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Rolling Thunder

August 1, 2012

I woke up this morning to the sound of thunder. Not actual thunder, but rather an article in my morning paper about the Windows 8 release to manufacturing (RTM). This news means that the major work has been completed on the next version of Microsoft Windows, the operating system (OS) ubiquitous to desktop computers around the world. This, on its own, is not big news. It will be months before readers will be able to purchase Windows 8 on a new PC or in a shrink-wrapped box at Best Buy or Costco (October 26, 2012 – to be exact). But it is the rumble of an approaching storm – and part of a classic marketing communications technique descriptively referred to as Rolling Thunder.

A rolling thunder public relations campaign is designed to build in strength and ferocity like a storm growing in the distance. You hear it coming from a long way off with a rumble of announcements here and a rumble of mentions there. The thunder grows louder as the real news storm approaches. The idea is to spread out your announcements over time so that instead of getting one single POP! at the product launch, you can enjoy several news stories along the way while building anticipation for the day when your customers can take action.

Microsoft began brewing this storm a long time ago. It first came onto my radar with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview in February of this year. Here’s a quick look at just some of the Windows 8 related announcements Microsoft has made over the past 6 months:

  • February 17 – new Windows 8 logo
  • February 29 – Windows 8 Consumer Preview
  • May 31 – Windows 8 Release Preview
  • June 4 – Windows 8 mentions in virtually all of Microsoft’s E3 news (Electronic Entertainment Expo)
  • June 18 – Microsoft Surface family of PCs announced, “Built for Windows 8!”
  • June 20 – Windows Phone 8 announced, many Windows 8 mentions
  • July 9 – Windows 8 mentions in virtually all the announcements made at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partners Conference
  • July 16 Office preview announced, “Office at Its Best on Windows 8”

Your company may not have Microsoft’s resources or its depth and breadth of products, but that doesn’t mean you can’t utilize a similar Rolling Thunder communications campaign. Start by thinking long term. Your PR calendar should be planned out at least one year in advance. Look for synergies with other products or services within your company – and outside your company if there are mutual benefits for partners. You may find the tie-ins in unexpected places, such as earnings announcements or otherwise routine company statements. (e.g.- Moving to new offices? Make sure to mention that it’s in preparation for your upcoming product launch.) Set the context for your big news, keep your name out there, and build anticipation. In short, do your best to control the weather.

From → MarComm/PR 101

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