Don't get bogged down in the detail

As a former business journalist, whenever I attended the launch of a new product and wanted to understand exactly how it worked, if I had the time, I invariably made a beeline for the engineer responsible for developing it. From a journalist’s perspective engineers and product specialists are extremely useful people to get to know, not least as they tend to deal in absolutes. If you want to know all about the features of a new wotnot, then engineers and product specialists can invariably give you the perfect insight into whatever the special thingamajig does and how it does it. Besides, engineers love telling you all about their new baby as it’s a rare chance for them to shine in front of the press. Normally, they’ve got their collective heads down in the lab or back room.

The downside of tapping into all that undeniable knowledge is that engineers can sometimes get so wrapped-up in explaining every tiny feature of their latest gizmo that they lose sight of what it ultimately-means to the end-user. In short, what it will do for a customer’s bottom-line and balance sheet. I call it the ‘Engineer Syndrome’. That’s not a criticism, it’s just that it’s possible to get so bound-up in the specification of something that you can easily forget the ‘specifics’―i.e., what it’s actually going to deliver to the buyer.

No matter the story, whether it’s sporting, political, industrial, or financial, it’s useless without the proper context, interpretation, or explanation to it. That’s why, when it comes to launching a new product or service you need to cut to the chase and tell a journalist why it’s so important to their audience and why they should be in a hurry to share your news with them.

That means delivering the bottom-line benefits of your new doohickey upfront before you start to explain in detail how it actually-works. Today’s media landscape is built around short, sharp messages, especially those that appear on digital and social media where increasingly it’s all about one-sentence news flashes, 30-second soundbites, and three-minute YouTube videos. So, you’ve got to deliver the punchline fast and not getting bogged down in an extended dialogue, otherwise, you’ll risk losing your audience.

But where does that leave all that background explanation, all those wonderful features, all that in-depth detail? Certainly not wasted. However, it’s more likely to be found in specialist hard-copy publications prepared to devote sufficient space to all that detail, or in an explanatory PDF document sitting in a well-signposted area within a website for consumption by those who have the time and above-all-else the inclination to read it. Don’t assume everyone is a techie anorak dying to learn the secrets of your hoojamaflip and has the time to do so.

And take-away message of this blog is? Whenever you’re talking to the media remember their time is short. The number one thing is to get the benefits of your new widget over first and fast, before the features. And if a journalist wants to find out more, well the engineer can always tell them…