There’s no other way to start this piece than by simply saying it dawned on me that product operations professionals are to product managers what publicists are to their clientele. I get asked all the time how the PM role can best partner with product ops. This article highlights the value of having a strong product ops pro by your side as a PM, and why it’s important to build trust and a solid relationship as you execute on goals together. 

Here are some key parallels between product ops pros and publicists:

Information gathering

Successful product ops professionals are constantly looking for data to enhance what is at the PM’s disposal as they strive towards their goals. Similarly, publicists stay on top of everything that’s relevant to their client to ensure they are informed as they make their next move to greatness. Both PMs and celebrities need to take calculated risks when they are ready for the next move. Having a strong product ops partner creates more confidence in that next step. 

Relationship building

Product ops team members are cross-functional and collaborative with all internal parties. We build relationships in order to strengthen the impact of the product internally, so customers feel the power externally. We also ensure everyone’s voice is heard so we can arrive at the best outcome together. Publicists are masters at relationships—ensuring they are responsive, friendly, and attentive to those who surround their clients. 

Honesty

A strong product ops professional is honest. Kind, but brutally honest. We lean into the data to show what’s working, where something is stuck, and where things can be better—both with PMs and other stakeholders. We know facts get us to outcomes faster. PR pros are equally as honest. They tackle tricky situations with finesse, calling attention to facts and details that people can align on, moving past problems and onto the next highlight. 

Storytelling

Product ops pros are excellent storytellers and communicators. Through internal training assets or customer knowledge content, we need to keep people interested in learning more in order to get them to value. Publicists are, well, amazing storytellers and communicators. It’s core to their success, period. 

Influencing

On a similar note, I always tell my team that a part of their job is to “influence the influencers.” Product managers are always influencing stakeholders as they build their roadmap. Imagine having to influence them, knowing they’re doing the same thing all the time? While the publicist is influencing the masses, the skill is comparable and takes some practice to do successfully. 

An iterative mindset

Massively important is the ability to be flexible, while embracing a learning mindset, and to have thick skin. Product ops exists to serve a wide set of customers, from PM, to customer success, to sales. This requires you to always know your audience and adjust your style so you get the most relevant information both from them, and out to them. You’re not always going to make people happy.

Heck yes I wish I could build that feature for you now, CSM—I know your customer is not happy it’s not there yet. Yes, salesperson, I know you really want that integration today. Here’s what we have that can still prove the value of our product to our customers and prospects, let us help you get there. Your internal customers don’t like the word “No,” but when you can deliver it with a “why” and a “however,” you are solid. Similarly, publicists face lots of personas, pivoting their style, but never wavering in their position.

A few more come to mind, but we’ll save them for another day! 

I’ll end with this. As a product manager, your product ops partner should be trustworthy and share the same end goal of customer delight and satisfaction. But trust is a funny thing that goes both ways: To have a great partner, you need to be a great partner. This means including your product ops team members along your journey on both near-term and long-term goals. It doesn’t mean operating in a vacuum and expecting someone to swoop in at the end and make things perfect. Like publicists, we do damage control from time to time, but infrequently.

The less aligned we are, the more chance there is for miscommunication and downstream effects. We also need time, process, and rigor to ensure we’re setting our teams up for growth and long-term success through the product. We think like you, falling in love with and attacking problems, testing out solutions, staying iterative in our approach, taking feedback so we can improve, and repeating as needed. The difference? You are building features and value, while we help grow trust in the product. We’re building the non-features a business needs to lead great experiences with a company through the product. We drive outcomes together. 

You place your most prized possession in our hands when the devs push to production. Similar to a celebrity’s reputation, it’s not something we take lightly.

About the Author

Christine Itwaru is the director of product operations at Pendo. She regularly speaks at industry events on topics such as PM hiring, leadership, women in product, and empathy in product management.