A concept that has been made popular by Amazon is to use a press release and frequently asked questions, known as a PRFAQ, as a tool to help you in new product development. Typically, the company would not write a product press release until the product was finished. Amazon, however, has used writing a press release as a way to understand requirements and important features of yet to be developed products.
Why Do It?
Writing a press release before anything has been built has a few advantages. Before getting into the advantages, it’s important to understand some of the culture around how Amazon thinks and works. Amazon is known for its focus on the Customer. Starting with a press release that focuses on benefits to the Customer and the Customer experience allows Amazon to build products for the Customer first. Jeff Bezos talks about starting with the Customer and working backward and this is exactly what the PRFAQ is designed to do.
This leads to the first advantage – You start with the Customer experience and work backward to identify what it is you need to build and how you need to build it. By starting with the Customer experience, you’re focused on giving your Customer products that create great Customer experiences.
Second, it gives focus and clarity on what the new product needs to do. The PRFAQ highlights the most important features and sets a guiding light to build towards. It helps articulate what the Customer experience needs to be and defines specific requirements that are needed for the final product.
It also helps test your thinking regarding the excitement of particular features or the product overall. A press release should be engaging and exciting while explaining what your product does. If you’re having difficulty making a press release exciting, your product isn’t going to be exciting. Getting the press release to a spot that generates excitement means your product has a better chance of generating excitement when it’s built.
Put the FAQ in PRFAQ
The FAQ portion of the PRFAQ also helps to add clarity, requirements, and a better understanding of the product by answering questions about the product. It adds a layer of detail that couldn’t easily be covered in a press release format. These FAQs help to bring anyone else working on the product into alignment with what the product needs to do, how it needs to do it, and why it needs to do it.
The FAQ also allows you to track and answer questions that come up through the initial review process when you’re defining product features. By adding good questions as they come up, you keep a history of questions that are asked and answered. This is helpful as the product is being built and helps you keep a history for future products and potential questions that need to be answered.
How Do You Do It For Yourself?
Start the process of writing the PRFAQ as early as possible. It doesn’t matter that the product isn’t built. You might not have any requirements documented or understood. The product might be little more than an idea in your head. As you write the PR and relevant FAQs, requirements will be developed and the product will be better understood.
Put a date in the press release that is reasonable as a target for when you think the product will be ready to go. This should be just a general target and doesn’t need to be an exact commitment. Be sure that teammates you’re working with understand the meaning of the date.
Focus your press release on the Customer just like you would if you were writing a press release for a product that was already finished. To do this, try and answer a few questions in your press release.
- What does the product do?
- What are the most exciting features?
- What Customer problems are you solving?
- What benefits will the users get?
Answering these questions will give any reader a solid understanding of what it is you’re trying to do and why you’re trying to do it.
Use quotes in your PR from you, your team members, and Customers. For internal quotes, it’s best to get real quotes from real people if possible. Since you haven’t built the product yet, Customer quotes will not be real but since this is an internal document not meant to go to Customers, it’s not relevant that the Customer quotes aren’t from real Customers. What is important is identifying how your Customers will feel, think, and act with your new product in their hands. What problems will you solve for them and how excited will they be that you have solved those problems? Again, if you can’t make it exciting and a press release, it won’t be exciting in real life.
Use numbers, metrics, and data wherever possible to help you be more descriptive about what you are building and how it will solve problems. For example, if you are building a product to help get your Customers more leads, you might have a quote from a Customer like this-“I spent about 10 hours a week on lead generation and never got more than a couple qualified leads. With Jimmy’s new system I spend less than an hour a week and I’m now getting 50 or more leads a week that are all great quality!”
This helps to set targets and requirements specific to the product. Think about the excitement factor. In this leads example, how many leads per week would be exciting? By using numbers and metrics, you can define a requirement around how this product needs to work. It should be able to generate 50+ leads a week or it might not be that exciting to Customers (as an example).
Writing Frequently Asked Questions
Start by writing out some common questions that you think will be asked about the product. Once you have a few PRFAQs written, you will be able to use previous documents to help identify some good questions. Additionally, think about the questions you’ve been asked as you have explained your idea to family, friends, or coworkers. As you have ongoing discussions about the idea with those around you, make a note of any good questions that people ask or areas where you need to provide additional clarification. These are all good candidates for writing questions and putting them in the FAQ.
There is no right number of questions that you should have when writing a PRFAQ. Some might only have a handful of questions while others might have pages of questions and answers. You should be thorough enough so that if you handed the PRFAQ to a person unfamiliar with the product or idea, that they would not have additional big questions. Similarly, you don’t need to try and answer every single question that someone might have about the product. Just because someone asks the question doesn’t mean you need to include it in your document. This is a bit of a judgment call and you’ll have to weigh for yourself if you feel the question is important enough to include or not.
Remember as you write that it should be exciting. If you finish the press release and read it back and aren’t really excited about what you’re building, your Customers aren’t going to be excited about it either. Share your PRFAQ with team members or trusted business partners and gauge their excitement as well.
- Use a PRFAQ as a product development tool
- Write your PRFAQ as early as possible, well before the product is built
- The PRFAQ will give you clarity, focus, and help you establish requirements
- The document should be very exciting otherwise your product probably won’t be exciting to customers
- Use the FAQs to track and answer important questions asked during the development process
Actions to Take
- Identify a product you’re working on and write a press release as if the product is finished
- Create an answer clarifying questions that provide additional detail
- Have your PRFAQ reviewed by folks you trust
- Make edits and add additional questions that surfaced in the review
- Make writing a PRFAQ part of your regular product development cycle
- Reach out if you have any questions
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Check out Brian’s latest writing on systems thinking for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
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