Got My Mind on my Message

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As a former Apple Technology Evangelist I’d often get the sweet gig of helping showcase Apple products at WWDC, MacWorld, or NAB. (Remember how great Apple booths were at MacWorld and NAB?)

Without fail - I’d be demonstrating Apple’s killer product of the day to someone from the press, developers, high profile customers, they’d love it, and then I’d get the question - ‘so is Apple going to do ? Or, what does Steve think?’

This moment - when someone wants to veer off into other topics that are not about your ‘news of the day’ - is a minefield of bad, unproductive choices. On the one hand, its great that they are engaged enough to want to know more - but your best option through that minefield is to stay on message!

After all - getting to the point where you have something to show to press or high profile customers is the result of a lot of hard work by your company - untold hours and dollars spent behind the scenes for this one opportunity. To not make the most of that moment is to waste all that effort and money spent.

And you surely have hammered out a set of core messages about the product, service, your company etc. that you can deliver naturally with great sincerity and conviction without acting like a parrot. Or a robot. Or a robot parrot.

So lets say you’ve delivered your short, punchy delivery about the great product, news of the day etc., and the customer asks you that speculative question about your competition, something you haven’t announced yet, etc.

Consider these scenarios:

Scenario 1 - You’re invited to give your opinion on a competitor or their solution.

What You Want to Do: Give a pithy Jeff Spiccoli statement about your competition’s product like - ‘yeah those guys are BAD’.

You’ll get press alright, and especially delight press who love to print that sort of thing. But it only drags you into the mud, tarnishes your credibility, and worst of all, that statement gets the news or priority over what’s so great about your product.

What You Should Do: Smile and press on to another topic, use a variation of ‘you’ll have to ask them about that’, or better still, emphasize the great market need, that while there are different ways to meet that challenge, you’ve worked hard on and are proud of (news/product of the day) to meet that need.’ And get back on message.

This way you don’t give your competitor free coverage, you keep the focus on your company and your product.

Scenario 2: You’re invited to speculate or hint about future products or features you are working on.

What You Want To Do: People LOVE to prognosticate and play the great visionary, and have an answer for a customer or press inquiry about that ‘one great feature they think is missing’ in what you just offered. Or maybe you fought really hard to get that feature in but it didn’t make the cut.

But this is a trap (especially for new product managers) - and you risk completely undoing all of the great work you’ve done to get to this point. If you hint at a future feature, you’ve now let all the air out of any future announcement. You’re basically pre-announcing a product and ensuring that theres no news or excitement left when you actually put in the hard work to get it ready for market. And of course - people will naturally focus on that one product or feature they don’t have if you open that door.

What You Should Do: Acknowledge that it could be an interesting feature, that you constantly work with customers to understand their evolving needs and are always innovating new solutions, or even ‘Thats great feedback, but I can’t comment about any unreleased product or features. I’d be interested to know how you see that feature used best by customers?’

What you’ve done there is acknowledge that its an interesting suggestion without dismissing it outright, NOT pre-announced anything, and helped reinforce that customer feedback is an important part of how you develop products, and maybe picked up a new perspective for future product development.

So once you’ve worked so hard to build something news-worthy and get to that moment in the spotlight - the best way to make the most of it is:

Great Marketing Messaging Checklist

  1. Build a great message

  2. Be comfortable delivering it

  3. Be prepared for potential pitfalls above

  4. Practice redirecting back to the message of the day smoothly

If you do that - you’ll reap the benefits of better press coverage, more interest in your future press and events, and a happy development and marketing team that appreciate how well you represent all of their hard work!