The Brand Launch Laundry List
Our clients span the whole business lifecycle. At one end of the spectrum, we have category-making clients like Crestron and Hunter Douglas with established messaging, brand recognition, and well-understood technology. On the other end are fledgling startups with, well, none of those things. Many clients come to us in stealth mode for our seasoned expertise in the launch process.
Startups are fun to work with because you get to play an important role in helping craft the company’s public identity. An impactful brand launch can be a golden ticket to securing the attention of investors, media, and potential customers. Before the confetti settles, however, there’s a lot of PR preparation that needs to take place. Here’s your Caster Communications Brand Launch Laundry List.
Understand Your Company Before Building Your Brand
Your brand is more than logos and fonts. It’s your company’s mission, values, personality, and unique value proposition. Before you launch, you need clear concise answers to questions like:
- What do we do?
- Why do we do it?
- Who are we doing it for?
- How do we do it differently than anyone else?
Startups don’t always have settled answers for each of those things; figure it out before you launch, or you’ll find yourself constantly readjusting your messaging on the fly.
Part of a PR agency’s role in launch process is helping the company articulate messaging about themselves, their products or services, and what makes them unique or valuable. Startups who have received a few rounds of funding are typically further along in this process, since they’ve had to develop messaging for funding pitches. Self-funded or unfunded companies often have to start form scratch, which requires a lot of legwork. Be prepared for both internal soul-searching and a lot of PR strategy calls. This process can chew up hours quickly, but it’s required to build a firm messaging foundation.
Set Realistic Timelines, Goals, and Expectations
Launching a brand is inherently ambitious; there is no need to make it more so with an unrealistic timeline. Most of the work that goes into a brand launch is not to get a company ready for its launch, but to get it ready for its life. The PR process for a product launch can take two months – one at the absolute minimum. For an entire brand launch, depending on how much foundational messaging you already have, you should set aside three to six months for prep.
Setting realistic expectations prior to a launch is also a mature move for a young company. It is tempting to imagine overnight success – a viral launch that catapults your startup to instant recognition and the revenue that comes soon after that. Though an optimism bias is profoundly helpful in getting a startup off the ground, instant success and customer conversion is the exception rather than the rule. Most successful brand launches are the result of meticulous planning, smart strategy, and consistent follow-through. Be prepared to see gradual, steady growth rather than an immediate surge in interest – PR is a long game, not a flash in the pan. Evaluating the launches of competitive brands can help give context to what you should expect and where to set your goals.
Follow a Responsible Order of Operations
Once foundational messaging, timelines and expectations are established, a systematic, step-by-step approach is essential for an effective brand launch. A recommended order of operations is below. These steps aren’t set in stone, but tinkering can result in double-work, incomplete work, miscommunication, and false starts.
- Develop your branding assets: a formal messaging document/omnibus/bible must come first. Everything else flows from there, including your tagline, website copy, press release copy, social copy, and even the pitches your PR pros will write. Your brand’s personality and voice should be apparent and consistent in your messaging as well. You’ll also need a logo and other visual branding elements which may require working with a graphic designer.
- Create your Launch Plan: In alignment with your goals, establish the target audience, launch channels, and key collateral. Don’t forget to plan pre-launch, launch, and post-launch activities.
- Build your online presence: Using your brand bible, launch your website and social media channels, ensuring they align with your brand guidelines. Use personal accounts to amplify any company social. Wunderkind or first-time founders should be smart about leveraging the social media reach of their mentors, and investors to promote the brand’s accounts.
- Build anticipation: Start teasing your audience with glimpses of your brand and products. This could be sneak peeks on social media, email newsletters, or even pre-orders.
- Launch: The big day. Make sure all your channels are ready for the launch. The hope is that there are plenty of questions and requests coming in – make sure your team is prepared to field them.
- Post-launch activities: These include follow-up emails, social media updates, and monitoring the launch’s effectiveness. As we stated above, PR is a long game – it will often take several touchpoints for a story to properly resonate with certain press.
A Culture of Learning
Launching a brand is just the beginning. Most startups come out of the gate with some big claims. After launch, it’s time to walk the walk. You’ll want a steady cadence of earned and paid media, alongside persistent engagement on your owned channels including blogs and social, to demonstrate that your company is more than just a noisy launch. Pay careful attention to media questions and customer feedback during the launch process. Assimilate the lessons you learn into your Brand Bible, and use them to develop further messaging and new content. Allow the brand to thoughtfully evolve as you enter the next stage of your company’s flight. Otherwise, you’ll just break up in the atmosphere.
Caster has been mission control for dozens of startup launches over 25 years. If you’re looking for guidance on how to bring your company out of stealth mode, follow this brand launch laundry list, or better yet – give us a call.