internal launch kitAgain this year, like Capistrano clockwork, the geek press fixated on Apple’s launch event, in which the latest version of the iPhone was to be unveiled. In previous years, the details of these events were held like CIA eyes-only schematics for a new stealth fighter. This year, there were almost no surprises, as anyone paying attention could have predicted that there would be a gold phone, a color series of phones, and a fingerprint reader.

But this isn’t about corporate confidentiality, or the power of a secret to give your event some pop (however, those might be good topics for the future). This is about the idea of a launch kit. Before Tim Cook and company step onto the stage at an event, they’ve already approved and distributed an internal launch kit for the new product. It tells all levels of leadership and anyone who might have cause to comment publicly about the product what to say in a given situation. With as many people talking about the new iPhone, you’d hate to have one person not 100% understanding all the technical specs and give an anomalous answer. It could (and would) become the new story, killing any buzz you had built.

Even if your company isn’t Apple-esque in size, your project can still benefit from an internal launch kit.

You might be assuming that what I’m referring to as an internal launch kit is really just a talking points memo, the kind that make a dozen different political players spin the same line across dozens of different media. And while a good launch kit takes some cues from a talking point memo, there is more to it.

A good launch kit speaks to different levels of leadership, and to different roles, about how the project affects them and what their role is in its launch. To sales leadership, it spells out how the new specs lift the product above that of their competition. To the C-suite, it spells out how to talk about the strategy development surrounding the new product. To marketing, it might spell out what facets it thinks are crucial to focus on. To administration, it might discuss how this new project affects existing product lines.

Beyond that, a great launch kit might even package pre-written materials for each role, not just to spell out what that person should say, but to also see what others will be talking about. The launch kit helps each recipient understand their role, individually and as a team member,  in this new initiative. It focuses as much on the why as on the what so that 1) all elements can align to support the product and 2) there are few internal surprises.

A launch kit doesn’t have to be a single item. It can be re-factored and re-tailored for each audience, so that what the CMO reads will differ from what their regional manager reads. As different kinds of information is needed at different levels, the launch kit should reflect that need.

If you’re considering building an internal launch kit, here is a laundry list of items you could start to include:

  • A definition of the internal launch kit and what its purpose st, to both the project/product and to the recipient
  • A description of the overall strategy
  • Description of project/product, including its purpose, intended audience, intended use and any technical specs that go along with it
  • Talking points and examples of how to use them
  • Any pre-written outgoing messages
  • Launch/production schedule

You should include anything that helps the recipient feel confident in their role in the launch and what is expected of him/her.

And don’t let the size of your project dissuade you. Are you launching an intranet for your 50-person company? A launch kit, albeit at a small scale, will help all levels of the organization understand the purpose of the intranet, and explain what they should be telling their teams to encourage use.

For a smaller project like this, the power of a launch kit comes from leveraging other people to spread your message and encourage action. Unless you’d rather spend the next month holding lunch-and-learns to explain the project to each person.

So think about how building an internal launch kit can increase message understanding, alignment and encourage action. And think about how valuable those things would be to the success of your launch.