How to Send Internal Product Updates Stakeholders Will Read

by | Feb 21, 2022

Why your product updates to internal stakeholders don’t have to be boring

ways to keep stakeholders informed about product updates

Keeping stakeholders and coworkers informed and engaged with what you’re building is an essential part of product management. And one of the ways in which some product teams do this is by sending regular, internal updates to the rest of the company.

Sometimes, team updates can be interesting and insightful. Other times they can be a little dull and your intended readers will politely skip them entirely.

If you’re ever tasked with writing internal product updates, here’s a few ideas on how you can spice them up so that your stakeholders feel energised and excited the next time you update them on all the wonderful work the product team is doing. OK, energised and excited might be a bit OTT for every single update but stick with me.

 

 

1. Treat your internal updates like a newsletter

The go to tool for sending internal product updates is typically a generic email sender. You fire up Gmail or Outlook and send off an email as though you’re pinging a message to a colleague.

What if you were to treat your internal product updates like a newsletter? Just as newsletter writers have to think about how to engage their audience, you could apply the same creative process to your internal updates.

You could use your email marketing tool to send internal stakeholder updates and curatively select information in the same way you’d do if you were emailing your users.

Newsletter-inspired content

Draw inspiration from leading email marketing businesses such as Morning Brew, The Hustle, The Information and Quartz and think about how you could include interesting content in each update.

This could include:

  • A link to a news story about your product that’s recently been featured in the trade press
  • A tweet from a customer about how much they love your product, or, on the flip side, a problem that they’re having with your product
  • Screenshots from an upcoming new feature

Newsletter-inspired subject line and preview text

Why make your subject line boring? You could ditch the ‘Weekly update w/c 18th February’ and add some of the most interesting parts of your update in the subject line.

Give people a flavor of what’s coming up in this product update with an interesting subject line.

Newsletter-inspired metrics

Using an email marketing tool also gives you the opportunity to monitor things like:

  • Open rates
  • Click through rates
  • Department engagement scores

If you see that specific email topics get more engagement, you could double down on those next time.

If you notice that a specific team or department is less engaged with your updates, does this simply mean that they haven’t had time to read it or is it a symptom that they’re less interested in what you’re building? If you were to notice a steep decline in the sales team opening product updates, for example, perhaps it’s time to pick up the phone and arrange a call with your sales team and real customers to keep them engaged.

It’s very easy to get paranoid and draw the wrong conclusions here, particularly if your business is small, so it’s probably best not to read too much into these metrics, but they’re definitely interesting data points nonetheless. Just don’t fixate on them too much.

 

2. Make it creative and interactive

We touched upon this earlier, but the content you include in your product updates doesn’t necessarily have to be staid and corporate. Now, clearly this will depend on the culture of your company, but there’s always opportunities to make the content you include in your updates a little more interactive – even if it doesn’t scream Generation Z TikTok banter.

 

5 ways to make your email update content creative, engaging and interactive

1. Video demos

Why rely on text-only when there are plenty of tools to embed video content too. If you have recently released a feature that you’re proud of or that customers love, celebrate it with a quick video demo. Don’t attempt to get into Spielberg territory here; just keep it short and snappy and consider using tools like Loom to ensure it’s quick and easy.

Ask the engineers and designers who worked on the feature to perhaps do short, joint explanation of the feature and – critically – how the feature impacts the overall business. If you know that a particular part of the business will care a lot about it, consider explicitly linking it back to that team so that they know.

2. Polls

Polls can be a fun way to interact with your stakeholders via email.

It’s probably a really bad idea to make your product strategy decisions based off a quick poll in an internal product update, but every once in a while it could be super interesting to ask your stakeholders what they want to see built next.

Caveat it all over the place (in true product fashion), but asking stakeholders for their input in this way gives you the opportunity to compare what they want with what your customers want, too. The delta between the two often make for interesting discussion points.

3. Call outs / thank yous

Your internal product updates provide you with the perfect platform to call out specific people or teams and thank them for their input in building whatever it is you’ve released or you’re working on. It’s rare (if ever) that a new product feature or initiative without the significant help of stakeholders and their teams. If you’ve recently released something impactful or have had positive feedback about a feature that they were involved with, aim to include those people by name and call them out to thank them for their input.

4. Sneak peaks and product discovery updates

If the product team are busy at work on product discovery, share some of the updates on that work, too. Stakeholders will naturally care more about stuff that’s already been released but your internal updates give you the perfect opportunity to share more information about work that’s not yet released, but is in the discovery stage and will be coming soon.

Stakeholders won’t necessarily know (or care much) about the term ‘discovery’, but they will be interested in having a sneak peak at any exciting new developments in the pipeline.

This could be a chance for a designer to explain some prototypes that are currently being user tested or a feature that’s being scoped. You could even share a direct link to a prototype with your internal teams and ask them to provide feedback directly using comments if you’re using a web-based tool which allows that.

5. Product graveyard

Finally, rather than always fixating on the new and exciting thing you’re building, your updates could also give you the chance to explain the products you’ve decided to retire. We’ve lovingly called this the product graveyard, but including parts of your product that have – or will soon be – deprecated or removed will give stakeholders the opportunity to manage that process with customers if its likely to cause any issues.

It also keeps a healthy focus on the need to remove tech debt and features that are not used in a world fixated with building fresh and shiny things.

 

3. Choose a cadence that keeps your updates interesting

Typically, internal product updates are the brainchild of someone in the team or are requested by internal stakeholders, and after a brief chat to agree that it’ll be sent, the next question is when and how often. Usually, it’s agreed that the product update will be sent on a regular cadence (weekly or monthly).

But, if there’s no reason to send an update, it might be best to not send any updates until there’s something of interest to talk about. Sending out updates once a week with dull updates you’ve scraped from the barrel of your Jira backlog to try to sound interesting and stick to a self-imposed cadence might not be ideal. Instead, to keep things fresh, you could always send your updates on a random, irregular schedule.

 

4. Re-purpose release notes content

OK, at some point reading through all of this you’ve probably thought to yourself, sure, this all sounds wonderful, but who do you think I am? I have 43 other things to be doing at any given point in time so does it really make any sense for me to spend this much time putting an email together that will only be read by internal stakeholders?

The answer is probably not – unless of course, you can also re-purpose the content and then use the same content for both internal stakeholders and external customers.

Some of the content may be sensitive and so can’t be shared, but if you regularly send out product release notes, transparent roadmaps or other exciting upcoming developments to your customers, you can re-purpose a lot of this content to share with internal stakeholders, too.

 

5. Link to important, living documents

Finally, since no one can ever remember where certain important documents are stored, it might be worth using your internal product updates as an opportunity to point people in the direction of these docs.

Sure, nobody’s going to read them all day every day, but giving people a reliable place where they can at least see a glance of what’s in progress, what’s coming up next and what the team is hoping to achieve is helpful. Documents / information to link to could include:

  1. Product roadmaps
  2. Product strategy information
  3. OKRs
  4. Open meetings stakeholders are able to attend e.g. product demos

You could even go as far as building your own internal, stakeholder appropriate dashboards. Using tools such as Boardy, you could pull in key stats from various locations and share these as a board with stakeholders. Documentation hub tools like Google Workspace, Notion, Miro and others also work a treat in consolidating important documents in one place.

 

Bringing it all together

Sending internal product updates, particularly in large corporates, can be quite nerve wracking. Before you hit send, you can get hit by a pang of anxiety and wonder if you’ve included the right people, said the right things and made it interesting enough to read.

But the truth is, ultimately many people are too busy with the responsibilities of their own role to care too much about an email. The trouble is, whilst they may not care about the email too much, they will care about what the product team is building. And if you can’t find the appropriate ways to keep your stakeholders engaged and in the loop, disengagement can turn sour.

With a little help potentially using some of the ideas we’ve outlined, you can transform your internal product updates from just another email in an inbox to something your team members genuinely look forward to reading – and ultimately a tool to help you build a better product.

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