A major additive manufacturing event is coming up! Everyone will be there: customers, partners, collaborators, trade press, future employees, competitors. The anticipation of such a gathering is a powerful proposition. It’s somewhere to see – and to be seen. Somewhere to be heard, somewhere to share, the industry equivalent of show-and-tell.
It’s the perfect place for your company’s newest launch, right?
When and how new products and services are publicly launched, or when long-in-the-works strategies are finally ready to be announced, can be something of a strategic lottery. You want the most impactful timing, the highest-value showing – is an industry event the time and place for it?
The Timing of Additive Manufacturing Announcements
In a truth relevant far beyond comedy: It’s all in the timing.
To announce a new product, service, appointment, or business is a major undertaking. The work behind the scenes prior to the public unveiling naturally informs the general sense of timing. A strong foundation, whether for a market-ready new product or an upcoming introduction, must be in place ahead of any public messaging. That is, there must be something real to announce.
Especially in 3D printing, we’re well beyond the years of an announcement-of-an-announcement. “We’ll be doing this in five years!” Good for you. Aspirational announcements may not necessarily come to fruition in terms of tangible new steps in the initially predicted timeframe.
When You Don’t Have Something New Today
For events, that takeaway boils down to something pretty simple: If you don’t have something new ready to announce, you don’t actually have to announce anything.
Come as you are, in other words.
The event will still have value for you – and your marketing team may thank you for saving event budget by not investing in a press conference that doesn’t actually give the press anything to do. Put it toward a coffee bar and some comfortable seating instead, perhaps, and give your visitors somewhere to linger over conversations as they enjoy an opportunity to take a deeper dive into your current offerings and find value alignment today. Your business development team will in turn thank you for setting the scene for some handshakes.
When You Do Have Something New Today
But you do have something new! Fantastic. What’s the launch strategy?
First is a simple ask: if you’ve decided to announce something new (because you have something new) at an event, send it to the attending press ahead of time.
But, you may say, the announcement doesn’t go out until day one of the event! Please send it under embargo a week in advance, with a clearly noted date and time (and time zone!) for publication. Often, the very press your announcement will interest are those who will be attending the event. You’ll want them to come see, talk to your team, take photos, etc. – and ultimately the goal is, naturally, to publish on it.
Pro tip: very few things announced only at an event will be published during the event, especially day-of.
Those journalists are on the floor with you. They are also humans who need time to digest the announcement and write appropriately. Give them that time by sending it in advance, so they can write it and prep coverage to go live on day one of the event.
Then hold your launch event – whether it be a press conference, happy hour, sheet lifting extravaganza, or other public announcement – and invite them.
In-person, make your team available for interviews and be prepared to go more in depth. This is the time to go deeper than a press release, offering a look behind the curtain into why this launch is happening, who it’s relevant for, and how it’s going to be a game-changer. (Also: please don’t call it a game-changer.)
When You’re Ready to Announce in the Off-Season
Often, though, R&D doesn’t follow the same calendars we do. A successful, repeatable result may not solidify until the “off-season” between events. What then?
You have more attention for yourself! Trade media observe significant ebbs and flows in the news stream. Event season is busy with announcements, introductions, meet-and-greets, and more, as it’s not every day the industry comes together in person. During those sometimes significant stretches of time between events, PR can go quiet.
Take advantage of that! You may find journalists with more bandwidth, investors with more time to speak, and customers less overwhelmed by the equivalent of pop-ups.
It’s also more work when you want in-person coverage. You may find your team planning an invitation-driven on-site event, playing host to a slew of analysts and journalists at HQ. A new facility, for example, is prime ground – literally – for an on-site event. The logistics are all on you, but conveniently so is all the attention.
If you take the spotlight like that, plan accordingly. Be prepared for more probing questions, have engaged and successful customers on-hand to share their own glowing reviews of how working with your technology has enhanced their businesses, and ensure your executive team are there and prepped. And for the love of all that’s good, don’t catch your engineering or logistics teams off-guard with an hour’s notice to clean the production floor and a by-the-way-this-is-happening last-minute email.
The Why of AM Announcements
The why may seem more obvious: you have something new and if no one knows about it, no one can adopt it.
To an extent, that effectively covers it. Still, sometimes audiences will read more into your announcement, so understand the lay of the land. Will your announcement be perceived as:
- An actual, valuable introduction?
- A PR move without substance?
- A distraction from negative news (e.g., layoffs, underwhelming quarterly results)?
- A me-too play to catch up to the competition?
- A first-of-its-kind launch that will require a lot of proof?
- An aspirational bit of puffery?
- A long-awaited tangible solution to a known problem?
- A preemptive launch designed to counter a competitor’s move?
- A third-party validated solution with a well-funded team of experts guiding it?
- Kind of neat but unexciting?
Consider the basic questions anyone hearing your announcement will ask: why are you introducing it, why to this market, why now, why from you, why is it different, why is it significant?
Before you can expect anyone else to understand the why of your announcement, be sure that you do.
I can’t wait for this season of launches in additive manufacturing.
Some exciting things are cooking across the board in 3D printing, and I know I’ll be watching – and listening.