(A guide for the OS/2 developer who doesn't want to be a marketing professional)

You've finished your application, or maybe you've added some extra-special
finishing touches. Now you want OS/2 users to find out about it. Perhaps
you hope to make a few dollars on the software, or maybe you wrote something
that you think will help other people, and you're happy to provide it for
free. In either case, it's time to tell people about the "new and improved"
software -- and you aren't sure what to say. In fact, the idea of writing
an announcement makes three days of debugging sound like fun.

Relax. In this short document, I'll give you the structure for writing
an informal announcement about your application, suitable for posting on
Warpcast, on comp.os.os2.announce, or on VOICE's announcement list. It's
written specifically for OS/2 developers, but the advice will apply to
others as well.

The important elements in any product announcement are the same ones
as your literature teacher tried to drum into your head in grade school:
who, what, when, where, how. In the case of software, that's

  • who wrote this (your company or your name, and your contact information
    -- such as an email ID)
  • what the software does
  • when it was released or updated (provide an explicit date)
  • where does the reader go to acquire it (URL, store, and the price)
  • how it matters.

Strictly speaking, it doesn't matter how you get that information across.
But effective announcements use a particular structure, just the way that
a programmer expects code to be formatted in a predictable manner.

Your first paragraph should say who released the software, and name
the application with its full version number. Give a one-sentence description
of what the application does, and two or three significant features and
their benefits.

In the next paragraph, maybe two, explain what problem the application
solves, and how this new version (or the new app) does a better job of solving that problem than your earlier version or the other alternatives
available. One way to communicate this is to list a few of the most important
new capabilities. Two or three is usually plenty; more than five is unnecessary.
Don't mention that you fixed bugs, or even what they are -- bug fixes go
without saying (or at least they should).

This doesn't need to be long; it does need to be complete.

Need an example? Here's a simple one for PM-Euro, which I edited from
a (much longer) Warpcast announcement. It's only 100 words, but it gets
across all the important pieces.

Carsten Mueller (cm@warphouse.de) released PM-Euro 1.6,
a free OS/2 currency calculator. The new version calculates while you type,
and includes an installation program.

PM-Euro also has a new online update feature. It loads the currency
exchange rates for US-Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Australian Dollars, UK
Pounds, Japanese Yen and Swiss Francs within a few seconds from the Internet.
You don't have to update the rates manually. Just establish an Internet
connection, and push the 'Online-Update' button.

You can download PM-Euro 1.6 from Warphouse Software www.warphouse.de.

To minimize complexity, I've kept this tutorial short. But if you're interested
in doing a great job rather than an adequate one, there are a few
URLs worth checking out.

The Well-Tempered Press Release, by Daniel Dern (editor in chief
of Byte.com), at http://www.dern.com/welltemp.html.
It's written in a Mad-Libs "fill in the blank" style.

Care & Feeding of the Press, for which I was "lead perpetrator"
among the members of the Internet Press Guild (http://www.netpress.org).
This is geared towards public relations professionals and would-be-professionals,
so it may be overkill for your needs, but you're sure to find useful tips
all the same.

How to write a press release, by Alan Zeichick: http://www.camdenassociates.com/samplepr.htm/.
This is a sample press release, written in 1995, by then editor-in-chief
of OS/2 Magazine Alan Zeichick, with comments explaining the contents.

Any questions? Feel free to write to me at esther@bitranch.com (but if you do, please do read "Care
& Feeding
" first.)

Esther Schindler has been a professional journalist since 1992,
and is currently senior editor for Planet
IT - http://www.PlanetIT.com
. She's also vice president of the Phoenix
OS/2 Society http://www.possi.org
, and has been active in the OS/2
community for several years.

VOICE Home Page: http://www.os2voice.org