case studies

Strategic PR drives startup’s explosive growth

Christine O'Connor | November 28, 2022
San Diego's Fern Street Circus

Investments and deposits in community finance institutions via CNote's platform fund enterprises like San Diego's Fern Street Circus. Photo courtesy of CNote.

Oakland-based CNote deploys corporate cash into deposit and loan products at impact-driven financial institutions that serve low-income women and people of color entrepreneurs, fund affordable housing and support other forms of economic inclusion. Its technology platform gives corporations a simple, safe way to invest in under-resourced communities at scale and provides investing options for institutions and individuals as well.

CNote debuted in late 2016 with the Flagship Fund, open to all investors with no minimum. The women-led fintech hired Thinkshift in 2019 to launch its second product, the Wisdom Fund, targeted at foundations and other institutional investors. Over the following three years, we built CNote’s credibility and market presence, made the case for the company’s long-term growth potential as a platform for investments that deliver impact plus returns, and spread recognition of CNote’s crucial breakthrough: using technology to unlock a new asset class.

TOP RESULTS

  • 234 earned media placements in 3-plus years
  • Positioned CNote in the corporate treasury media as the community finance leader
  • As a strategic partner, helped drive 395% growth

Thinkshift did all that by building up CNote’s thought leadership program, reaching an expanded list of target audiences with media pitches, positioning the company’s leaders as expert sources for journalists at key outlets, strategically framing company news to attract media interest, and regularly updating messaging to support shifts in CNote’s business development focus and market trends.

“Thinkshift brings an eye for PR strategy that has had a huge impact on our brand recognition and visibility throughout the impact investing industry,” says Catherine Berman, CEO and co-founder of CNote. “Getting press as a startup is never an easy feat, but the Thinkshift team has always made sure that CNote is well positioned and that our ethos—putting people at the center of everything we do—comes before everything else. The positive and brand-reinforcing relationships we’ve built with publications and reporters come from Thinkshift’s expertise and their own brand in the industry.”

Amanda Glincher, CNote’s marketing director, adds, “The Thinkshift team is incredibly adept at strategy, execution and adaptability. They are intentional about every decision and are amazing strategic partners.

“That said, the most valuable thing Thinkshift brings to the table is their unwavering commitment to honesty and essential feedback. While other teams might be anxious to complete a checklist and seem agreeable, Thinkshift doesn’t hesitate to push back and provide valuable insights to make sure that decisions are in line with our strategy and values. Thinkshift’s ability to be flexible as life changes, without ever compromising their quality of work, has proved invaluable to our firm.”


WHAT WE DID

  • Created news hooks based on CNote’s growth and capabilities that drove media coverage in the corporate treasury, sustainable business and finance fields
  • Led messaging for tricky situations, product news, business shifts and media interviews
  • Cultivated fruitful relationships with top-tier corporate treasury media; developed other trade niches, including community finance; and capitalized on our existing relationships with impact media and philanthropy outlets to reach potential investors
  • Advised on communications opportunities with corporate partners and developed strategies for making the most of them
  • Developed thought leadership themes, worked with CNote authors on articles and pitched them as expert sources, and advised on speaking and award nominations

HOW IT WORKED

  • CNote has been featured or mentioned positively over the past 3-plus years in 234 articles and podcasts in 124 outlets, including Barron’s, Black Enterprise, Business Insider, Fast Company, The Financial Times, Forbes, ImpactAlpha, InvestmentNews, MarketWatch and U.S. News & World Report.
  • CNote leaders have been published in American Banker, GreenBiz, Inside Philanthropy, Sustainable Brands, Treasury & Risk, Treasury Management International, TriplePundit and other publications.
  • CNote has high brand recognition and visibility throughout the impact investing industry.
  • CNote earns regular mentions in roundups and explainers on impact investing.
  • More and more treasurers are turning to CNote to invest for social impact, including Apple, Netflix, Merck, AMD and Xylem in the past year.
  • Investments on CNote’s platform grew 395% from December 2020 to July 2022, with Thinkshift as an essential partner.

“The ability to work with a firm that is so clearly passionate about the industry and unwilling to compromise the quality of output has been essential in our growth.”

—Catherine Berman, CEO and co-founder

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