Release notes for SaaS: who should be writing them and why
Release notes have such a bad rap. When we think of release notes, we consider it to be a boring chore and literal side note that goes unmotivated by users anyways. They’re a legal obligation that your team fulfills without too much effort.
But is that all release notes can be? In product marketing, release notes can take on a different role and serve a broader purpose. Your team can use release notes to boost engagement and reduce churn. Release notes are a powerful sales and marketing tool so who writes them and for who they are written for is very important.
Here is a quick guide on how to write release notes, who should write them, and how to use them to boost engagement:
What is the benefit of release notes?
At their most simple form, release notes are simply a way for your team to let users know what new features and updates have been made. They can become more of an engagement tool when your team uses them right:
- Keep perspective users in the loop
- Show how your product is growing and changing
- Keep technical roles in the loop on how changes affect their work
- Show users you’re fixing issues and bugs
- Prove your team listens to feedback; users notice.
Write release notes and easily (in the most engaging way possible) with Beamer:
Beamer is an in-app changelog that helps you keep your users updated. You can announce anything on Beamer: updates, new features, new content, tips and tricks for users, etc. Anything to engage users, Beamer is great for. Beamer sits within your app in a discreet, native-looking sidebar that users can open by clicking an icon in your app’s interface or a “What’s New” tab on your site if they’re prospective customers.
Share release notes in an visual, simplified way:
Beamer allows you to share release notes in a way that is not boring, hard to find, or daunting to read. You can make your updates on Beamer really engaging and interactive. You can add photos, GIFs, videos, etc. to better explain what’s changed.
Make release notes easy to digest:
By sharing your release notes as Beamer updates, you can share a really simple version of your longer release notes and get straight to the point. You can include a short description of your update or new feature and a CTA to a longer form post. This way, you can get the point across. You can show users your product is changing and get them engaged instead of just sharing long notes no one pays attention to.
Send notes to the right users:
Beamer helps you get release notes in front of the right users. You can use segmentation to target users with notes that would be interesting for them. For example, you can send specific release notes to just tech roles so that you don’t bore other users with technical information. You can also send specific updates to new users and not old users to better the onboarding process and not exhaust older users with the same updates.
What to consider when writing release notes:
You want your release notes to be informative and interesting for the right audience.
User’s technical profile:
You want to consider the reader’s technical profile. Are they someone who is a developer at a client company or are they in a more creative or managerial role with little technical experience? If you write from a perspective that is too “light” on technical information, you won’t gain the attention of technical roles. If you write them too dry and technical, you will lose the interest and engagement of more creative roles.
The importance of new features to users:
It’s frustrating when your team works on features and new updates only to have them ignored by users. This is important to consider when you’re writing release notes – do your users care? How can you write in a way that makes them care and see value in new features and updates? You want to write in a way that shows users the end value of new features to their work. New features can be quite powerful for users that are churning out or are new users who have not yet discovered the full extent of your product.
Analyze different roles that can best write your release notes:
It’s time to write release notes, who on your team should do it? This has a complex answer but it’s important to figure out who’s best to strike the right tone. You need the right voice to speak to different audiences, especially in a short update like a release notes. It’s best to analyze internally within your team who should write release notes based on your audience or audiences.
Your development team:
For example, if your release note readers are most likely to be technical roles, your own dev team is best to write in their jargon and share the details that would be important to their work with your product. Your dev team is most likely to know how technical users are going to want to use different elements and react to different changes in your product.
Your sales and marketing team:
Your sales and marketing team should know your audiences really well. They’re likely a great fit for this! Their focus should be to shed light on the value of the new features and updates for users who are similar. The best way to approach this is with a product marketing lens. Product marketing is essentially using your product’s value and it’s growth as a tool to boost engagement, upsell your product, and keep users from churning out. Product marketers focus on communicating the value of the product to users in a simple, clear way. Applying this methodology to how you write release notes and use them as a tool of product marketing can really help your marketing team. Read more on product marketing.
Your product manager:
Consider now your Product Manager. They already know your product roadmap and your product strategy in terms of new developments. They know how each step impacts on the whole development process. That’s why they are the most suitable role for writing internal release notes.
Your product manager oversees your product team and is suitable for internal release notes. Your product manager can best communicate what changes are coming to your product. It’s important for your team to know the steps and coming changes in each version of your app. Release notes written by your product manager can help give that roadmap and guidance.
Now, let’s talk about technical writers. You won’t probably have this role if you’re a small startup, but will definitely need them in a large corporation or complex product.
Technical writers are usually not found as a part of startups. If your product is more complex, you might need one. Technical writers are onboard to solely ensure that documentation of your product and its changes are done completely and correctly, covering even legal bases. This is important if you work with larger companies with tier own technical teams as clients. Some heavier documentation is needed when there are frequent changes that affect different business areas. Technical writers also help your team to put out manuals for use of your product, implementation details, installation guides, API details, etc.
So, is there a unique recommendation on who should write release notes? I’m sorry to say there’s not a unique and correct answer for this…
It will depend on the complexity of your product, the audience they are intended to and the legal requirements based on the nature of your product. It’s likely that you will have multiple writers of release notes based on what information you want to share.
An easy way for anyone on your team to quickly write and share release notes and boost engagement, try Beamer on your site and in your app.