There’s more to public relations than just writing a press release. Huh, you say? That’s right. So, you have the release. What are you going to do with it? Who does it target? Is it right for all of the media that you are sending it to? Just a few things to think about. PR is not a one-size-fits-all kind of job. While working with a professional PR firm can certainly help take a large portion of the work off your plate, you don’t necessarily need a huge PR agency to successfully launch a new product.
A PR strategy for a new product launch takes some thought and attention, and timing is everything. Here’s a timeline that’s good to follow, if you can:
6-12 months in advance of product release
Before you start pitching media, or even writing your press release, it’s best to get all of your other ducks in a row. Make sure your website is up and looks great. Make sure you have high-resolution, professional photography taken of your product, and some samples in case media would like to shoot your stuff. This is probably the number one complaint of most editors and writers. If you don’t have topnotch photos to share, they might not feature your product. This rings especially true for local and regional magazine editors who have tiny photography budgets — they rely on your pics. Oh, and don’t even suggest that they pay for it…
6-9 months in advance
Recruit a professional writer to craft a great press release. Why so far in advance? Long-lead national publications typically work this far in advance! So, if you want to get your new line of dog clothes into Glamour’s Holiday Issue, for example, you need to be pitching them around June. Monthly, long-lead regional or local publications usually don’t work this far in advance — around 2 to 4 months out for those.
That brings us to creating a media list for long-lead outreach. There are so many outlets that you can pitch, but start with a manageable list of 25-50 if you are doing it by yourself.
Don’t blanket email editors; instead, email them one by one and include a concise but thorough pitch with an overview of the product and how/where it’s appropriate for their publication as well as the press release within the body copy of the email. If it’s a great-looking product, attach a LOW-resolution jpeg or png file to the email so they can have a look (and request the high-res version if interested). Wait two weeks between follow-ups. If you send a third follow-up, offer a different story idea, such as a trend story that your product falls into. After the third follow up without a response, leave them alone as they are likely not interested. Also, email is the best method of pitching; avoid potentially irritating busy editors with phone calls.
4-6 months in advance
If you haven’t already done so, go ahead and set up your social media accounts around this time, and come up with a strategy to keep them updated (even if it’s posting twice weekly — find some consistency). Don’t start posting too much about your specific new products at this point, though — instead, offer up useful and relevant information, expert tips, news, product teasers and other updates (are you picking out packaging colors? Tweet about it!).
3-4 months in advance
If your company already has social media or the product is an extension of an existing line, you can tease the upcoming product launch and build some fun giveaways around it now.
Craft a regional/local long-lead media list, which will include print publications. If you plan on reaching out to national television programs, develop a list for those as well. Once your lists are established, begin pitching media. Again, make sure to write every pitch for the exact medium you are targeting, as they are all different.
1-2 months in advance
Put together a regional/local short-lead media list, which will include daily and weekly print publications, radio and TV. Begin pitching.
1 month in advance
Put your press release on the wire through a wire service, such as PR web or PR Newswire. It takes search engines, like Google and Bing, around 30 days to fully index your release and have it show up in search results.
1 week in advance
Throw a pre-launch media briefing in a key market, or plan for several media events in various key markets if you have more than one. Make the event fun and interesting for reporters to attend. Keep speeches short and provide goody bags with your press release and a product sample.
Day of launch
Send an email out to your entire database about the product, and announce it on all of your platforms. Watch your hard work come to fruition! And remember, keep up with your emails and be very responsive to any interested media; don’t wait several days to respond to them or you might lose the opportunity.