So you want to make an announcement: 7 steps to make it a big one

I have been on one side or the other of thousands of tech company announcements – from making tiny feature announcements at a startup that doesn’t exist anymore to reporting under embargo on many, many other peoples’ startup launches and keeping it a secret that Neil Young was going to make a big announcement at Sun’s user conference that I was consulting for. (I got to interview him after the announcement too! It was awesome.)

Here’s what I recommend in order to make your announcement the biggest success it can be. I keep telling people about this, so I decided to just blog it real quickly. I must confess, sometimes I’m good about following these steps and sometimes I’m not. For our most recent feature announcement, I did not – but for many other announcements by my company Little Bird, we did and we got huge results (scroll back on that page to see). It’s all about taking the time to build the social capital and connections.

  1. Start planning as early as possible, weeks or months in advance.
  2. Make a list of who you’d like to talk to about your announcement in advance, in hopes they’ll talk about it with their communities come announcement time. Make special note of people you already have relationships with. (We can automate a lot of this with Little Bird, we just worked with Little Bird investor Jay Baer to do this, for example, which is what made me think I should write this post real quick. Advanced tip: I believe that the people you’ve been connected to the longest, and that you’ve connected to most recently are your most powerful opportunities – as your strongest and freshest connections. We automate discovery of that too btw.)
  3. Don’t have relationships with big voices online yet? Get ready to start investing time, brain power, emotion and communication skills in building those relationships.
  4. Set up a system that makes it easy for you to see when someone you want to talk to says something online. Maybe that’s subscribing to their blog in an RSS reader, maybe it’s putting them on a special Twitter List that you have bookmarked in your browser, maybe it’s making sure you get their Tweets in particular sent to your phone with push notifications every time (that’s what I do). Maybe you’re a Little Bird customer and you make a report with them in it and then watch the Share and Engage page for a highlight reel of their hottest content (I do that too). The point is: set up an interruptive or easy system for you to pay attention to their content regularly, now.
  5. Converse. Add value to their conversations in a dignified and non-self-promotional manner. Favorite their Tweets, cross post their links out onto other social networks, with credit, add smart comments to their blog posts. When you do, they’ll notice. Maybe not the first time, maybe not the second time depending on how busy they are. But they’ll notice and they’ll say “who is this person who’s so smart they know that my brilliance is worth sharing?” And they’ll take a look at you. And if they see a dignified, high-value contributor to conversations of general interest, in some cases they will start listening to you.
  6. Then, before the big day, make a final list of people you want to brief before your announcement. I think a list of 5 to 20 is great. People, publications, etc.
  7. I like embargoes. They say “I’m going to tell several people about this exciting news on the condition that you all agree not to talk about it until this time.” Not everyone does like embargoes but I have gotten HUGE results from them and I like them because they level the playing field: press outlets compete on the quality of their coverage, not the bully-power of their audience size and demands for exclusive news. More on how and why to do this here.

The rest is history, but the big picture story is this: in a networked world, the more you give – the more you’ll receive. So start giving – and figure out who you want to give to today in order to have a warm relationship with them when you reach out about news of your own. Now of course the big secret is that you’ll get a whole hell of a lot more out of this than just publicity 🙂 you’ll learn a lot of things early by connecting online with the key people in your market.

Companies often ask me “who should we talk to?” And I say “who knows about you?” And there is a wide spectrum of circumstances. The last-minute cold-call end of the spectrum is a crowded and frustrating place. So I advise you get yourself over to the other end of the spectrum with just a few minutes invested over a few weeks or months in order to not be a stranger.

  • Robin S

    This is just the bit of info I’ve been searching for. TY.

  • Robin, nice to see you here a couple days after we connected on Twitter! Glad this was useful.

  • Robin S

    Thank you Marshall. I have to catch up on my education. Again, great tips! signed, the accidental Marketer

  • Mike Johnson

    Great stuff. I put my list together and it was 300. Good to know that I should start smaller.