The company’s product development teams write a hypothetical press release about a new product or service at the beginning of its development.
In the conventional process, companies often have only a vague idea of their main goal. They may revise goals along the way, a process that costs time, money, and may even endanger the project’s success, says former Amazon executive John Rossman, author of Think Like Amazon and The Amazon Way book series.
Advantages of a Backwards Process
By reversing the standard process, a company establishes its goal and the product’s key selling point. It clarifies leadership’s vision, communicates a roadmap to success to key stakeholders, and outlines how the company will promote the product. The future press release acts a contract. Teams commit to developing the product’s features and achieving the goals the document cites.
“Not only can it define the future but it can also keep your organizational structure from transforming into a bureaucratic rat’s nest and empower a leader to drive the initiative across multiple teams,” writes Rossman, who wrote the future press release for the Amazon Marketplace business.
Amazon Web Services Senior Vice President Andy Jassy revealed how the company used future press releases at a summit several years ago, according to Business Insider. Working backwards forces team members to tackle difficult questions early, Jassy said. They need to explain the product’s value proposition and how it will be promoted. If the team can’t create a compelling press release, the product probably isn’t worth making.
Proponents of the practice say other companies can benefit by adopting Amazon’s practice.
While a future press release helps the product development team focus, corporate communications and PR professionals can play an instrumental role. Companies will rely on the communications skills PR professionals to craft the document and follow best practices for writing press releases. PR pros have the skills needed to clearly describe the product’s value to customers and other key stakeholders and explain how the company will publicize the product’s virtues. Public relations professionals can also use future press releases to map out their PR plans.
Rules for Effective Future Press Releases
Advocates recommend these rules for effective future press releases:
- Write the press release at a future (hypothetical) point in time when success has been achieved. Press releases at launch are good, but a better time is sometime after launch when success can be measured and discussed.
- Explain why the product is important to customers or other key stakeholders. Then discuss other reasons it is important and key goals.
- Set an ambitious and clear goal. Articulate clear, measurable results you’ve achieved, including financial, operating, and market share results.
- Outline the principles used that led to success. Identify the difficult challenges overcome, the important decisions, and the design principles that resulted in success. Discuss the issues that needed to be addressed to achieve success.
Address Difficult Issues Early
Tackling difficult issues early helps the team understand the real nature of the change needed. “Don’t worry about how to solve these issues yet. You’ve still got time to figure that out,” Rossman advises.
Brad Stone, senior executive editor for technology at Bloomberg News, also explains Amazon’s future press releases in The Everything Store.
Bottom Line: Future press releases helped Amazon become an innovation powerhouse. The technique can also provide other companies a clear roadmap to successful product development. PR and corporate communications can provide valuable input as development teams draft the documents.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.