The Press Release

At the center of Working Backwards lies the press release. A document that should be no longer than a page and a half, it’s the guiding light and the touchstone of the product and something that can be referred to over the course of development.

Amazon’s view is that a press release can be iterated upon at a much lower cost than the actual product. That’s because the document shines a harsh light on your answer to your customer’s pain. Solutions that aren’t compelling are easily identified. Nuke them and start over.

“If the benefits listed don’t sound very interesting or exciting to customers, then perhaps they’re not (and shouldn’t be built)”

This is a specific outline of the document:

  1. Heading: This is where you announce the name of the product. Will your target audience understand its meaning? Will they be compelled to learn more?
  2. Subheading: declare in one sentence who your product’s target market is, and how they’ll benefit from it.
  3. Summary: summarize the product and its benefits.
  4. Problem: What’s the problem this feature solves? What are the pains customers are experiencing that justify this product’s existence?
  5. Solution: how does this feature annihilate our customer’s pain in the most frictionless way possible?
  6. How to Get Started: how does a customer take their first step into the larger world that’s your product? Describe your ideal first step that provides an immediate benefit.
  7. Customer Quote: what would your ideal customer say after they’d had their pains destroyed by this feature?
  8. Closing, with a Call to Action

This process — however laborious — provides such clarity about what the product is going to be, and how it’s going to help our customers.

Once we have gone through the process, we’ll have a suite of documents that we can use to explain the new feature to others. We know at that point that the whole team has a shared vision on what product we are going to build.

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