From The Rock

Before the Launch

By | August 13, 2012

Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to work with numerous companies and startups to plan for and implement strategic communications initiatives to launch new products, services, brands or businesses. Whether we helped in naming the business from day one or simply handled the media relations, the common denominator is this: We were involved from the early stages.

I often hear this from business owners: “We’re in development right now and simply not ready for a big PR splash.” And I absolutely agree that if you’re in the midst of getting organized operationally, you are not ready for the official external launch. However, don’t make the mistake of missing out on the benefit of involving a PR team in the early stages of any endeavor.

There’s so much more to PR than the big “splash” into the media and public arenas. Public relations serves a bigger purpose than simply getting a great article on the cover of your local business news section. We are an integral aspect of building your communications arsenal. And our efforts take planning! We advise that at least three months or more be designated to the ramping up of PR efforts before the launch of any new company, product or service line. Why? Because you have to be ready operationally before any reporter, blogger or consumer has the opportunity to set eyes on you.

Here are a few things that we feel are the most important to have in place before the launch:

  1. Name – This seems like a fundamental aspect of starting a business. The name is usually the first thing to come, right? But have you done proper research to see if there are other businesses sharing that name or if the corresponding web domains are available? What is the story behind your name? Does it fit your mission as a business in some form or fashion? (see Kelli’s post, “What’s in a name?”, for more about this topic)
  2. Website – Gone are the days of looking up phone numbers in the Yellow Pages. A professional and easy-to-navigate website is integral to business success. Additionally, copy must be well written and should easily communicate your brand.
  3. Strategic PR plan – Through proper research, a PR strategy with tactics should be in place prior to launch. This will outline all avenues that will be taken to communicate your launch through media, social media, direct marketing, events, etc. to your target audiences. A proper PR plan should also span beyond the launch, as far as a year ahead, taking into account future growth plans, milestones and other key aspects of the business.
  4. Marketing arsenal – The marketing arsenal is important when it comes to B2B and B2C business building. Do you have appropriate marketing materials (business cards, brochures, rack cards, sales sheets, etc.) to leave behind when pitching your business or for customers to take to learn more about your products or services? Is your sales team or frontline staff armed with appropriate speaking points or key messages about your business or new product? Ambassador training can many times make or break message alignment − from leadership to sales staff.
  5. Media materials – Your media kit and other materials should have ready-to-go information about your business for media use. This includes leadership bios, headshots, fact sheets, company history, relevant white papers or case studies, boilerplate, news release template, general talking points, targeted media list and b-roll. Having this taken care of in advance eases stress in the immediate weeks leading up to launch.
  6. Social media – There’s relevancy in almost every form of social media to nearly every business. Begin your social media presence (or be ready to publish) before launch. And know which social media outlets are the best for your type of business. Don’t forget to include links to social media pages on your website and in marketing materials.
So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that PR is only useful when you’re ready to release your news. Remember that effective communications strategy takes planning and long-term vision to ensure proper success!