It used to be sending a news release and pitching journalists on coverage were the primary product launch plan PR deliverables.
But these days, news releases are showing a significant decrease in effectiveness, according to recent research from Shift Communications.
Organizations are distributing 1,092 news releases per day, at a cost of $200 to $1,200 per release.
If they work, that’s a pretty minimal cost for spreading the word about your product launch.
But increasingly, they’re not.
The research found the following dismal results from a random sample of 1,052 releases during 2016:
- The median number of clicks: Zero.
- Median number of social media shares: Two.
- The median number of inbound links to releases: One.
- Median MozTrust score (how trusted a URL is, 0-10 scale): Zero.
- The median MozRank score (how well ranked a URL is, 0-10 scale): Zero.
So, if your news releases don’t pull their weight from an SEO standpoint, what’s a PR pro to do instead?
The answer seems to be investing in building deep influencer relationships.
Influencer Relations Picks Up for News Releases
There’s clearly a dwindling pool of journalists to pitch news releases to and an ever-increasing number of people pitching them.
Now, it takes something much different to build excitement and awareness around your product launch.
More than 83 percent of global respondents to Nielsen’s latest research on consumer trust in advertising say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family.
This trust of non-branded content sources even extends to people they don’t know.
Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said they trust consumer opinions posted online—the third-most-trusted format.
This is why we’ve increasingly seen the shift in marketing and PR budgets towards increased influencer relations.
If you’ve been building your influencer relationships, product launches are a prime opportunity to collaborate on content which can rise above the noise.
Give Influencers VIP Pre-Launch Access
Brand-created content continues to decline in consumer influence.
But third-party reviews continue to be considered the most relevant and authentic source for product information.
That’s why it’s important to seed your launch with influencer social content and reviews.
Popular video game publisher Electronic Arts has embraced influencer marketing and has even diverted marketing dollars from many traditional PR and marketing channels in favor of this.
Work with five to 10 industry influencers for your top social media channels.
Create social content that plays off your product launch announcement.
Have everyone work to create social content around a common theme.
For example, what your new product empowers them to do.
Or maybe saving time so they can take their dog to the beach.
Or maybe it gives them back time to go to their middle schooler’s baseball practice.
Encourage influencers to create social content that’s on-brand for both of you.
The content should also reflect what they are most excited about with your launch.
Natural cosmetics and skincare brand Lush is great at doing this.
They regularly hold VIP blogger events in their stores with a dozen or so micro-influencers.
Bloggers are encouraged to share photos and reviews of new products they get to sample.
Once the content is launched, further amplify these influencer social content efforts by putting the paid pro option behind their content sharing social media posts.
Sure, you could share the links through your own channel and syndicate it from there.
But, your efforts will pay off greatly if you amplify your influencers’ work instead.
Partner with Influencers for Ephemeral Social Product Launch Content
It used to be a full-page ad in each industry’s top publications was the best way to garner hype for your product launch.
But as the media landscape has become fragmented, influencer relations has proved itself capable of doing a better job, at a potentially lower cost.
Brands from the NBA to Mountain Dew found it makes more sense to work with influencers on Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Periscope to create some ephemeral content in conjunction with their launches and announcements.
Encourage influencers to create social content that shares their point-of-view and excitement over your product launch.
You’ll also want to consider having them on-site at your headquarters during the launch to live stream the announcement and even produce on-the-fly how-tos and Q&As.
Launch an Influencer Tutorial
Brand-created product manuals are useful, but they lack the punch an influencer byline can manifest.
Co-create or commission a tutorial on how to get the best out of your new product with a social media influencer.
If possible, work with your top industry publication to publish as an exclusive for launch day.
Influencer-created tutorials don’t need to be comprehensive.
Rather, they can focus on the highlights of how they (and your typical user) plan to use your product.
You can also work with an influencer to create a simple overview infographic.
It should be focused on how to make the most of your new product.
If your audience is B2B, create a SlideShare on best practices for using your new product.
Include tips and examples from 10-15 influencers who are likely to re-share the content.
The old way of managing product launches via news releases is dead.
But when you harness the power of influencer relations, you increase your potential to get more out of big company announcements.
No one will even miss that product launch news release.