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March 2001

Writing Effective Product Announcements

By Esther Schindler ©March 2001

Referenced web sites:
Care & Feeding of the Press, compiled by Esther Schindler: http://www.netpress.org
"How to write a press release", by Alan Zeichick : http://www.camdenassociates.com/samplepr.htm/
The Well-Tempered Press Release, by Daniel Dern: http://www.dern.com/welltemp.html

(A guide for the OS/2 developer who doesn't want to be a marketing professional)

You've finished your application, or maybe you've added some extra-special finishing touches. Now you want OS/2 users to find out about it. Perhaps you hope to make a few dollars on the software, or maybe you wrote something that you think will help other people, and you're happy to provide it for free. In either case, it's time to tell people about the "new and improved" software -- and you aren't sure what to say. In fact, the idea of writing an announcement makes three days of debugging sound like fun.

Relax. In this short document, I'll give you the structure for writing an informal announcement about your application, suitable for posting on Warpcast, on comp.os.os2.announce, or on VOICE's announcement list. It's written specifically for OS/2 developers, but the advice will apply to others as well.

The important elements in any product announcement are the same ones as your literature teacher tried to drum into your head in grade school: who, what, when, where, how. In the case of software, that's

Strictly speaking, it doesn't matter how you get that information across. But effective announcements use a particular structure, just the way that a programmer expects code to be formatted in a predictable manner.

Your first paragraph should say who released the software, and name the application with its full version number. Give a one-sentence description of what the application does, and two or three significant features and their benefits.

In the next paragraph, maybe two, explain what problem the application solves, and how this new version (or the new app) does a better job of solving that problem than your earlier version or the other alternatives available. One way to communicate this is to list a few of the most important new capabilities. Two or three is usually plenty; more than five is unnecessary. Don't mention that you fixed bugs, or even what they are -- bug fixes go without saying (or at least they should).

This doesn't need to be long; it does need to be complete.

Need an example? Here's a simple one for PM-Euro, which I edited from a (much longer) Warpcast announcement. It's only 100 words, but it gets across all the important pieces.

Carsten Mueller (cm@warphouse.de) released PM-Euro 1.6, a free OS/2 currency calculator. The new version calculates while you type, and includes an installation program.

PM-Euro also has a new online update feature. It loads the currency exchange rates for US-Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Australian Dollars, UK Pounds, Japanese Yen and Swiss Francs within a few seconds from the Internet. You don't have to update the rates manually. Just establish an Internet connection, and push the 'Online-Update' button.

You can download PM-Euro 1.6 from Warphouse Software www.warphouse.de.

To minimize complexity, I've kept this tutorial short. But if you're interested in doing a great job rather than an adequate one, there are a few URLs worth checking out.

The Well-Tempered Press Release, by Daniel Dern (editor in chief of Byte.com), at http://www.dern.com/welltemp.html. It's written in a Mad-Libs "fill in the blank" style.

Care & Feeding of the Press, for which I was "lead perpetrator" among the members of the Internet Press Guild (http://www.netpress.org). This is geared towards public relations professionals and would-be-professionals, so it may be overkill for your needs, but you're sure to find useful tips all the same.

How to write a press release, by Alan Zeichick: http://www.camdenassociates.com/samplepr.htm/. This is a sample press release, written in 1995, by then editor-in-chief of OS/2 Magazine Alan Zeichick, with comments explaining the contents.

Any questions? Feel free to write to me at esther@bitranch.com (but if you do, please do read "Care & Feeding" first.)

Esther Schindler has been a professional journalist since 1992, and is currently senior editor for Planet IT - http://www.PlanetIT.com. She's also vice president of the Phoenix OS/2 Society http://www.possi.org, and has been active in the OS/2 community for several years.

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