Launches in the tech public relations world are one of those things that you crave – yet subsequently dread. They can provide some of the biggest coverage hits of your career, yet never fail to give you that squirmy feeling in the pit of your stomach reminiscent of that ill-advised tequila shot on Friday night. There are a lot of rewards, including that Christmas-morning-thrill you get when the Wall Street Journal emails you back, but equal trepidation around setting proper client expectations.
The thing about launches is there is always a lot riding on the outcome. Profit and future company success collide with personal pride, board pressure and the pursuit of another funding round to create one giant web of expectations. Whether fair or not, the public perception of the launch often overshadows the technical achievement of the product or the company itself. Much of this stems from the inherent value of third party validation – like the first time someone besides your mother tells you that you’re pretty. While good ol’ mom may have been saying those words for years, hearing them from one other person, no matter how random, always seems to carry more weight. Coverage in Mashable, TechCrunch or GigaOm can be turned into credibility for investors or board members who are slightly removed from the day-to-day process. It gives these parties instant reassurance that they’ve placed their money in capable hands.
Given all that’s riding on a PR bang on launch day, how do you make sure to gain the attention of the masses?
Let’s face it – we all have our biases. These are only exponentially increased when you’re the CEO of a company that you’ve created, helped to grow and essentially thrown away your 401k to fund. I get it. You think what you’ve done is great and many times it is – the challenge is convincing everyone else of its epic awesomeness. Be realistic about your shortcomings, they’ll be much easier to address if you’ve taken the time to actualize legitimate solutions. People (journalists especially) appreciate a candid, honest interview over an hour-long sales pitch.
Want a feature in Wall Street Journal? Get in line. Features in top tier business press publications aren’t the reward of the lucky, or even the most innovative, companies. They’re typically reserved for semi-established organizations that are living examples of bigger business trends. Or those that get $100 million in funding. If you achieve either one of those things, we can definitely talk, but in the meantime focus on building a strong base of industry press who love you. It will only help you achieve those bigger outlets in the future.
If you release the same old boring press release, expect the same old boring articles. Want press to talk about your company culture, innovative nature or extremely awesome workforce? Find a new way to break the news. Check out SEOmoz’s Memenouncement for an excellent example of how to break funding news without boring the masses.
On the same token, differentiate yourself from your competitors. Be able to intelligently speak about why your solution/company is better than the rest – and have the proof to back it up.
The most successful companies are willing to step outside the box and accept the risk (and reward) that comes with going against the norm. This goes for PR as well – often we’re rewarded for being creative and making the journalist’s job of reading one more pitch just a bit more entertaining. Occasionally we’re abused via email, but those cases are relatively few and far between. I won’t name names. This time.
Be willing to take those risks, evaluate afterwards and readjust. There isn’t anything wrong with making a mistake – these often lead to flashes of brilliance that manifest themselves in more successful attempts down the road.
Try to Enjoy Yourself
There's nothing more satisfying (except maybe that whole profit thing) than seeing your company or product reviewed in a positive light. Try to relax and enjoy the process - you'll likely be spending the days leading up to the launch chatting with reporters and bragging about the culmination of all those sleepless nights. If you can, lay back, have a beer and let your PR team do their job. After all, you only launch once.