The Ins and Outs of PR for Product Launches
Each year, brands launch more than 30,000 new consumer products. 80% of them fail.
In spite of the risk of failure, 63% of people responding to a Nielsen study said they like brands to offer new products—which means they’ll continue to try.
While PR plays a vital role in launching products – after all, it helps educate the public and drive demand – it’s not always an easy undertaking.
“Media stories are a great way to reach and teach the masses,” says Lonny Kocina of the Media Relations Agency. “That’s because product publicity is relatively low cost compared to other mass promotion techniques. And while a product is new, it’s especially newsworthy.”
Researching the right journalists and publications and thoughtfully crafting a pitch to get their attention can yield results, though it’s getting tougher to stand out above the noise that fills a reporter’s inbox.
Why is it so much harder to get a journalist’s attention these days?
“The proliferation of media channels and how we consume information has changed everything,” said Tamsin Henderson, Director, Gather Creative. “Journalists no longer have time to go to events like they used to, so unless you’re a brand with loads of cash for a glitzy event, product launch PR requires a more entrepreneurial approach.”
“I remember the days years ago when a product launch (especially a tech product) would get coverage on every technology outlet out there,” says Crystal Richard, president of Crystal Richard & Co. “You’d set an embargo, distribute the news a week or so in advance and bam! When that embargo lifted, media aplenty went live. Today, unless you’re Google or Facebook, those days are now a thing of the past.”
And, leading with the product can sometimes be an issue for journalists who now want to write about something more.
“I would argue that the best pitches – the ones I’m most receptive to – are the ones that feel most human,” says Matthew Hughes, a reporter at The Next Web.
It’s hard to make a pitch sound human if you’re focusing on the product.
So what DOES work to earn media coverage for a new product?
When you’re tasked with handling public relations for a product launch, some approaches may get you further than others.
Here are tactics that PR pros in the trenches have used to successfully secure media coverage to help get new products off the ground:
1) Offer high-quality assets: Visuals can help get attention.
“Provide a few stunning, professional photos showing the product with real people, or in beautiful settings,” said Henderson. “Remember, people share and like nice pics. And the more shares a journalist’s story gets, the happier his or her bosses. So they’re more likely to feature your story if it’s got terrific photos or illustrations.”
Henderson says the editor of a business magazine once told her he’d chose her story as the front page feature purely because of the fantastic photo.
“It was a mediocre story, but he knew an outstanding photo would sell more magazines,” explains Henderson.
She also recommends including a short video. “It can add an extra dimension to your story and give some nice background,” she says.
2) Build a relationship: It can be rough for any media pitch to be successful these days if you haven’t first established a relationship with the reporters you want to target.
“In the long run, a relationship will be much more useful,” says Darcy Cudmore, PR and Social Media for Powerful Outreach.
“If you have an approaching product launch, I suggest reaching out to a few reporters well in advance. To start, just strike up a conversation about their work,” says Cudmore.
Later, when you’re ready to contact them about a product launch, you’ll have already established a foundation, Cudmore suggests.
An example he cites: He started following a tech journalist and complimenting her work whenever he read something he genuinely enjoyed. Later, when he had clients in the space, he reached out to her, resulting in stories about two of his clients.
“I appreciate the coverage, and she appreciates getting the inside scoop on new products,” said Cudmore.
3) Put the founders first: Instead of leading with the product, talk about the founders.
“Put the founders first,” says Melanie Marten, owner of Berlin-based agency The Coup. “You need the people behind the product to step up and give the product a soul.”
Include something about the entrepreneur’s background or journey to get a journalist on board. Behind every product, there’s usually an interesting story to tell.
4) Skip the “launch” and aim for ongoing brand awareness: Without the deadline attached, PR goals are more attainable, says Richard.
“There’s no pressure or ticking clock as an embargo approaches that will cause a journalist to shy away,” says Richard.
“People often think you need a “launch” to get a feature article. You don’t. Do cool things. Change the world. Build an amazing culture. These are all important milestones that can be used to tell your story to the media and get coverage, without the urgency of telling a writer they need to cover on a specific date or else.”
5) Do targeted research: “I often used Meltwater to run international searches based on very specific keywords to help find even the most niche blog,” Henderson says.
“I export it to excel, and sort by readership, location, type of outlet, etc., etc…This gives me an instant window into influencers talking about products similar to whatever I’m launching. So I can prioritize my media list, without having to spend days researching who to contact.”
Henderson says she also uses Meltwater to gather links and data for detailed coverage reports following launches.
Try these approaches to get coverage for a new product
While conducting PR for product launches may not be as simple as it once was, it can still be done successfully. If you’re looking for more pitching tactics, watch our on-demand webinar on the topic, Don’t Be That Guy.