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The Silent Killer of Product Launches: Why Stakeholder Communication Matters

The Silent Killer of Product Launches: Why Stakeholder Communication Matters



  • Communication gaps with critical launch stakeholders can derail a product launch

  • Effective launch status communication with critical stakeholders is vital

  • A Launch Status Brief and Launch Status Briefing solves the problem


Even when your launch preparation seems to be going smoothly, there are always consequences lurking in the shadows due to poor stakeholder communication. Communication is one of the 4Cs of product launch: collaboration, coordination, communication, and commitment. Let’s say you have nailed coordination, collaboration, and commitment. If you take your eyes off communication, it can come back to bite you.

Let’s say you have a launch readiness owner on your launch team from the sales team. Having a representative from the sales team is logical since selling the product you’re launching soon is vital to launch success. 

As time passes, you notice that the launch readiness owner from the sales team isn’t attending the weekly launch status meetings or isn’t engaged with their readiness commitments. You shrug it off because you know that they were hired for selling, and it would take precedence over attending launch meetings.

You don’t give it much, though, until you start to hear rumblings from sales leadership. They are concerned about transitioning existing customers to a new product and want to know the migration plan. They are uncomfortable because they are in the dark about the product’s pricing and how it will impact deals in the pipeline. They want to know what the messaging for the new product will be. They raise these issues at C-level status meetings, which, in turn, cascades down to you, creating confusion with the launch team. 

You provide a brief update at the regularly scheduled monthly business review and are baffled by how there could be a communication problem.

The Four Critical Product Launch Stakeholders

Effective stakeholder communication is critical for a successful tier 1 launch. Four stakeholders require extra communication attention: the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), the Chief Product Officer (CPO), and the CEO.  

The CMO wants to ensure that resources for the launch aren’t over-committed. They also want to ensure that launch messaging is aligned with the brand.

The CRO wants to understand how the product will impact revenue and renewals. 

The CPO wants to effectively communicate the big picture of the launch to their peers and boss. 

The CEO wants to understand the business impact the product launch will deliver and if the organization will be ready the day it launches. If that is unclear, the CEO applies pressure on the CMO, CRO, and CPO to get clarity. 

The Four Critical Launch Status Artifacts

Four critical artifacts contain the source of truth for the three critical launch stakeholders: the Launch Plan, Launch Readiness Plans, Readiness Tracker by Functional Area, and Status Brief.

The Launch Plan is the North Star of a product launch. It defines the why and what of a product launch.

Launch Readiness Plans are created for each functional area and provide the details of how launch readiness owners will prepare their teams.

The Launch Readiness Tracker by Functional Area is used to track launch readiness status based on Launch Readiness Plans.

The Launch Status Brief is a summary of the launch status to launch stakeholders.

The Launch Status Brief

A Launch Status Brief summarizes a product launch’s current status for your stakeholders. Depending on an organization’s typical practices, it can be created as a document or a presentation. 

The elements of a Launch Status Brief include:

  • Launch Dashboard: This includes key dates, the name of the launch director, milestones hit, readiness roadmap, open issues, and a team consensus. It’s a brief summary on a page that follows the BLUF format (bottom line up front). Adjust this as you familiarize yourself with the information requirements of your launch stakeholders. If launch readiness is progressing as expected, this could be the only thing your stakeholders care to read. 

  • Product Overview: A brief summary of the product being launched is helpful to familiarize people who are getting up to speed. Keep the overview of the major highlights of the product. Avoid deep dives into technical details. 

  • Launch Objectives and KPIs: This is a list of launch objectives using the Win, Keep, Grow, Steal format, along with key progress indicators, which helps anchor the briefing. 

  • Launch Readiness Roadmap: A summary of functional area readiness along a timeline. Show when each functional area will be ready to launch. Indicate where there are bottlenecks in readiness progress. You provide this as a chronological list or a graphic. 

  • Open Issues: Summarize the issues raised by launch stakeholders and their current status. Prioritize the open issues into two groups. The first group lists the issues raised by the launch stakeholders. The second group lists issues that may not be visible to stakeholders. Each issue should be denoted with the current status, recommendations, and the final resolution. 

The Launch Briefing

Your executive team is very busy, with many meetings on their schedule. You have two options for distributing the Launch Status Brief: asynchronously and synchronously. I strongly suggest the synchronous approach. 

In an asynchronous approach, you send it as an attachment to a message or an email. Maybe the stakeholders read it, and perhaps they don’t. You’ve provided the artifact with the information they want, but it doesn’t solve the communication gap. 

A synchronous approach allows for direct discussion. Here, you have two choices as well. One option is to brief stakeholders one-on-one. What is missed in this approach is the dialog among stakeholders. The second choice is to get all stakeholders together and brief them. The downside to this approach is coordinating calendars.

I recommend the synchronous approach where everyone is in one status meeting, especially for a tier 1 launch. For less strategic launches, consider getting on the calendar of regularly scheduled meetings that all stakeholders can attend. 

Step 1 - Send the Launch Status Brief in Advance

Give your stakeholders time to read the brief and consult with the launch readiness owner for the functional area. Encourage your launch readiness owner to contact the stakeholders to answer their questions.

Step 2 - Conduct the Launch Status Briefing

Allow enough time for your audience to engage with the information you present. For some organizations, this is 30 minutes, and for others, it’s an hour. 

Remember BLUF - Bottom Line Up Front - when conducting a Launch Status Briefing. Don’t hide or gloss over any information, good or bad. Celebrate the good news and deliver the bad news with a proposed solution.

Also, remember that a Launch Status Briefing is a dialog, not a one-way presentation of facts. You need your audience to engage to prevent small issues from becoming big ones days before the launch date. 

Review the Readiness Roadmap. Point out where you are in the timeline, what your status is, and where there are delays (and why). 

Review the Open Issues. Focus on the status of old issues first, proceeding to new issues. Your goal is to flush out stakeholder issues as early as possible and to get clarity on their reasons for being issues. Without clarity, it’s difficult to remove an issue.

Add new issues to the open issues list. Be wary of revisiting old issues. Unless extraordinary new information comes to light, old issues that are resolved and closed should remain closed. 



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