The Three Types of Product Managers

Few product managers are really good at external messaging, but alas, many think they are good, and then it goes horribly wrong. When in doubt, leave it to the Comms team

Well, to be honest, there are probably more than three types, but in this instance, the Dude is thinking about external messaging, and the role.

The three types are:

  1. Some (not many) Product Managers can write and deliver effective external messaging
  2. Most Product Managers can’t write or deliver effective external messaging
  3. Then there are Product Managers who think they can write and communicate external messages without adult supervision, but are really really REALLY can’t.

In the first category are product managers who are also effective at product marketing. They are people who can write messaging, tag lines, advertising copy, talk to the press, and have earned the trust of their communications team to do these things on behalf of the company.

These people used to be a LOT more common, as the product manager was often the top to bottom person. However, over the last 15 years or so, the practice of product management has become more formalized, and regimented. Not a bad thing, as to do product marketing well takes a LOT of time.

In the second category are product managers who are really good at the product side (yay, that is what you were hired to do), and are blessed with the ability to not be distracted. Agile and scrum have accelerated this, particularly in software driven tech. There, the product manager will be paired with an effective product marketer, and together they will create the messaging, collateral, and outbound marketing. A very good model.

Then there is the train wreck. The product manager who thinks he is in the first category, and puts a lot of effort into it. Often bypassing the corporate marketing and communications team. They often have a chip on their shoulder, thinking that because they were closest to the product, they have the mojo.

They are usually dead wrong in this belief. Outbound messaging is tightly controlled by corporate marketing precisely because it relates to the brand. The brand is a promise made by the company to the customer. If you think of Starbucks, the brand is the promise of a consistent cup of coffee (regardless if you like or hate their coffee) whenever you walk into one of their locations, be it London, New York, or Shanghai, it is a comfort to their loyal customers.

The Dude highlights this because the brand is a valuable commodity to your company, whether you are in a start up or a Fortune 100 company. There is a reason why all corporate handbooks make it crystal clear that employees are not to talk to the press, or industry analysts, but instead to refer queries to the Communications team, or the Investor Relations team (in public companies). It is to prevent disasters like this Tweet thread:

That is the first tweet, here is the link to the whole thread - worth the cringe-worthy read, and the comments are as you would expect

Let this be a lesson to product managers the world over. Do not do this. If you do do this, then expect to learn a life lesson, and have a hole in your resume that you will have to explain for the next decade as you job hop to recover.

Note: I was going to publish this earlier, but apparently the heat Mr Adams received caused him to dirty delete his post, so the link above will not work. It is a shame, as it was a textbook case of what not to do.

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