Have you ever imagined something you wanted that then became a reality?
As a coach for founders and entrepreneurs across the creative industries, I believe in the power of creative visualization. After all, every Netflix series that entertains you, every great work of art that inspires you, and every book that connects with you on a human level began with one producer's, artist's, or writer's ability to fully inhabit a reality that did not yet exist.
For artists, one simple way to bring a new creation into existence and test its viability is a sketch or an outline. For entrepreneurs, looking to manifest a new product, feature, service, or business idea, a press release can work just as well.
Serial entrepreneur Gavin Hay, founder of Content Kings, who sold his first business for $15 million, writes a full press release for every deal that he's looking to strike. "This creative visualization helps me bring distant objectives into focus," he says. "Writing the release not only identifies the future needs of a nascent relationship, but it also makes the deal on the table seem much more real, at the very earliest stage."
This process of innovation, called "working backward," involves writing a press release before you even start to develop whatever it is you're hoping to launch. Amazon famously uses this "working backward" method, which starts with the team imagining the product is ready to ship. Their first step is to draft a press release announcing the product's availability. The audience for this press release is the product's customers.
With this technique, the product teams focus on working backward to write the success story of their product before they start working on it. The thought behind this development process is that if the teams can't tell a compelling story about the product, it's probably too complicated for the public to understand.
"What's the big headline you want to land? Who are the people who will deliver it? How will you make it happen? Why did you decide to do it? What does it look like to the outside world?" These are all questions which Barcroft Studios founder Sam Barcroft wanted answered in the many "imaginary" press releases he wrote for his business, which he recently sold to Future PLC for $30.1 million.
"What is the name of the product and what does it do? Can you explain it in layman's terms? What is the scope of the project and how does it work? What does your new product or service help users do better, faster, or more efficiently? How does it make them more successful?" asks Barcroft.
Simone Pennant is the founder of the TV Collective, which launched a leadership development program in 2020 to support 100 future leaders in media from Black, Asian, or minority ethnic backgrounds. She has found that writing a press release for every new ambitious project helps focus her mind on exactly what she wants the project to achieve, and often, magically, brings new ideas into being.
Pennant suggests always including at least one quote from someone involved in the project's success that focuses on how this project improves the user's experience and why they chose to become involved.
"I also try to predict the challenges we faced in achieving the kind of success we're imagining for every new project," says Pennant. "What could get in the way? How will we collaborate with different stakeholders? I always make sure to reference the obstacles we have overcome in my imaginary press release."
It's important to take your early drafts to the team and get feedback. Iterate until you get to a press release that is compelling and can be clearly understood by stakeholders and end users.
One of my clients, who is a talented graphic designer, surprised me by sending me an imaginary press release that he'd taken to the next level. He'd created a mockup of the story in a trade magazine. It looked so real that I was fooled into thinking his ambitious new co-production had been commissioned. At the heart of the creative visualization involved in writing an imaginary press release is creating a story that you believe in totally.
Scanning brain activity we can see that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions. Mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes from motor control, attention, perception, and planning to memory. And it has been found that mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence, and improve motor performance, cognitive performance, and self-esteem. The imaginary press release you write at the start of a project will not only road test the idea, but it just may also help bring it into being. Save your draft. You could well be sending it out for real in the not-too-distant future.