When a brand does a great job with a product launch or other significant announcement, it often looks from the outside like a switch was flipped and all of the pieces magically came together. Suddenly everyone is talking about the news, the press is interviewing executives, and social media is all aflutter. Those of us in the business of PR know, of course, that there is no magic to this at all. That kind of response to an announcement is the result of months of work and planning. But too often, PR isn’t a primary consideration until someone realizes that there should be a press release. That’s a problem.
Early Involvement Allows for Thoughtful Storytelling
When PR professionals are involved in the early planning stages of a new product, event, or other important announcement they are in the best position to determine how the public should be introduced to what’s coming over time. This may mean setting the stage months or even a year in advance. For example, it may be smart to pitch stories that highlight the problem your new product will solve prior to actually announcing its availability. The PR team may want to share related news on social networks and with media contacts to get them thinking about relevant issues well before the news release drops.
Very early in the planning process, the PR team should be brought in to work though some critical considerations that will help create the conditions for success. They include:
Definition of Success – Well before the news hits the wire, the team should determine the key performance indicators and set up the criteria for success. It might be based on earned media coverage, sales, website traffic or other metrics that can be measured and reported.
Partnerships – There may be partnerships or other relationships that could be put into place prior to the announcement to get the most traction from the news. This doesn’t happen overnight, so early involvement is key.
Influencers – Who is in the position to influence the audience and how and when should they be brought on board? This may mean engaging with influencers who are familiar with your brand and reaching out to new contacts. Again, this must happen well before the big day.
Key Messages – What are the main messages and themes that we want everyone to understand based on our PR efforts and the earned media we receive? How will we measure that key message pull-through to determine if our storytelling has hit the mark?
Spokespeople – Who are the internal and external people who will tell our story? This may include executives, engineers, third party experts, and customers. They should all be armed with the messages, information, and assets they need. They should also be provided with media training if necessary and given the opportunity to practice answering questions about the news.
Content Assets – With any significant announcement, you’ll probably want to do a press release, but that is far from the only useful asset. Depending on the nature of the news you may also want to consider case studies, videos, infographics, website updates, photographs, and more. The more time you have, the more comprehensive you can be.
Potential Pitfalls – It is always smart to think about what could go wrong. You might consider how you can expect competitors to react or what response your detractors might provide. You can’t always control push back or criticism, but you can be prepared for it and make sure that your spokespeople have responses prepared.
Social Networking – Brands have had a lot of success using social media to build up excitement and curiosity before a big announcement. If this is part of your strategy, starting well ahead of time is necessary.
Timing – PR should have a big influence on the timing of any announcement. There may be other things going on in the marketplace that means a launch should be delayed or accelerated if at all possible. For example, if you are announcing a technology product, you might not want to do it on the day of Apple’s planned press conference because it will be difficult to get the attention of media contacts at that moment.
A good strategy that addresses all of these considerations can be developed, but not instantly. The shorter the time horizon, the fewer options you have. Ideally, PR can build a coalition of influencers, partners, media contacts and others that are ready to amplify the news. Smart brands don’t neglect the fact that this takes time.