Write Your Press Release First

There’s a saying that any creation is a second act, one which is preceded by the imagination.  Before we do anything, we conceive of it in our minds. It is this ability to visualize something that doesn’t yet exist that separates us from the animals (well, that and reality television).

In an earlier post, I wrote about something I did once that took “visualization” to an extreme.  We were a small company that was on the verge of establishing a company-defining partnership with a multi-national behemoth.  Early in the negotiations, I wrote a press release “announcing” the relationship and shared it within our company.

Writing a press release at that point seemed odd since we had months of conference calls and negotiations in front of us. The outcome of those negotiations was far from assured. But it didn’t take long before we all agreed on our “faux press release”, complete with nonexistent quotes from executives from both companies.  Even as I wrote it, I knew the release as written would never see the light of day, but it was one of the most powerful press releases I’ve been involved with.  Why?

It required that we visualize the outcome, or as Stephen Covey so brilliantly captured it, “begin with the end in mind”.  Just as important, but perhaps less appreciated, is how it focused our team on what a “win” would look like, and kept the team motivated as we passed through the inevitable crises and obstacles that arose during the negotiation.

So it was with pleasure when I read this week that it is common practice for developers at Amazon to do the exact same thing. Key quote from the article:

“Before Amazon developers write a single line of code, they have to write the hypothetical product’s press release and FAQ announcement. 

Amazon uses this “working backwards” approach because it forces the team to get the most difficult discussions out of the way early, Jassy says. They need to fully understand what the product’s value proposition will be and how it will be pitched to customers. If the team can’t come up with a compelling press release, the product probably isn’t worth making.”

I particularly like the phrase “working backwards”.  It reminds me of the discipline of “backwards planning”, a habit of mind I learned in the military and a concept we use as a family (“ok – if we want to be at the event by 6:45pm, we need to pull out of the garage no later than 6:15pm, which means we need to be dressed and in the kitchen by 6:10pm,” etc…).

Got an idea?  Write your press release first.

Good luck!