How to effectively launch your new product or service
As one of the founders of PressDoc people often ask me for advice on how to get maximum exposure when launching their new company. Most of these people run internet startups of which I’ve covered the basics before, but today I would like to dive a little bit deeper into the process of effectively writing and sending out your press release.
What I share below is the workflow I follow when announcing something important such as the launch of a new product or service. Although there are many ways to go about doing this, the following approach has worked pretty well for me so far and has resulted in media coverage from TechCrunch, Forbes, Fast Company and many others.
I might refer to some specific PressDoc features in this article since obviously that’s what I use, but the general process should be the same for whatever format you’re using.
1. Define the message you want to communicate and to whom
If you’re launching your company, introducing a new service or making another important announcement, first ask yourself why people should care about it. For you the reason might be obvious: you want free publicity for your company, but people are only going to write about your news and share it if they feel it’s relevant for their audience. So ask yourself who you want to reach in the end and what message you want to communicate to them.
Now you know who your audience is you will need to get a sense of which media channels to reach them through. If you’re launching a social network for dog owners for example, you want to get a sense of what media outlets are out there that write about social networks, pets and dogs in particular. You don’t need to have the complete list of who to reach out to just yet, but it’s a good idea to at least have a general sense of who you’re targeting before writing your press release.
2. Write your press release(s)
Now you know who your audience is and what message to bring across, it’s time to craft the actual press release. Remember, the goal of the press release is to convince journalists, bloggers and other influencers that your story is worth spreading to their following.
Writing a good press release warrants an entire different article, but the most important thing to remember is to tell a story. There are some exceptions when you’re announcing something very specific such as a highly detailed technological innovation, but in most cases you will want to tell a story instead of presenting the raw facts. For example, when we launched PressDoc we didn’t say we created a content management system for press releases, but we introduced the world to the future of the press release. You’re really selling a solution or experience, not the actual product.
Think about how your announcement will impact people’s lives or the industry you’re in. Be very specific though, you can’t just say “We’re revolutionizing market X”. Instead tell people how the product or service you’re announcing will affect them.
When telling this story you have more tools at your disposal than just text. Be sure to include imagery such as photos and videos if possible. Videos in particular are very effective on the web.
You can also add quotes from stakeholders and your company’s executives to provide journalists with a way to add a personal feel to their article.
What I often do as well is allowing journalists to give something away to their audience. For example: give them a great deal on your new service or give an X number of people your product for free. This strategy isn’t always relevant and should definitely not be used to bribe a journalist, but should be something of value they can provide to their audience.
Lastly, make sure you add relevant contact information to your press release so people will know how to reach you when they would like to request additional information.
3. Create a list of PR contacts
It’s time to create an overview of all the bloggers, journalists and influencers you want to reach. Let’s call them your PR contacts.
This step should be relatively straightforward. You simply make a list of all the important media channels your audience gets their news from. This shouldn’t be much of a problem since you should already know your market. Be thorough and definitely don’t forget about the smaller niche sites. Although they might have a smaller audience they are usually more engaged and can really help you reach the right people.
When creating your list don’t just keep track of the names and URLs, but include the contact information from the relevant people you will need to reach as well.
If the media has written about your company before, be sure to include those previous contacts as well.
One last thing: don’t worry about those ‘wire services’ which send your press release to thousands of random journalists. If you have followed the step above you will have a fairly complete list of the media you need to reach. Mass mailing irrelevant people won’t do you much good.
4. Optional: Determine which outlet gets the scoop
In today’s media landscape, a story covered 15 minutes ago by another blog can already be considered old news. Therefore depending on the type of news and the market you’re in it might be wise to give one specific media channel the scoop. They will get the news before anyone else does, making sure they don’t decide not to cover your story just because a smaller, less influential blog already wrote about it.
Giving a media outlet the scoop is something that’s not advisable in all cases and is actually frowned upon by some as it’s unfair to the smaller blogs. That said it can be an effective strategy and is worth considering.
When you do decide you want to give a specific media channel the news before everyone else make sure they are interested and agree on a date they will write about your story so you will know when you can send the rest of your PR contacts the news.
5. Send personalized emails to journalists, under embargo
If you decided not to give the scoop to a certain blog you can still let journalists know about your announcement before you actually make it public. This gives them a chance to prepare the story and publish it the minute you make your announcement public.
This is called sending your press release “under embargo” and asks journalists to make the news public after the specified time and date. If your announcement is highly sensitive this is generally not a good idea as there’s no way to enforce an embargo. In all other cases it can be a good way to show journalists your appreciation and solves the problem of your news being outdated as soon as someone has written about it.
When you’re sending your press release under embargo to multiple journalists, don’t make the impression they are the only one receiving it as it will hurt your relationship with that journalist over the long term.
If you’re using PressDoc for your press release, you can simply share the private link which will appear after you have saved your first draft. This private link allows you to share your press release without actually publishing it yet.
6. Write draft emails
In the previous step you have probably only sent out the news to a handful of contacts on your contact list. As soon as you make the announcement public you will want to contact all the other journalists as well. You don’t want to have to write all the emails after that as it can be pretty time-consuming. So although you don’t want to send everyone the news just yet, you can already write the emails and save them as drafts to send right after the announcement.
When writing your emails it’s tempting to just write one message and send it to all your contacts in one go. Although many companies do this, I highly advise against it as it’s very unpersonal towards your PR contacts and can come across as spam.
What I do instead is write a very short paragraph explaining my announcement, just a couple of sentences long. I then send every individual a personalized email with a personal salutation (i.e. their first name) and a short explanation why I think this news is relevant for their audience. If they have written about your company before this can be included as well. The short description and link to the press release can be the same for everyone.
Although this process is definitely more time-consuming than sending an email en masse, people will appreciate you taking the time to put yourself in their shoes and think about how the story is relevant for them.
7. Make the announcement
When the day finally comes, you can publish your press release (or have it published automatically if you’re using the schedule option). If you have given a blog the scoop it’s common courtesy not to publish the press release until they have published their story.
As soon as your press release is published, PressDoc will automatically share through different channels such as our Twitter account, our RSS feeds and email alerts. It will also be pushed to Google News and all the major search engines so your announcement is available for all to see.
8. Distribute your press release
In a previous step you set up draft emails for all your PR contacts, now is the time to send them. Besides emailing people you will also want to share your news on social network sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms relevant to your market.
I generally don’t call journalists, but depending on the market you’re in that might be relevant as well. Just make sure these journalists actually want to get called. If you’re having a hard time finding their telephone number that’s generally a good indication they prefer to be contacted in a different way.
9. Thank the people that covered your story
Congratulations! Now that your press release is out in the open you should see some coverage happening. Be sure to enjoy all the free publicity your company receives and thank the people that cover your story via a personal email so you can start building a relationship with them for your future press releases.
That’s my general process of making an announcement and sending out press releases. I’m looking forward to hearing your experiences and if you have any tips of your own be sure to share them in the comments!
Written by Marc Köhlbrugge