This isn't meant to be an all-encompassing view of media relations. Many books already exist on the subject. However, a recent experience made me realize there are marketing people who may benefit from a review of the basics. Here goes:
Start early. Get your story down clearly and concisely, including how your new widget stacks up against what else is on the market. I've written lots about differentiation. Please see those posts for more.
Planning can and should be done months prior to an announcement, not days. A brief news announcement and a short (about 10 pages) PowerPoint deck are useful. The two documents should track each other, not come at the story differently. People who will deliver the story (spokespersons) should be rehearsed on effective delivery, whether they're the CEO, VP, or whatever. Rehearsal is a must. Delivery of your news should last no more than 30 minutes tops. If interviewees take longer, they need to cut it down.
Set an introduction date that doesn't conflict with national holidays in your target geographies or major trade shows in your market sector. Much better to zig when everyone else is zagging. Also make sure the product is ready to ship within a very short time following its announcement. Better yet, be already shipping with customers who will vouch for your value claims.
Clear the calendars of the spokespersons that will be put in contact with the media and market researchers you'll be pitching. You'll need at least two spokespersons to avoid scheduling conflicts. Company spokespersons shouldn't be in the midst of global sales visits, hopping from one time zone to another during the time needed for media interviews.
Target appropriate market research analysts and trade journalists. Repeat: Target appropriate market research analysts and trade journalists. Often less is more. Don't waste your time or an editor's pitching your story to the wrong person. Knowing who reports on your market is so basic and easy to learn, there's no reason for errors. Sometimes editorial people on a publication cover for each other. So an editor may stand in for a colleague who is out sick or on vacation. Also be prepared for no interest by journalists who should be; they're human and they may not get it. They may be too busy or perhaps your news story isn't clear enough for them to see the connection.
If your company uses PR agencies or consultants in other geographies, bring them into the planning early so they're comfortable with the schedule and can alert you to potential conflicts. It will also give them the opportunity to come up to speed on the story. Dropping the whole intro on your agency a week or so in advance is poor marketing management.
With executive spokespersons' time blocked, PR pros have a clear window to begin asking well in advance for media and analyst attention. “Can you meet or take a call the week of…?” should be the question, not “Can you talk tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.?” Since you're asking industry influencers for their time, allow at least a couple of weeks' advance notice to fit your incredibly important product introduction briefing into your target journalist's schedule. It's good business manners and a lot more effective. You wouldn't attempt to schedule a customer visit or call a day in advance.
Agree on the time basis for appointments. If the company speakers' locations are geographically diverse, pick a single time zone for all appointments (e.g. “All times PST”). Let people do the arithmetic for their locale. Multiple time zone references in correspondence really add unnecessary confusion.