Using PR for Biotech Startup Success: Insights from Christopher Caudle

Some practical tips to become a thought leader
Using PR for Biotech Startup Success: Insights from Christopher Caudle
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In: SciComm

Breaking into the biotech industry is no small feat for startups looking to make a significant impact. Between the technical challenges and financing hurdles, one critical factor that is often overlooked is the power of public relations (PR) and thought leadership.

This is where Christopher Caudle's expertise shines. With a 15-year background in pharma and healthcare communication, Christopher has seen firsthand how effective PR strategies can lift biotech startups from obscurity to prominence.

Six years ago, Christopher noticed a growing trend: thought leadership and executive visibility were becoming essential in the biotech sector. This shift led him to focus on raising the profiles of founders and senior executives, helping them become recognized authorities in their fields. His approach is not just about getting names in the press, but about creating a lasting impact that supports business goals, particularly in fundraising.

I had the chance to interview Christopher during our last community call, and here’s what we learned from him.

If you prefer to watch the recording of my interview with Christopher, click here.

The role of PR in fundraising

Christopher is a big believer in the idea that sustained public relations efforts accelerate fundraising for biotech companies. To prove his point, he ran his own little analysis of four companies that have repeatedly raised money in recent years.

For each company, he looked at the track record of their press coverage and linked it to their fundraising history:

As in the Skin Analytics example above, the other companies showed the same kind of trend: a spike in press coverage would usually precede a fundraising by a few months.

In his article, he concluded:

“It takes around six or seven months for a concerted PR effort to pay off, and this means that you need to take this timescale into consideration when planning to raise funds.”

He also argues that the intensity of PR (i.e., the number and quality of press coverage) can have a positive impact on the amount of money companies raise, which in this case, would justify even more the need to invest in communication campaigns.

For Christopher, these campaigns should not just consist of a press release (which often goes unnoticed), but should instead come organically from the profiles of the company's founders or executives.

Becoming a thought leader

I often hear the term “thought leader” being thrown around without real meaning, so I wanted to hear from Chris what he thought was the real definition:

“A true thought leader is a go-to expert on a topic. It's somebody who can look forward into the future and start to make predictions within their specialty or sector and also look at solutions. You don't call yourself a thought leader; you're a thought leader when somebody else calls you a thought leader.”

Still, becoming a thought leader doesn't happen without action. Christopher usually starts by identifying “the sweet spot”, which reminded me of my own method for identifying a niche.

Here’s how he defines it:

“This means looking at the intersection between your customer or audience needs, your solution or innovation and your personal values and interests. That’s where you’ll find the white space for your thought leadership. ”

Once that topic is identified, Christopher helps clients create an editorial plan based on three content pillars:

  1. Personal posts (lessons learned, people met, conferences attended, etc.)
  2. Posts about unmet needs and challenges in your industry
  3. Posts about trends and discussions in your specialty

He generally recommends that founders start publishing posts on these topics on LinkedIn, as it is currently the best B2B social network available. This method also reminded me of my conversation with Camena Bio’s CEO, Steve Harvey, who uses a similar template for his LinkedIn weekly schedule.

Christopher also highlighted that the earlier you start on LinkedIn, the better your chances of raising attention and money:

“If you start talking about those issues early in your personal brand journey, then you're laying the foundations for what's to come. You're really setting out a strong case for why somebody should invest in your business.”

When it comes to optimizing your reach on LinkedIn, there’s a strong advantage to using your personal voice rather than a company page:

“It's really about humanizing the message, people want to hear from people and there's really good evidence for that on LinkedIn. You get about 10 times more impressions and engagement on posts that come from your personal profile rather than your company page.”

The common objection to public outreach is usually the difficulty in tracking the actual results of these actions. It is impossible to track 100% of the benefits, but you usually get a sense of the effect in a more subtle way, like people contacting you out of the blue to do business with you.

This was also a point Steve made in our previous discussion, and something Christopher tends to agree with:

“Obviously, you can look at specific metrics like impressions, engagement, and opportunities with investors or potential partners. But it’s not always quantitative, sometimes it can be sort of a feeling or a sense that things have shifted, that you moved the perceptions of a specific group of people.“

My takeaway from this conversation is that becoming a thought leader should not be your end goal. Instead, your primary concern should be raising awareness of your expertise and, by extension, your company. Through consistent and constant effort, people will begin to associate you with a specific niche, and that is when you become a thought leader.

But this is not the only approach you can take, and Christopher had many more tips for biotech CEOs.

The 3 stages of PR growth

As we have seen above, thought leadership is a difficult-to-measure parameter that is often out of your own control. But when it comes to PR strategies, there are more tangible actions you can take at the different stages of your company’s growth.

For early-stage startups, every penny matters. That's why Christopher pointed out the importance of bootstrapping your PR efforts early on:

“At the startup stage, founders are going to be very stretched. So I think in terms of the quantity, it's much more about time available. It's unlikely that there's going to be resources to pay for external communications support so I think LinkedIn plays a really important role here at the beginning both in terms of getting your company or technology out publicly, but also gaining awareness for yourself and also using LinkedIn as a networking opportunity to start making initial connections.”

Securing your first press coverage can be achieved with your own time, but using the right approach to convince journalists is essential:

“You need to move to a place where you're thinking: “How can I help this journalist, how can I make their job easier?” If you're doing this on your own, what you can do is just research those journalists and those publications that cover your specific sector. Go on to Twitter, go on to LinkedIn and find out who the journalists are, but really get to understand what they're writing about, what their rhythm is.”

Once you've figured that out, Christopher's advice—somewhat similar to what I've written here—is to pitch journalists with article ideas and find ways to integrate your product or technology into a broader context.

As you begin to secure funding and establish your brand, it's time to consider seriously investing in your media outreach:

“The first seed funding is generally the first trigger for a press release to go out. If you're already dealing with lawyers for your IP, for example, they can often recommend or provide a bit of additional support for that outreach, but I think that is the trigger point to really think about some serious investment in your media strategy and your communications.”

Once your business is up and running, the game changes, because having one voice can mean putting all your eggs in one basket.

“There's a really strong case for ensuring that the load is spread among the company so that you don't just have a single voice. I think, from the beginning, the CEO will be the front face of the company but as you build your company and take on more and more employees, I think there's a really strong case for empowering those people to become voices for the company through employee advocacy.”

Employee advocacy consists of helping your team spread the word about the company on their own profiles, often sharing pre-written copy or ideas for what to write about. Tools like EveryoneSocial also make it easier to manage on a larger scale.

In essence, Christopher Caudle's approach to PR is more than just media coverage—it's about strategically building visibility and credibility that can drive biotech startup success. Beyond the tactical elements of securing press coverage and building thought leadership, the true power of PR lies in its ability to shape perceptions and drive strategic growth.

The long-term benefits go beyond securing investment and will permeate everything you do, from winning new customers to attracting top talent. For biotech startups aiming to make a mark, the message is clear: start early, stay consistent, and always aim to add value to the conversation.

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Written by
Joachim Eeckhout
Over the past decade, I have specialized in science communication and marketing while building a successful biotech media company. Now, I'm sharing what I've learned with you on The Science Marketer.
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