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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nail the Press Release BEFORE you start development

I read this brilliant post by Werner Vogel what seems like ages ago (2006) and have been both inspired and haunted by it ever since. I've been inspired by its simplistic genius. I'm haunted because I haven't consistently implemented one of the ideas it contains to the fullest extent possible: creating a press release before you begin development on a release. Contemplating how you'll position a release in the markets you serve ahead of time can help you:

  • Determine if you're delivering sufficient scope to seem compelling (right number and quality of "top level" features)
  • Gauge the excitement the release is likely to generate (if you're not familiar with the Kano Model, you should be!)
  • Better manage changes to scope during development

I would recommend enlisting the help of marketing to draft the press release. I don't think it's critical that all i's be dotted nor t's be crossed, so a list of bullets representing the key message would be sufficient. That having been said, spending some time wordsmithing the press release will make it easier to put yourself in the intended audience's shoes -- an important element of this exercise.

Once drafted, you should socialize the press release with other product stakeholders, including senior management to ensure they are on board with your approach and priorities. If your product is part of a portfolio, you should consider sharing the press release with other product managers. There's a reasonably good chance you'll get different feedback on the release with this format than you might from a simple set of bullets on a PowerPoint slide.

Finally, revisit the press release with marketing during the release to assess the impact of scope changes on key messages. Unfortunately, in my experience, these checkups have always been an exercise in assessing how de-scoping features will affect the overall message. One of the most painful experiences of my career was watching scope dwindle to the point that a press release was barely possible. I must admit, thinking about the press release made this dip below critical mass fairly obvious to all involved (including development, who seemed satisfied with the huge progress they had made on features that we couldn't position with customers).

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