sense. It really was a puzzle, figuring out who he’d meet with when, and being considerate of the fact that Alex would be drinking out of the firehose with all the information thrown at him. And on the flip side, we had to ensure the team that Alex was meeting with in Bucharest were all being authentic and offering him new points of view. We held multiple meetings internally with spokespeople to make sure they were prepped on which part of the UiPath story they were going to tell Alex, so Alex didn’t hear the same thing twice and his time was maximized. There was also a video shoot in Bucharest that we coordinated (and turned out awesome). Ironing out Alex’s agenda for Bucharest was almost surgical.
Further, once back in the States, he met with more executives in our NYC headquarters, and had multiple briefings with our partners, customers and key investors. The final briefing was held on August 13 – an hour-long wrap-up call between Daniel and Alex. From there, we went through weeks of fact-checking, right up until days the story hit stands.
It truly was the most time-intensive media opportunity I’ve ever worked on in my career, but the result was absolutely fantastic and one of the proudest moments of my career. It gives me goosebumps!
How important is coordination between internal and agency teams on a big opportunity like this? How do you work together to make it happen?
Toni: First and foremost, I certainly view V2 as an extension of the internal UiPath team. On opportunities like this that require so much strategizing and coordination, it is absolutely critical that you trust your PR agency, and that there’s already an expectation that internal PR and the agency are one big team. When you work like one big team on a daily basis, when the bigger opportunities like this come to the forefront, it’s seamless and works out really well for everyone.
This media opportunity took over 100 days. It took on a life of itself. It became very natural for Nicole and me to divide and conquer, and I don’t think it could have worked out any better. We were really a power duo. If every opportunity works this seamlessly, then UiPath and V2 are unstoppable.
What’s the “secret sauce” for what it takes to land on the cover of a top-tier magazine like Forbes?
Nicole: It obviously helps when you have a company that’s in a lucrative, hot market, and clearly leading that market from a growth perspective. Having a company that will be forthcoming about growth statistics helps, too – like headcount, ARR, customer count and names, etc. But stats will only get you in the door. There must be a story behind the stats to illustrate how the company got to where it is, and how the company is changing the way we live our lives and work. UiPath could offer all this.
Further, it’s critical – and worked out well in this situation – for the reporter and your spokespeople to have a great connection. It required Daniel to be his true, authentic self in all interactions with Alex, which he 100% was. For example, the story leads with a product meeting in which Daniel “scowls” — it was absolutely perfect for Alex to be there, and see just how Daniel operates, not hiding anything back because a reporter was in the room. The same goes for everyone else Alex spoke with. It’s the only way Alex could get a true sense of what UiPath is all about and not be fed some spun-up PR narrative!
Kanye was on the August cover of Forbes. This month, it’s Daniel. What does something this big mean for UiPath as a business? How does it impact internal and external factors?
Toni: People both internally at UiPath and all the external folks we work with – our customers, partners, investors, etc. – are absolutely over the moon about this. Everyone wants their hands on the magazine and is congratulating Daniel. They’re so proud to work here or work with us. For me personally, who worked so hard with V2 over the past few months on this, it’s been truly so overwhelming and emotional in the most positive way possible. To put it in Daniel’s words: it’s surreal.
This cover story and our landing at No. 3 on the Forbes Cloud 100 is a huge boost to our business. We’re a company that just in 2017 moved our headquarters from Romania to the U.S. To now, less than two years later, be on the cover of a major business publication is simply incredible.
What advice do you have for other PR pros as they look to create and establish strong relationships with top-tier press, like you have with Alex?
Nicole: It may seem elementary, but being realistic about what a reporter will and will not cover is so crucial to building a relationship with him/her. When I sent Alex news about new product updates, for example, I knew – and told him I knew – that he wouldn’t cover it, but that I was sending it so he has the latest at the company for background. Once the opportunity is in progress, it’s also critical to make sure you ask the reporter what he/she needs for the story, and be extremely transparent, organized and communicative so that everyone is on the same page. At the end of the day, everyone involved has the same end goal – you must become a team to get there.