Launching a new product or expanding to a new market? Whatever your next company announcement may be, relying on a template press release is a strategy of the past. These days, the medium that sends the message is just as important as the message itself. It's not only a decision that determines whether you're reaching your target audience effectively, but also an opportunity to generate a buzz about your company's rightful place on the cutting edge of public relations.
For example, clothing retailer J.Crew debuted items from its fall collection exclusively on its Pinterest page last Tuesday, a day before the products appeared on its company website and its seasonal catalogs were mailed out, according to SmartPlanet. Over 60,000 Pinterest followers reveled in the sneak peek while fashion and tech blogs applauded the company for its breakthrough initiative.
"Press releases are certainly one medium, but as audiences get more segmented and scattered, relying on just one medium isn't enough," says Shama Kabani, founder and CEO of Marketing Zen Group, a full-service online marketing company. "You have to know where your audience is most likely to hear your announcement. J.Crew released their catalog on Pinterest because they know that's where their audience engages with them."
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Social media platforms have made it much easier for companies to deliver their news in ways worthy of a double-take: earlier this summer, designer Oscar de la Renta revealed first shots of its fall advertising campaign on Instagram, and MTV announced nominations for its top Video Music Award with short videos on Instagram and Vine. But in-person initiatives are still incredibly powerful: Kabani loved when virtual clicker company Poll Everywhere set up a live version of its Clicker Museum website at their ISTE12 booth last year, making their tweets the dominant thread in the conference's stream.
Consider the following expert advice on how entrepreneurs can make a media moment out of their next announcement's message and its method of delivery:
Time it wisely. Before even brainstorming cool vehicles for an announcement, make sure your company is ready to do so in the first place. "The most important part of PR is your product – you need to make sure your company's product or service is ready to be critiqued by the media and used by the end user," says Chris Barrett, founder of PRserve.com, a public relations firm for startups. "You get one shot to make a first impression with the media and your clients, so make sure you are prepared on every angle. It can take years of building before you become an overnight success." Even more so, make sure the announcement is something your audience will genuinely care about, and that it achieves a certain quantifiable goal like driving visibility or attracting investors, adds Kabani.
Pick a platform. Once you've determined that your company has a message ready for delivery, pick a platform to make the announcement effectively. Note what other companies are doing, but don't necessary replicate their strategies, especially if imitation is inappropriate. "A B2B company making an announcement may be better of doing it on LinkedIn vs. Facebook; another company with a very tech savvy young audience may choose Instagram or Tumblr," advises Kabani. And if your product requires a live demonstration or an in-person component, consider making a spectacle at your industry's next tradeshow or with a special interactive presentation at the company headquarters. Consider which PR thresholds have already been crossed. "There is only one time to be the first to release a six-second movie trailer on Vine, but you could be the first film to release the first six seconds of your film on Vine, or be the first startup to announce your seed round over Vine," says Barrett," though you may have to speak quickly in Micro Machines style if have a long list of angel investors!"
Opt for out-of-the-box. To make your announcement rise above the rest, add a heavy dose of creativity and stay away from the gimmicks. "You don't need to do demos while wearing a dinosaur costume just so you're remembered as the startup who had the dinosaur at the trade show," laughs Barrett. Our experts simply recommend adding a buzzworthy component to a normal marketing plan: spark mystery with an intriguing billboard, integrate trending technology (like using a pair of Google Glass Explorers) into a virtual announcement, stage an interactive presentation at your tradeshow booth, or start a local treasure hunt with well-placed QR codes that lead to the big news. Even direct mailers can be effective: Kabani recalls that Grasshopper launched its Entrepreneur Movement by sending 5,000 chocolate-covered grasshoppers to major influencers. To judge whether your strategy has potential virality, Kabani advises asking yourself the following: If you saw it, would you be tempted to share it with others? And, is it directly relatable to your product or service?
Generate a conversation. Before making the noteworthy announcement, make sure the right eyeballs are excitedly watching for your news. Offer exclusives to a select group of journalists at relevant media outlets with a personalized email (Barrett notes that this is especially effective for launches at events) and share short hints on the company's social media platforms for fans. Last month, fashion designer Alexander Wang post a cryptic tweet and hosted a giveaway to whomever could guess that the NYC event would be a massive merchandise giveaway. Once the announcement is made, sponsor posts on Facebook and Twitter for maximum visibility, and include a specific hashtag to track the conversation, advises Kabani. "It is important to monitor and respond real-time – if there is any type of backlash, handle it with compassion and efficiency."
Build on the momentum. Contrary to previous PR customs, press releases should be pushed to post-announcement, says Barrett, who advises letting exclusive media outlets report on the buzz and then following up with a statement from your company. Post additional product information on the company website, release an in-depth demonstration on your YouTube channel, or publish a series of behind-the-scenes Instagram videos from the live announcement. And don't forget to thank all those who helped to get the message out there in a cool way (journalists, event producers, influencers) and track those quantifiable results to highlight your initiative as pioneering public relations case study.