Introducing Innovation: The Basics of New Product Public Relations
In reality, however, it means nothing if no one outside of the lab knows about or believes in the product. Successful companies address awareness and education with the same zeal that they put into research and development. This article covers some of the basics of developing and implementing a public relations program that informs and educates important audiences in the coatings industry following new product development.
Developing relationships with important audiences will do more than promote product sales. It will create a positive industry environment that will support every aspect of a company's business - from employee satisfaction to marketing and supply chain management.
Focus on What Your Audience Cares AboutThe emotional nature of new product development can be a double-edged sword, especially as new sciences such as nanotechnology allow developers to create polymers and emulsions with more and more functional benefits. Asking most developers the simple question, "what is unique about your product," will result in 30 minutes of soliloquy espousing a Santa-style list of factors varying from "outstanding corrosion resistance" to "better viscosity control when used with non-white pigments."
Just like a new mother, they see a perfect creation with no flaws. The first step in the public relations process is the hardest - you have to kill most of the product developer's dreams about his creation. Make them look at the product from the industry's perspective and identify the actual long-term value the product has for the industry. An emulsion may exhibit better tintability, but if the primary application is on the inside of industrial wastewater tanks, color is probably a secondary message at best. Concentrate on what makes the product unique for the right audiences and stick to it.
First Tell Your Own EmployeesEducating your employees about the company's latest innovations is more than a "nice thing to do." While the CEO or vice president of product development may be the official voice of the company, they rarely speak as loudly as the salespeople, product developers and others that interact daily with their peers in the industry.
Introduce the product internally shortly before the public launch - and make a big deal about it. Your employees need to be the product's biggest fans from day one. Host meetings. Throw a party. Create an Intranet page to discuss product attributes and answer questions. Do whatever it takes to get your own people excited about the announcement. That will make the public launch more effective as well as supporting other internal functions such as R&D and marketing. Be careful not to do this too far in advance of the public launch, however, or you will risk having your thunder stolen by the industry rumor mill.
Work With the Trade Media to Officially Launch the ProductThe easiest and often most effective way to educate the industry and generate excitement about new innovation is by working with industry trade media - respected magazines and Web sites that routinely communicate important information to industry leaders - to tell the story. If your announcement is truly newsworthy, the media will willingly help you spread the word and generate excitement. In fact, most trade media seek out relationships with active companies that contribute positively to the industry through new products and innovation.
This approach comes with risks. Not all new product announcements are "newsworthy." The trade media will make that determination after hearing your story. There is always the chance that they will decide not to publish articles about your news.
A Concise, Newsworthy StoryThe simplest way to communicate messages to media is to develop and distribute a product media kit. A media kit contains all of the background information that an editor needs to write an article about a given topic. Your media kit should include a news release about the product introduction, a biography of the product developer, background information about the company and good, high-resolution (300 dpi at 3" X 5") photography. It can also include, where applicable, technical data sheets and other detailed background information about the product and the industry.
In developing the media kit, it is important to keep the product news release short and factual. In most cases, a news release shouldn't be longer than 400 words and should focus exclusively on those features of your new product that industry leaders will care about. Detailed information about your company or the industries you serve belongs in supporting documents like fact sheets and backgrounders.
Finally, when distributing your news release or media kit, do not "spam" it to every editor at every magazine that covers the coatings industry. Instead, focus on those who routinely write about products or industry topics similar to the one you are introducing. While this requires a little work and detailed research, it can make a huge difference in the coverage you receive. Editors - especially trade media editors - like to work with people who read their publications and care about the topics they cover.
Give Editors a Chance to Meet With Your SpokespersonIn conjunction with the media kit, it is important to give editors the opportunity to meet a company spokesperson - either on the phone or, even better, face-to-face. This is important for two reasons. First, your product needs a human face. Choose a spokesperson that can properly communicate the facts to the media and illustrate your excitement about the announcement. This should be a researcher/developer directly involved with the product or a high-level company executive (or both). It should never be a marketing or public relations person.
Second, editors need the opportunity to ask questions and begin a dialogue with your company. There are three basic ways to accomplish this - tradeshows, media events and media tours - with many variations of each.
The first is the most common - showcasing a new product at a tradeshow. Historically, the best way to introduce new coating technology was to time the launch date for a major trade show. However, innovation is more commonplace, and product lifecycles in the coatings industry are shorter than ever before. While tradeshows can still be a place to showcase innovation, companies can no longer afford to change product introduction schedules around them.
The second is to host a media event in which select trade media are invited to meet face-to-face with your spokesperson to learn about and discuss the news. Usually, companies hold these events at their corporate headquarters or in conjunction with a high-profile customer already using the product. Media events communicate the highest level of excitement about a product and allow for the greatest level of interaction. Done properly, however, they are expensive and time intensive.
The third method of face-to-face interaction is the media tour - having your spokesperson visit editors at their publication offices to discuss your product and what it means to the industry. The only major expense is usually travel, which can be minimal if planned properly. However, a media tour doesn't have the same sense of newsworthiness as a well-planned event.
SummaryWhile this article outlines a few of the more common methods, companies can use many different public relations tactics to achieve their goals. New media tools and widespread acceptance of high-speed Internet give them the ability to communicate through multimedia in ways never before available. Choosing the right method to generate excitement in the media is heavily dependent upon the nature of the news a company has to deliver. Done properly, it can generate worldwide awareness and third-party endorsement for your product almost overnight.
Regardless of the methods, however, well-planned media interaction and a strong factual story are the keys to a successful public relations product launch. With the proper strategic planning and timely execution, a company can create a new product introduction program that helps define the company for years to come.
For more information, e-mail Mike Crisp at crisp@ hendersonadv.com.