Helping Start-Ups Thrive

I’ve been asked to visit with a start-up tomorrow to review their public relations plan. A lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into this business and I’m excited to see their plans and provide whatever help I can before they come out of beta and officially launch. With more than a decade’s worth of experience in managing product launches at AOL, I stick to three initial steps to help teams get organized: 

* The first step is message development and finding examples, stats, stories, first person narratives, trends, etc. that tell the story of your product and why people will want to use it. Sometimes product developers make the mistake of only focusing on the inside jargon of their team, company, or features of their product. No one in the media appreciates this — even industry journalists who are probably used to parsing through tough press releases to find something newsworthy. Remember, too, that just because you launched it, it isn’t newsworthy on its own. Some people like to plan their campaign first, but I’ve noticed that the creative juices of message development help to tease out elements that can be built into PR tactics. 

* Second, develop a pre-launch to post-launch timeline of activities. I’ve seen a lot of companies declare victory when the product ships. There’s no meaningful measurement of units sold, downloads, sales, or click throughs to look at the effectiveness of launch campaigns and to inform the next steps needed to keep the product top of mind. During this planning think about teaser campaigns, strategic leaks of cool product features, who’s on your pre-brief and / or exclusive list, what other digital elements will help tell your story (screencast, b-roll, photos), and how you can keep the campaign alive by planning seasonal activities to re-highlight your product. Setting up Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts and integrating them into your ongoing campaign are important steps, but remember that the name of the game is interactivity — use polls, questions, and solicit feedback to keep the conversation going. 


* Finally, media train key spokespeople. To ensure that your spokespeople don’t revert back to their safety zone of jargon — media train, media train, media train. I’ve had the good fortune to work with Michael Sheehan and his message development triangle is a proven model to help spokespeople move from message to great examples and back and to graciously tackle tough questions.


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