Product Marketing Rule #5: Follow the New Rules of PR
Product Marketing Rule #5 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing, was written by Don Jennings, Vice President, Client Services at Lois Paul & Partners Public Relations
The previous focus on stand-alone product features is less relevant today with the product marketer now talking more about the bigger picture.
One of the biggest press relations problems for product marketing managers is that the media landscape has changed dramatically over the last five to six years. There are now fewer publications and even fewer reporters, so there is less opportunity to engage media about product specific pitches.
However, that comes with good news in several areas.
With this shift, there now are more free-lance reporters that you can work with and, more importantly, there has been an explosion of social media channels that offer new ways to engage more directly with your target audience in a one on one approach using tools like blogs, Twitter, user communities, LinkedIn, Google +, etc.
Traditional media relations consisted of spending perhaps 80-90% of the media time on perhaps 8-12 critical reporters and editors, but now there is more of a 50-50 or 60-40 balance in the social media/traditional media engagement. This has meant a change in media strategy. The previous focus on stand-alone product features is less relevant today with the product marketer now talking more about the bigger picture: what is the impact for the user and how the product helps productivity, enhances task automation and improves efficiency. Also, what are industry trends and areas of focus that this product ties into so you can tell a broader story of your product as an accelerant for industry trends?
Of course, there are new rules for a new environment.
In social media channels, authenticity and transparency are vital to maintaining credibility. People want a clear understanding of your affiliation so it is an authentic experience. It’s ok to say you’re from the vendor and here is your input. You and your company take that approach because it’s right and it’s the best way to reach the influencers with a wide following; but, by the way, in the United States the FTC has some strict guidelines on bloggers disclosing any affiliation or payment for what they say.
When working with a user community, always start by monitoring your audience first so you can understand what is the audience looking at, what are their hot buttons so that you can engage in an impactful way. That allows you to become a key member and influencer in those communities.
You have major resources within your own organizations such as sales engineers, product development, product management and others, but you need an open approach that recognizes that it’s not a “Wild, Wild West” out there. Everyone who participates needs to realize that they are ambassadors of the brand and the corporate philosophy while still maintaining the authenticity, legitimacy and transparency that is a key part of social media interactions. As manager of the brand, you’ll need to set guidelines for your internal contributors and help them understand that they still have obligations to your employer. This will include confidentiality for certain types of information, human resource policies as well as brand appropriate responses. You should work closely with your social media manager, the PR team and other people who monitor and oversee those types of programs. A good approach is to start with internal blogs where you can nurture the type of dialog you are looking for.
Of course, the whole point of this effort is to monetize your product or service at some point, so you need to be able to measure the effectiveness of these programs from an engagement and influence perspective as well as driving eyeballs to the website, downloads. You want to report back that your involvement in social media activities is ultimately driving higher ROI. For that, see the other rules on web and social media.