You've finally got your new product or service ready to launch. It's a game-changer, and now you want publicity because that can be the key to your success.
You think the news is how your shiny new thing works. But how something works isn't that great of a story: The media won't care, and until you give them something to cling to, your customers might not, either.
Your news is way more exciting than how your new thing works: It's how you help your customers solve their problems; how you make their lives better, simpler, more practical, profitable, mindful. It's likely what prompted you to start developing the new thing in the first place.
You may have lost sight of that because you've been focused on getting the details right. And all the blood, sweat, tears and dozens of cold pizzas that you inhaled along the way should be worth a nod in the press. But your audience—the media and stakeholders—need the dots connected for them.
You need to show, not tell, why you matter and why they should care.
The stakes are high: 90% of new product launches fail every year, according to an oft-quoted piece by Joan Schneider and Julie Hall published in the Harvard Business Review.
To capture the attention and imagination of your customers, you need to tell a great story. Stories help put your value in context for your audiences. As novelist Richard Powers wrote in his best-seller The Overstory, "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story."
Get the press to care about your news by taking them on a journey. Show why you matter, pique their interest, and give them a reason to report on you. Reporters are naturally curious, and they are human.
The biggest mistake is to start that process by writing a news release.
Sure, a release will lay out your messages, put your innovation in context and, through your spokesperson's voice, editorialize a little about why you're changing the game. Done well, the release is an outline for journalists. But it's not a brochure, so strike out all marketing speak.
To get your press release right, put the following pieces together first.
- Clearly explain what problem you solve. Go beyond the bugs that you fix. Say why those bugs are annoying or preventing your audience from getting what they need. When IBM announced a new AI tool for advertisers to help them improve their ad targeting, the top of the release explained that people are bombarded with ads, and they ignore the ones they don't need. You can relate, right?
- Put your solution in human terms. You help people do something better. Will your solution save them time? Enable more creativity? For example, Transfr is a company that partners with other large companies to train people for manufacturing jobs using virtual reality. The company story isn't about cool headsets, it's about getting people who are out of work back on the career ladder. Announcements that Transfr makes are rooted in that message.
- Ban all jargon. Put your new thing into the plainest possible language. Avoid acronyms, industry-insider language, and any words or phrases that obfuscate what you do; otherwise, your innovation might sound sneakily similar to your competitor's and you won't succeed in standing apart.
- Show your "blooper" reel. Take a lesson from the B2C playbook and share a story or two about the bumps you hit on your way to success. What went wrong during beta testing that helped you figure out how to get it right? For example, Robin Williams's son just launched a new line of supplements to help alleviate depression and anxiety. He says he spent two years testing prototypes on family and friends, trying to get the taste and effects right. Imagine yourself in the tester's seat.
- Prepare your spokespeople. Arm your CEO and head of product with specific messages tailored to your different audiences. Your CEO can cover top-tier press and podcasts; your head of product can speak to peers in vertical press. Each provides an authentic perspective for peers and stakeholders.
- Share a customer story. Identify a hero from your beta testers and show how they're already getting great results with your new solution. User experiences validate your claims and prove that your new thing is worth considering. Turn those stories into videos and graphic testimonials that you can share on your blog and on social media.
- Anticipate the good, the bad, and the ugly. Brainstorm every possible question and double-down on the worst-case scenarios. Prepare your Q&As, including "bad" questions. Then set your systems up to monitor the news and social media channels.
- Now, write that release. Once you have all the previous pieces in place, you'll finally be ready to write your jargon-free release. Include a quotation that helps add value to your announcement, not just a generic "we're pleased to bring this product to market." Include visual assets (images, videos, demos, etc.); that old adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words," is very much true.
Above all else, show me why your new thing matters to me.
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