Keep Everyone in the Loop with an Internal Product Release Blog
How to share your product releases effectively to serve your teams, your stakeholders, and your future self
Read all about it! Your team just released an exciting new product, and it’s time to share the news with your organization and stakeholders. What should you tell them? How should you tell them? I’ve often seen these important milestones get lost in the clutter of inboxes and meetings. After trying multiple approaches including regular team emails, team update meetings, department level emails, regular show and tell sessions, and others, I’ve found an internal product release blog to be one of the most powerful ways to share product updates across the company.
Why should we announce product releases?
Product releases are major milestones along our journey to hit a meaningful goal for our users and business. Though I favor celebrating the outcomes (e.g. hitting the new user goal) more than outputs (product release), product releases provide a lot of important uses:
- Team members should know that the product has changed and our users now have different experiences. While we should share this information ahead of the release so we don’t surprise anyone who should know about the product, it’s good practice to report back that the release actually happened!
- Similarly we often let external partners know that products that affect them have changed — though I suggest keeping your product blog company only, you and internal partners will remember to share relevant info externally.
- Releases provide a snapshot in time where we can share our impact estimates, then later return to those estimates to learn what we got right and wrong and update our internal barometers. These estimates also keep our teams accountable to working on potential high impact work
- Product releases provide an anthology of change, so we can look back to see what changes we made when. Combined with product specs, these documented releases record history for our future selves when we inevitably ask ourselves “What was I thinking??” At the department level, product and company leaders can easily review all products we released over a quarter or year for reporting
- Product releases can serve as a quick recognition of the hard work to get to the release, and to thank all the stakeholders involved. This goodwill helps teams grow closer together
- A good product release can bring the product to life, and pull the organization into understanding and engaging with the product
What to look for in a product release?
I recommend including this content in the product release:
Goals (as listed above, with Product Manager skills in parentheses): inform stakeholders (collaboration), recognize a moment with estimates (accountability), provide quick review of releases over a period (details), recognize the team (team building and collaboration), help the organization understand the product (communication)
Users and use cases:
- Stakeholders: understand new products, awareness of product launch, understand new product impact estimate, find new product actual impact
- Team/squad: recognize the milestone achieved, thank those who need thanking, easily review releases over a time period, review what we were thinking when we released a new product
- Product manager: Team/squad use cases above, track impact and reasoning, share actual impact, easily review all major product releases over a time period
- Product/company leader: easily review all major product releases over a time period
Potential outcomes: This section estimates the product’s impact. By showing this information, the team has to think about and communicate the expected results (which should be worth pursuing) and show accountability to reporting back the results post launch
Why an internal product release blog?
- Internally protected and accessible
- Easy way to share info, with text, videos, pictures, and links. Especially pictures to bring products to life
- All in one place now and in the future, no digging through email required. Works well for new team members!
- Ability for anyone to comment on a post and ask the team questions
- Editable taxonomies to easily find updates on specific topics
- Ability to follow specific people, teams, zones, etc. across the topic taxonomy. Some want to follow all product releases around the company, while others only want to follow their specific partner teams
- Ability to search over a time period, for example to see what we released in a specific quarter
- Editable record to add and track results. This system helps keep the teams honest about product impact
What goes in the post?
I suggest the following:
- Users and case case
- Screenshots and links
- Link to spec
- Impact estimate (later updated, post release) — can be adding in body or by comment
How to roll out your own product release blog
Many social software platforms offer blogging tools, though not all offerings provide features like topic following and custom taxonomies. After you define your product release blog system’s requirements, make sure your blogging platform offers these small touches that keep your communications platform low friction.
- Sign up for blog service, e.g. Jive, Atlassian, Google Sites, or BlogIn
- Invite a few key people who have had recent releases to create posts given your template
- Carefully edit those posts as they will become best practice prototypes for others to follow
- Invite key stakeholders to review these starter posts to make sure the posts are clear and valuable
- Set up your taxonomy for organized posting and following
- Invite the rest of your product organization to the platform, share the goals and templates, and encourage people to post
- Once this system is running smoothly, invite your key stakeholders to the platform
- Follow up in a month to make sure your initial posters to add their outcomes
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Using internal product release blogs can help uplevel your product team’s game as partners and communicators across your organization! Updates should be easy to post, find, and follow, and this system keeps your teams accountable, transparent, and current.