I used to always joke that my colleague Nick was my favorite person. Not because our personalities jived (although they did), but because he served up news on a silver platter. Nick is a product marketing manager who communicates news of new features or products on the roadmap. And if executed thoughtfully, announcing a new product is a surefire way to quality coverage.
New product — perhaps it may require a touch of PR genius — typically comes with news value attached. In this circumstance, we are not forced to create news from scratch, like we so often are. With the addition of these five tips below, you’ll be set up for success.
- Find the story. New product is only as good as the story behind it. A strong narrative will make the difference in mediocre and quality coverage. Take the time to speak with the product managers and engineers who built the product. Come prepared with a list of questions you think a reporter may ask (this doubles for great spokesperson prep). What problem were they trying to solve and why? What was the ideation phase like? What has feedback been so far? Get them talking and most often you’ll find the story. Run with it!
- Plan, and then plan some more. I am a big fan of calendars, check lists, and spreadsheets. Having a detailed plan in place is critical to a successful product launch. Detailed means having goals set, strategies in place, timelines figured out, and assets accounted for (see more in tip 5). Product launches are a concerted effort across multiple teams. It’s very easy for emails to get crossed and confusion to set in. There will be hiccups and times where you may need to go back to the drawing board. But, with a concrete plan in place, at least you’ll have a drawing board to go back to.
- Choose your spokespeople wisely. Choosing the best and most appropriate spokesperson is just as important as nailing the story. Without a captivating spokesperson, your story will fall flat. If you have the option, don’t chose a C-level executive to tell a product story. Put a reporter in a room with the people who had their hands on the product — the people who know it best. Of course, make certain your spokesperson(s) is properly prepped with messaging in mind. In an ideal circumstance, I recommend a product manager and an engineer. Let the product manager handle the “why” and the engineer can be on point for any technical deep dives.
- Pre-brief. Pre-brief. Pre-brief. Give select reporters time to get their hands on the product before they’re expected to write about it. Set aside time for your spokesperson(s) to walk reporters through the product, all while communicating the narrative. This allows you to somewhat control the conversation. If possible, take advantage of in-person briefings, as live demoing the product is always preferred. In cases where it’s not, your next best option is a live call. I recommend using a service like join.me to walk reporters through a visual slide deck in real-time. Reporters are much more likely to cover the news if you’ve briefed them ahead of launch.
- Package up a digital goody bag. Make the story as simple for reporters to write as possible. Assemble an easily accessible file with all assets a reporter may find valuable. This can include press releases, spokespeople bios, product images, additional graphics, fact sheets, etc. Journalists are more likely to cover a story if there’s easy access to relevant materials, as reported by the PRSA. The “little things” do matter.