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  • Writer's picturePriscilla Barolo

A step-by-step guide to announcing (pretty much) anything

Ideally a company has a steady drum beat of things to announce throughout the year. Most of this will be delivered to the communications team by the company – product announcements, new executives or board members, acquisitions, events, partner deals – and some hopefully comes from within the comms team (awards, research reports, and so forth). These announcements are balanced with evergreen comms activities, such as pitching executive profiles, developing thought leadership, and so forth.

Any announcement should have a multi-pronged approach where you’re launching various communications and activities in perfect synchronicity. When I do an announcement I imagine I am pulling giant levers labeled “Press Release” and “Tweet” or firing a bunch of battleships out to sea one after the other, because I am an insane dork and it gets me fired up. So let’s see how you can get your levers, or battleships, or whatever in order for maximum impact.

Get the info

First, you need to put on your journalist hat and ask the subject matter experts some questions: what, who, when, uh…what again, and how.

  • What is this announcement? You want the big picture and all details. Be a little annoying with your copious questions. If this is a new feature, you might ask: what’s it called, how does it work, which customers get it (account types, geographies, etc), when will it be generally available (are they absolutely sure about that?!), does it cost extra, is it on by default, why is it cool, do our competitors have this feature already, do customers have to update their software to see it… and so forth. Get all the deets. Hopefully, if you’ve built your internal relationships properly, this won’t be the first you’ve ever heard of this announcement. Either way though, the time has come to get all the details really hammered out.

  • Who cares – i.e. which of our audiences is actually going to find this interesting? For example, the feature release above will probably be most interesting to your power users, sales team, industry analysts, and maybe industry beat reporters.

  • When is the best time to release this news, both in terms of what is happening at your company and in the macro environment? If you have a bunch of other news coming out this month, can you hold this until next month and/or package it with some related news so it can have some breathing room and maybe get more attention? And of course holidays times like Thanksgiving week or during a major, unrelated industry event like Dreamforce or Apple WWDC are terrible times to release news.

  • What are your goals here – what information or feelings do you want your audiences to walk away with? This isn’t just the fact of the announcement, but also a feeling like “Wow, X company is really innovating quickly” or “X company is really strengthening their leadership team, they seem primed for growth.”

  • How big of a deal is this news? What you’re really asking here is: does this merit the full power of our comms engines, or should we hold back a bit? It might seem strange to hold back, and sometimes your internal stakeholders won’t agree, but the fact of the matter is you can’t, for example, do a press release and pitch for every activity coming out of your company. You’ll burn out your team and your media contacts. Also, you might not want to do a full court press on, for example, a table-stakes feature that all your competitors already have.

Brief pause: is there ANY downside?

Step back and put your Debbie Downer hat on. Is there ANYTHING that ANYONE could reasonably say is a downside of this news. Some thought starters: Is there anyone that will be excluded from the benefits of this announcement due to language, pricing, geography, or other factors? Are there any privacy, safety, and security implications? If the announcement involves a person or another company, do they have any challenging aspects of their background or reputation? None of this means you hold the news necessarily, but it does mean you need to dig deeper (and even raise the flag internally if it's a big issue), prep your spokespeople for tough questions, and have reactive comms ready to go. It also might have implications for how proactively you share the news.

Get writing

The answers to the questions above will empower you to develop your plan, in two parts:

1) Your core facts and messages

Given the number of materials you’ll have to create for a major announcement (see item 2 below), first getting agreement among the internal stakeholders on core facts and messages will make your life easier once you start writing. Elements on which to gain early agreement might include:

  • Top three messages for each of the core audiences – what do you want them to know and feel, as I discussed above

  • Fact sheet of what you are announcing to your understanding

  • Your overall comms strategy and plan (see below), as well as the exact date and time (including timezone) you plan to announce

2) Your detailed plan

If you’ve decided on a full-court press, your plan might include all or most of the elements below. Note I put a heavy emphasis on what you provide your customer-facing teams, such as sales and support. This is one area where I feel like comms can fall short. Make sure that if you aren’t drafting it, someone in sales enablement or marketing is on top of getting your customer-facing teams what they need.

  • Press release – including company executive and other quotes (partner, analyst, customer, and so forth)

  • Press strategy and targets – are you going out wide or just to a few publications, are you offering embargoed interviews, exclusive or non-exclusive? Typically this depends on a lot of different variables like how big the news is, is it business or product news, is it a meatier storyline that you could provide an in-depth interview on and/or connect to current trends, current journalist relationships, spokespeople, and so forth

  • Designated spokesperson/people (and any training or prep materials they need)

  • Social media posts (text and image) on each your platforms

  • Blog post (text and image) – you can use a blog to expound upon or give a different take on the news. Zoom did that really effectively with last year’s Zoomtopia announcements, where the PR was kept high-level and linked to detailed blog posts. You can also use the blog in place of the press release if it’s news (such as a new customer) that will not get media interest but you still want to share with other audiences

  • Company-wide internal communications – Email, chat, and intranet post, all linking to an internal FAQ. You can also create talking points and slides for All Hands.

  • Customer-facing teams communications – Email and chat post to customer-facing teams with links to customer materials such as…

    • Proactive or reactive (depending on news) customer email / talking points

    • Customer FAQ

    • Updated sales decks

    • Support macros and/or support page

    • Talking points and slides for revenue org All Hands

  • Industry analyst email / talking points

  • Investor / financial analyst email / talking points (for public companies)

  • Proactive email to all customers (this would be reserved for very big news like you are getting acquired)

  • Inclusion in the next customer newsletter

  • Inclusion in upcoming company events – talking points and slides for employees staffing a tradeshow or for an executive doing a speaking gig soon

Start writing, and leave more time than you’d think (at least a week) for internal reviews. I tend to start reviews with the manager-level subject matter experts. In the case of this new feature, that’s the product manager, the product marketing manager, and maybe their legal partner. After their reviews are done, then I move it to senior leadership.

Get it out there

It’s announcement day! Huzzah! Even if you’re a private company, I recommend getting in the habit of sending your releases before or after market hours. I like a good 6 am PT release. The best way to ensure a smooth, lock-step announcement is to invite anyone who will have to press send (on a social post, internal comm, PR, etc) to a meeting that starts about 10 mins before the release time. You should have checked in with everyone in the preceding day or two that they have what they need and are planning to be there. Nothing like getting into the launch meeting and realizing oops we don’t have our blog post image and the bldmin and graphic designer are not picking up their phones.

So you’re all there, at 6 am the press release crosses the wire and then you start sending out the rest of your comms. I like to get the press release, blog, and social posts published quickly, so the subsequent internal comms can include all of these live links. That way, when employees share the news, they can share your official social posts instead of making up their own.

Once everything is out, you monitor and follow-up, taking into account both internal and external feedback loops. You can send follow-up or updated comms as you get unanticipated questions or requirements. For example, sometimes an announcement doesn’t seem to necessitate a customer FAQ, but then if enough questions come in, it’s worth providing a FAQ or working with the support team to get a support page live.

Start pulling together a report after a few hours. Don’t overdo it here, no one reads these things. I’ve found success sharing with executives a single slide, and including links to details for the rare interested party. The slide includes a sentence on the overall goals of the announcement, and the strategy and results for PR (top articles, coverage stats), social (posts, engagement/reach stats), analyst relations (outreach, quotes), content (blog or other content developed in support), and internal and customer comms (materials developed for the internal and customer audiences). Include a couple sentences on the general sentiment/reception to the news.

Use the next comms team meeting to debrief on the success of the announcement. What would you do better next time? What worked really well and you should definitely do again? There is always room for improvement even on a job well done.

Go breathe a sigh of relief and start preparing for your next big news!


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