Friday, February 15, 2008

For immediate release

I had a meeting last week with a collection of new business partners. Great guys (and firms). As our conversation evolved, we shifted gears to the marketing of our collaboration: Positioning, messaging, talking points, media outreach, etc. Basic blocking and tackling.

In practice organizations too often fumble -- tactically and strategically -- as they block and tackle their way through marketing. A myopic (company-specific) cause is typically an apathetic and erroneous focus on features and benefits. Companies like to sell drills; customers (who care and count and have $) want to buy holes. Great companies focus on the outcomes customers seek (the job they’re seeking to accomplish), versus trumpeting the whats and hows of their offering. It’s sad and all too common to see a company push attributes and pricing into a market.

Great marketing is conversational, a crescendo of meaningful interactions focused on fulfilling a “need to have” proposition. Conversations begin with an understanding of customer needs (outcomes), polished through positioning and illuminated through the company’s brand (the collection of perceptions in the minds of their constituents). If you’re good, you can craft and control the conversation and how constituents perceive your company.

Back to our meeting. As we bandied about the how, what and why of our collaboration, one of our partners tendered a thought: Why not create a mock press release announcing our relationship? Since we’re apt to create a real release, it’s a sage starting point, an opportunity to ensure we’re on the same page, singing the same song, commencing a series of meaningful conversations about the differential nature of our collaboration. I volunteered to take a first whack, harkening to bygone days as a journalist.

The mock release idea is brilliant, and its application is vast. Any time you do something meaningful – start a company, launch a product, hire a key employee, form a collaborative alliance, forge a new direction – craft a press release. In the process you can imagineer testimonials (from insiders and outsiders), refine your positioning, master your messaging, and orchestrate your song. It will be out of tune initially; that’s okay. The objective is to practice and polish before you preach. When you step to the public podium, the choir will harmoniously orate your message.

Post-script (26 Feb 08): The Great Josh Morgan just shot me a relevant, read-my-mind post about the intrinsic value of press releases ... a taste:

... the most helpful part of the press release that still hasn’t changed for me is the process of creating it. Having a release as a concrete document you are creating helps focus internal audiences on what they really want to say and who they want to say it to. This is incredibly important for startups.

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