Strategy Tool: Amazon’s PR/FAQ
A practical guide with two easy to use templates
It has been well-documented that Amazon’s Press Release and FAQ (PR/FAQ) paring is the secret to success for the Working Backwards approach to strategic product thinking.
I have written this post to gather all the crucial starter instructions in one place. The purpose is to help those I mentor and coach get started with their first PR/FAQ. This is meant to be practical advice, not groundbreaking.
I have repeatedly proven this process helps PMs who have never before written strategic plans.
I do not wish to replicate the previous efforts to explain press releases, but I did want everything in one place. This article references some of the better pieces (thank you Ian McAllister) and provides a most basic framework for those struggling to get started writing their first Press Release and FAQ.
For PMs who are extremely tactical or new to the profession, writing a strategic plan or expressing strategic vision can be overwhelming. I coach anyone struggling with a strategic vision to try writing the product’s press release. The exercise hits on all the product basics: (1) focus on the User (2) address Pain Points (3) Measure Success (4) consider Stakeholders and (5) set a Vision all in a (6) Storytelling format.
PMs Are Storytellers
One of the most important skills a product manager (PM) must master is storytelling. The press release allows a PM to tell a story of what their product will be in the future and how it will solve a customer's need while also making a number of stakeholders happy.
The following are highly recommended articles about the Amazon Press Release format. Ian McAllister nails it in two straightforward articles.
Thank you Ian
April 23, 2020 — Working Backwards Press Release Example
April 23, 2020 — Applying Amazon’s Working Backwards Process — for Leaders
For history buffs, Ian’s original post: May 18, 2012 — What is Amazon’s approach to product development and product management?
Don’t forget the FAQs
Within Amazon, some folks debate, do I start with the press release or the FAQs? For some, writing out the FAQs helps them warm-up, for others jumping into the press release is the way to go. You will need to figure out your own approach.
Many people get hung up on all the questions someone might ask or the extra thoughts that come up as they write but don’t fit in one-page. At Amazon, the FAQ addresses questions you know will be asked by executives when you present your one-page press release. And it ALWAYS starts with the customer.
For those new to the art of press release writing, I highly recommend having your FAQ document in the background as you write your press release. That way you can jot down those questions or ideas related to the product or concept that are bugging or distracting you, and get them out of your way for the moment. This helps some people focus again on the big picture view. Eventually, you will need to address the FAQs in more detail.
Based on Ian’s articles, and my personal recollection of the FAQ format, I have created the following two templates so you can get started with the click of a button. I am trying to make it as easy as possible for everyone to leverage this simple but effective tool to think strategically about their product.
Copy: Google Document Press Release Template
Copy: Google Document FAQ template
Once again, thank you to Ian McAllister.