The Press Mating Dance

The approach

A few weeks ago I had the dubious honor of being a real spokesperson for a real launching product. Of course, all product managers are spokespeople in some capacity — we speak at conferences, we speak to customers, we host webinars and do demos. There are just so many wonderful flavors to the spiel, but facing the editors turned out a little different.

If you are used to talking to customers all the time, snapping out of the customer mode can be a challenge. Here are some helpful tips to keep you from straying too far off track.

Press is not in the market for what you have

The hardest part is remembering that no matter what you say and how you say it the editor will not buy your product. Unlike everyone else out there that I’ve talked to before they are not motivated by pain that your product eliminates. Therefore, convincing the press that your product eliminates a customer’s pain is only of secondary importance.

Telling an editor about product features is like telling someone that you have a million bucks in the bank and how happy that makes you. Yes, that’s great, but what’s in it for the publication? Your great product can obviously benefit the customer, but does that automatically mean that it should be covered? The answer as you might have guessed is a firm No.

Emotional content and scoop is everything

Ultimately, the magazine and the editors that represent it are motivated by exclusive stories. The scoop gives them the leverage over other publications. The scoop is most definitely not a commodity, it is something prized and fleeting. Once the story is out, it’s out for everyone.

You may think that there is no scoop in what you are presenting. In fact, at face value 99% of editor briefings contain no intrinsic scoop. Unless you are announcing a truly revolutionary product, the benefit of them breaking a story is marginal. This is what you are working against when you do press briefings.

However, everything no matter how minute and insignificant, can be made scoop-worthy. The best and the easiest way to do that is to tell a story, which literally means getting rid of facts and feature lits and replacing it with some sort of emotional content. Trust me, emotions are more marketable than numbers.

Storytelling counts

Storytelling is perhaps the hardest part of winning hearts and minds of the publishers and the editors that come after the scoop. Alright, so you probably don’t have any scoop, so just build a story around what you want to say to them.

Emotional contents will be like the sugar coating around the bitter pill that you are trying to get them to swallow. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you don’t actually fail if they just write the facts down word for word. That may sound like a good deal until you realize that it doesn’t really help you to market the product.

Audience can really pick up on the fact that the writer has absolutely no emotional attachment to the story he is telling. If you end up in this situation, the potential customers will come to expect a ‘meh’ product where an ‘yay’ product should have been expected.

Bringing it all together

Alright so let me give you a real example from my own conversations.

See the product I was launching is a wireless kit – something that a system integrator would use to prototype a low-power wireless network application. I can see your eyes are getting glazed over. When I would start listening all the facts about the range performance, the power consumption and the amount of memory so would the editors’. Remember they hears tens of these pitches a day.

So how does one wrap this in a story?

One thing that customers always do when they get one of these kits is that they start running around their building trying to get a practical sense of what the range performance is really like. Nobody trusts the marketing documentation. They want to test it for themselves.

The excitement of running around the building with the new boards, of placing them inside of elevators (all metal) or stairwells (reinforced walls) or other nooks and crannies of a building is what system engineers do. That’s a great story!

It’s easy to relate to and easy to imagine. It has nothing to do with decibels and milliamps, and it has everything to do with emotional content attached to getting this product.

Aim for that, and you’ll be golden.


2 responses to “The Press Mating Dance

  1. Larry Ferlazzo

    Will you be creating the option of letting people register for Turn O Phrase without using Twitter or Facebook. Since most school content filters don’t allow either, students can’t use the site in school.

    Larry Ferlazzo

    • Larry,

      I had no idea this was a problem. I will certainly reconsider this design, so that you can access the puzzles from wherever.

      I don’t have much time now to work on the project though, so it may be a couple of weeks before you see the changes. For now, I suggest you register your email by clicking on “Create Your Own” at the top. Once I make the changes, I’ll notify you.

      If you know of other people who are facing a similar issue, you should let them know to do the same.


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