It’s only November, but rest assured that preparations for NAMM 2020 in January are in full swing. New shiny is being shined, or most likely new renders being rendered. And this seasoned editor is already bracing himself for the vast assortment of good and bad PR heading in the general direction of my inbox in the coming weeks.
But before that happens, we (i.e. the industry and myself) need to have a chat about product launches. Having covered every major release since 2003, it’s fair to say that I have enough editorial experience in this game to be able to comment on what works, and importantly what doesn’t.
So please allow me share, with the very best of intentions, a few words of sage advice (and a little tongue-in-cheek ribbing too) to ensure that your latest and greatest reaches the pages of not just DJWORX, but the also those of the ever-growing and diverse horde of “media outlets” in the most efficient manner.
SOME FACTS TO START
If you’re involved in the marketing of new DJ shiny, and in particular the preparation of press materials, you absolutely need to bear the following in mind, and keep them front and centre in everything you do:
- Attention spans are short
- Patience levels have worn thin
- Cynicism is growing
- We’ve probably seen it all before
With this in mind…
I know I know — you’re super thrilled and excited to share some really big news with us all. But instead you send out a blurry blob of an image designed to induce trouser trauma and GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) at the same time. But here’s what actually happens:
- You show too much and spill the beans (especially if I go at it forensically in Photoshop), thus blowing your carefully orchestrated launch.
- Most likely you don’t show enough, allowing the readers to fill in the gaps with laws of physics breaking sci-fi impossibilities that only three people in the world would have a use for.
- You take too long to get to the point, boredom sets in, and the next shiny thing has caught our collective attention.
In reality, your attempt to build a buzz ends up killing it before PR is even posted. And no amount of carefully crafted hyperbole-laden verbiage is going to hide the fact that the teaser never ever lives up to the impossible expectations of the audience. You only have to look at the comments on our teaser story about whatever Denon DJ has up its sleeve to see how diverse and probably wrong those guesses are.
My advice — in the era of fake news, stop giving the community the opportunity to write their own. Let them deal with nothing but pure facts from the start, because when they fill in the dots, it’s likely to be another nail in the launch coffin. Remember — #hardfacts not #fakenews.
CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY
Since the dawn of the digital DJ age, there have been but a few legitimate uses of the phrase “game changer”. The CDJ-1000 definitely did, and DVS too. And I’d say the Vestax VCI-100 created the controller paradigm in the consciousness of the masses. But not every single iteration of the last product is a game changer. So stop saying it. It’s like profanity — if you fucking overuse that shit, it fucking loses all fucking impact. See?
Also, stop claiming firsts, because in the age of “it’s all been done before”, it probably isn’t. Besides, nobody except the marketing department cares if it’s a first — we only care about the value it brings to us as DJs. In essence, you reduce the potential market to early adopters by claiming firsts.
Just don’t make us roll our eyes before we’ve even read the first paragraph, because I guarantee that this first impression will set the tone for how we approach the rest of the release.
Now to a particular bee in my editor’s bonnet. So you’ve got a stunning product, with a lavishly crafted media campaign that’s going to shock and awe. And then some dickhead gets hold of the info you mass mailed with a toothless embargo and blows the whole damned thing for shits, giggles, and some sort of fleeting internet fame. Sound familiar?
There are steps that you can take to stop this happening.
- Don’t tease. Yes this again. It just sets the grapevine-shaking and data-mining into overdrive. Speculative URLs will be hit, the FCC database trawled, and Google will be deep-dived. Essentially if it exists online somewhere outside of your four walls, it will be found, even on your server. History shows this repeatedly.
- Don’t mass mail. Does that every growing list of “media outlets” really need to have this information? Do you want quality coverage or just uncontrolled mass exposure? The more people who have it, the greater the chances of leakage.
- Don’t send PR out early. The longer it’s out there, the greater the chance of it being found, shared, and leaked.
- Enforce your embargoes and NDAs. People in possession of confidential material must be made aware of real consequences if they share. Because right now, there aren’t any. A strongly worded email is the worst we can expect, and then it’s forgotten.
- Run a tighter ship. It’s hard enough to control the outside world. But your internal procedures could do with looking at as well. And here’s a suitably current example of why.
So summing up — minimise the number of people you send PR out to, and leave it as late as possible. More than anything, make it abundantly clear that if they leak, they’re off the press list, don’t get first batch shipments, or otherwise lose their seat at the table. The old adage of it being easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission is never truer — and you keep allowing it to happen.
If I can finish with a golden rule that would stop so much of the leaking — when it’s live in the manufacturer’s channels, then and only then, can it go live in anyone else’s. Jump even minutes before, and expect harsh consequences.
ABOUT YOUR PRESS RELEASES
I cannot imagine the sheer volume of press releases I’ve handled in my time. But needless to say, they vary between “are you even sending a release?” to “I don’t know if I have enough space on my hard drive for this lot”. There is a balance — let me offer some useful advice that will help your launch reach our assorted media pages most effectively.
- Get to the point. Just tell us what it is, what it does, what you want it to achieve, when we can have it, and how much it’ll cost in dollars, euros, sterling, and yen. Nobody cares what the product manager is alleged to have said. Two pages at the most. And leave off all that “about our company” guff too. Stick to the facts, and deliver them quickly.
- Make it easy for editors. From inbox to page needs to be short, and have as few conversion steps as possible.
- Supply different text formats. PDF isn’t always easy to convert, so if possible supply Word, Pages, and RTF. And PDF too to be safe.
- Image formats. PNG is overkill for anything. They’re huge and take too long to load onto a page. JPEG is absolutely fine.
- Always supply a hero. If there isn’t one, there’s every chance we’ll ignore the press release. We don’t have the time, nor are we paid to do your job for you.
- More heroes. We editors don’t want our outlets to look just like everyone else’s. So a selection of hero shots is a good idea. Otherwise, We’ll just make our own. And mine aren’t always what you might want, and deliberately so.
- One simple package. Don’t make us hunt for things. Put everything we could possibly need in a single reasonably sized zip on Dropbox or similar, with a document that bullet points key talking points, URLs, prices etc.
Essentially make it easy for us to post your material. And make it so that we want to post your material too.
I can’t leave this subject without touching on the timing of launches. Trade shows have traditionally been the time to do them, and in the past the opening door rush to send PR out was crazy. I remember sitting in front of a screen loaded with maybe 15 different press releases, all vying for my attention. And like a plate of food, when I’m over-faced, I often don’t want to start, and most certainly won’t finish.
But with fewer shows and equally fewer launches, how about filling up and owning the gaps between the shows instead of all trying to be seen at the same time? One person shouting in an empty room will be heard far more effectively that several yelling at the same time. And god knows there’s enough dead space in the year these days, and we editors are always looking to fill those gaps with content.
One last thing — if you’re going to make us want to sell body parts to fund our GAS, do try to have your latest nextlevelness ready to go when announced. It’s hardly a launch if it takes 6 months to migrate from press release to courier delivery.
In an ideal world, the manufacturers should be able to trust everyone in the chain to keep it in their pants. But they can’t. Hot info is kudos currency, and human nature dictates that the bigger the secret, the more likely it is to leak.
It comes down to doing everything possible to keep that cat with next level escapology skills in the thin paper bag. So instead of constantly sabotaging your own lengthy and expensive PR efforts, don’t tease, keep the PR list short, send it out as late as possible, and impose harsh consequences for leaking. And make sure that what you send out is as clear and concise as possible.
One more thing
Having seen the same vicious cycle repeated for 16 years, I offer these words as a helping hand to my industry friends. It wasn’t asked for, but is extended nonetheless. I just want to stop the disappointment of the expensive launches being blown, and for the shock and awe to return to launches.
Rather than being endlessly disappointed with leakage, I want for people to remember where they were when they saw a new product being launched. I want them to have the impact that they were designed to have. Because I know how much goes into creating the product and the launch around it.
P.S. Just reach out if you need help with this kind of thing.