Friday, January 23, 2009

Publicity Tips for New Product Launch

Have you seen the new Coach Wooden card collection featuring the inspirational comments of famed basketball coach John Wooden? Designed and produced by a graphic artist with years of experience in the greeting card industry, they have a masculine sensibility that is perfect for the guy who "gets" Coach Wooden's wisdom but hasn't been a greeting card kind of guy -- until now.

This publisher will need to make the most of small business publicity opportunities for this new product launch. Here are some suggestions that focus strictly on publicity -- getting the card line into the news media -- to get the process rolling. I realize that small business owners get overwhelmed when approaching tasks like these that they have never done before, so I'll only offer initial steps right now:
  • Start local. Write and send an announcement to your local media first. Use the USPS so that you can include samples, because these cards are first class and you can't communicate that with a JPG or a link to the Web site. Make sure it's clear in the release that you're a local entrepreneur.
  • Follow up on these mailings by phone or e-mail, offering to do an interview about how you had the opportunity to work with the celebrated Coach Wooden. Learn how to do interviews -- and how not to do interviews -- with these local experiences before you pursue national media outlets.
  • Next, determine the media outlets read, watched, and listened to by the national target market for the cards. For this product, these might include daily newspapers; men's, general interest, sports and business magazines; TV sports networks; TV radio talk shows; bloggers specializing in men's issues, motivation, basketball, sports, etc.; and all UCLA alumni publications. I would include trade magazines on this list, too, to help drive retail distribution.
  • Set up your media list into two tiers: Those that are especially important to your product's success because of their power or influence -- those you're willing to invest in -- and those that are important, but not key influencers.
  • Tweak your announcement press release so it addresses a national, not local, audience and send it to those tier 1 media outlets via USPS with 4 actual cards so these key media gatekeepers can see the quality firsthand. Send the release to the tier 2 outlets electronically.
  • Follow up with all of your tier 1 outlets by e-mail or phone, offering to send JPGs of the card to use as illustrations, to schedule interviews, to answer questions, etc. Be prepared to respond to requests for interviews with Coach Wooden.
  • Once you've done this, start looking for story ideas that will fit your tier 1 media outlets and pitch those stories one by one. Because it's unrealistic to expect a national magazine to profile your company alone, look for companies that have done something similar to what you've done so that your story idea is more likely to get serious consideration. If, for example, this line of cards is being produced by a licensing agreement, find other small businesses that have snagged licensing deals with "big names" and pitch a story offering tips for others who would like to duplicate your success.

I'll stop here but welcome comments on other "entry-level" tactics this small business can use to launch this product line through the news media.

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