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Creating Our Product Walkthrough

As launch approaches, it’s time for us to start preparing to showcase our product. In addition to writing a product description, we need to put together all of the tools we plan on using to present it to the world, such as social media, our website, etc. This past week we focused on creating a walkthrough video that would serve as an introduction to our product.

While a larger company might have a team of specialists or hire an agency to create the video for them, as a startup we had to create it ourselves. Everybody contributed in some way.

To begin, Kristoph, Alyssa and I all sat down to conceptualize the video. We first had to determine what features we wanted to highlight and what were the most important parts of our product to showcase. After narrowing those down, we discussed the images we wanted to use and how the presentation would flow. When everything was mapped out, Mel and Alyssa set to work putting together the visuals.

As our design team tackled the graphics, Kristoph and I collaborated on the audio. Once again we decided what features needed to be discussed in the video to put our product’s best foot forward. When all of the pieces were ready, I sat down and recorded the voiceover along with the visuals. Finally we sent everything over to Nichole for editing.

Ultimately we’re all extremely satisfied with the end result. We think this video is a great way to showcase our product and will serve as an excellent introduction.

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The Challenges of Being in Stealth Mode

Although being a stealth startup has its advantages, it also presents certain challenges. Some of them might seem obvious- for example, we have to keep what we’re doing a secret. However, a few of them have led to PR challenges that I hadn’t originally anticipated. Here are the top four public relations challenges I’ve encountered while being in stealth mode:

1. Inexperienced with talking about our product - We haven’t been openly discussing our product, so nobody on the team is used to doing it.  We’ve had very few opportunities to practice eloquently describing it to people, whether in a quick “elevator pitch” or in a longer, more detailed conversation. As we prepare for launch it’s going to be important for us to find ways to practice this.

2. Less early buzz - Since we haven’t been able to let people know what we’re doing, we haven’t been able to build as much excitement about our future product, meaning people aren’t eagerly anticipating its release. On the bright side, when we actually do launch we should be able generate a lot of buzz while our product is actually available.

3. Restricted online presence -  I have to be hyper aware of the things we say online, specifically on social media. When I tweet, post to Facebook, or write blog posts, I need to be sure that the things Degas shares don’t give too much away about what we’re working on.

4. Lack of promotion - It’s extremely difficult to write great copy for our website when I can’t openly discuss our product. It has been tricky trying to balance keeping our product a secret while still sharing enough about who we are and what our goals are to pique the visitor’s interest.

Despite the challenges that our stealthy status has presented, it’s been fun to maintain an air of mystery. At the end of the day I know that stealth mode or not, our startup’s product is going to have a great launch.

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Writing a Product Description

Throughout the process of building our product, there are often times when we need to give a written description of what it actually is and what it actually does. Whether it’s writing copy for our website or passing it along to potential reviewers, it’s important to know who our audience is and put the product’s best foot forward. Although this task often falls on my shoulders, the truth is it always ends up being a team effort.

It sounds pretty straightforward- we’re building our product from the ground up, so nobody knows it better than us, right?

The truth is, coming up with a description of our product can be really difficult- this is our baby, and we want everything to be perfect. Also, there are an overwhelming number of things we need to consider.

First of all, we need to be able to say exactly what our product is and what it does on the most basic level. This really should only be a sentence or two, but it’s a little more complicated than it sounds. Our product is amazing, and it does a lot of cool things. We can’t help but feel like simplifying it to such a short description doesn’t do it justice- it leaves out so much of what makes it awesome.

On top of that, our product is tech based. It does tech stuff. I could very easily use the technological terms to tell you what it is and what it does, but that’s not something most people understand. Translating the technological jargon into the language of the average consumer presents a similar challenge- once again, how do you describe it in a simplified way that the customer understands while still doing justice to how incredible it really is?

Once we have our initial description we need to expand on it and provide some detail. This usually means highlighting some of our product’s best features and talking about what makes it so unique. But, as I mentioned before, we think it does a ton of really cool things that are worth mentioning- so how do we choose just a few? Which are the most important?

After hammering out all of these details, we’re still faced with the most important task of all- showing how our product is beneficial to the consumer. Our entire description is worthless if it doesn’t demonstrate value. Fortunately, this is the easy part. The product does a good job of selling its worth on its own!

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True Life: Tech Bloggers Hate Me

Tech bloggers hate PR people. You can’t blame them for it – their emails are inundated daily with pitches from public relations professionals trying to get press coverage for the companies they represent. They probably all sound pretty much the same, and it has to get repetitive, if not down right annoying.

Imagine how you’d feel if somebody only ever reached out to you when they wanted something. Then magnify it hundreds of times on a daily basis.

That puts us PR people in a tricky position. We read bloggers’ articles – we know they’re smart and we know that they realize that we want something from them.

It’s not like we want to be another annoying PR person annoying journalists with another annoying email that they may or may not consider worth their time. But at the same time, we do want them to talk about our brand new startup and the super cool product we’re releasing, and hey, they might just want to talk about it too. As much as journalists might hate them, it’s hard to pretend like there aren’t occasionally stories worth covering in that mass of emails they receive on a daily basis. It can’t be WWDC all the time, so it must be nice to have those stories for a slow news day, right?

It’s an unfortunate situation, but what can we do about it? Our pitches are not meant to insult anyone’s intelligence or to irritate, we just don’t know a better way of approaching the situation. If any tech bloggers or journalists out there have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

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Product Testing

As Degas’ Public Relations Director, I should probably write an enlightening post about what it’s like to do PR for a brand new company that’s creating a brand new product that nobody has heard of yet, but I’m not going to (we’ll save that for another day). Instead, I’m going to talk about something way cooler that’s been going on here at Degas – developing and testing our product.

That’s the great thing about startups – my role is by no means limited by my job title. I get to be a part of creating our product, I help make decisions about what direction it should go, and I get to provide insight into how things should work. Most recently this has meant testing out various features as Nichole develops them.

Testing an app is a much trickier process than I realized, and it requires thoroughness and attention to detail. For each new feature that gets added, we have to consider every possible way it could be used. Even the most basic and straightforward steps will be approached differently by various users, so it’s important to take all of them into account. We have to test every possible approach and make sure everything functions the way it’s supposed to under the circumstances.

It’s been extremely cool to work with Nichole to figure out and test all of these scenarios and variations. There’s excitement in finding that one anomalous situation where something doesn’t work quite right. It’s fun to figure out how it needs to be changed and watch it get fixed. I’m so impressed every time Nichole  jumps into that mysterious language of Objective-C (I think), makes a few tweaks, and returns with a perfected product in a matter of minutes – it’s kind of like magic, only cooler.

Being a part of this process is incredibly rewarding. Where else would I get to play such an integral role in creating a product? There’s nothing more exciting than watching all of this coming together. In fact, every time Nichole and I test out a problem area and realize she’s fixed it, we kind of feel like this (I’ll let you decide which of us is which):

I’m looking forward to continuing to test our product in the weeks to come, and the countless victory dances it will undoubtedly lead to.

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The Dream

I love start-ups.  As a basketball player I’ve always valued being a member of a team and all that it entails, which is something that really appeals to me about the start-up environment.  It’s inspiring the way a few people are drawn together by a single goal and their motivation to make it succeed, and it’s thrilling to be part of a team that’s working on something they’re passionate about and believe in.

However, as much as I’ve enjoyed being a part of the start-up world, I’ve always wanted to bring my own ideas to reality.  I was envious of those brave enough to take a risk, to build a company from nothing, to see a product from start to finish. I’ve always been ambitious – I couldn’t help but want to rise to the challenge.

As soon as I heard what Kristoph, Alyssa, and Mel were thinking, I immediately began brainstorming things I wanted to contribute.  The more we talked about what our plans could become, the more I wanted to be involved.  This was my chance to give life to my ideas, and I knew we could have a huge impact on the way people use their mobile devices.

I’m so excited to be a co-founder of Degas and to be working with a team on something we are all able to contribute to.  Now I can finally take something totally unknown, something I believe in, and share it with the world.

-Georgia Gier