“New” is the holy grail of PR professionals. “New” makes headlines. “New” positions companies on the cutting-edge.
Sometimes, however, newness can be a handicap – especially when we’re talking about groundbreaking innovation, which revolutionizes a market or creates a new category. Small improvements are easy for customers to understand. And they rarely require customers to change behavior dramatically.
Big improvements are a different shade of “new.” They require much more careful planning and creativity. Imagine a breakthrough product that nobody has ever used before. How do you create a sense of shared understanding? How do you overcome marketplace inertia? How do you get customers to change their behavior and adopt new habits?
Author John Gourville calls these challenges the curse of innovation. “The curse of innovation has at least two important implications,” Gourville writes. “First, consumers will often reject innovations that, objectively, would make them better off. Second, developers will be at a loss to anticipate this rejection.”
To overcome this curse, PR professionals need to do more than build visibility. We need to understand the degree of behavior change required by our target audience and create a plan to overcome resistance.
Here are five questions that I find helpful:
- Who is our target audience? How entrenched are they in current behaviors? How strongly do they feel the need for change? Are there sub-groups who feel the need most acutely?
- What degree of behavior change does the new product or service require? What resistance are we likely to encounter?
- Is there a core group of opinion leaders – journalists, bloggers, policymakers, associations, industry leaders – who have spoken out on the need for change? Who are these people? How can we partner with them to speed adoption?
- Are there comparable products or services in other industries? How can we make the innovation more familiar? More tangible?
- Is the new product socially relevant? Does it support widely-held values, experiences and beliefs? How can this help speed adoption?
The risks associated with innovation are surprisingly high – especially for groundbreaking products and services.
What are your tips for translating new ideas into news?