The Press and You: This Relationship Matters (General Press Advice)

The Press and You: This Relationship Matters (General Press Advice)

Posted by Javid Shamloo | Posted on September 5th, 2015 at 10:14 pm

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about how to contact and talk to the press in order to promote your games.  I’ve given detailed information in the last two blog posts (see the first post here, and the second one here) that should give you some help in marketing your apps and games.  As I’ve mentioned before, not a lot of indie developers really know how to market their companies and their products.  This is a death sentence that can stop any company dead in their tracks, no matter how good their product is.  This week I’ll be giving general press advice that I couldn’t fit into the previous two blog posts.  These are the odds and ends that every indie software developer needs to know when they talk to the press and market their app or game.  I’ve compiled this information from a lot of different sources: blog posts on app and game developer blogs, developer lectures, and even talking to developers myself.  And here it is, all in one place, just for you.  Let’s get started!

I’ve discussed the importance of including screenshots whenever you reach out to anyone.  Make sure these screenshots are full-size PNG’s, which are not lossy. If the magazine editor wants to cut them down, he/she can do it themselves, but don’t restrict what you show.  Also, make sure that you join at least a few important forums and post the screenshots and overview of your app or game there too.  This shows people that you are an available, relatable person who isn’t afraid to leave his castle and talk to the locals.  Another important thing to do when marketing your app or game is to make an awesome trailer (I will discuss how to do this next week).  This is very important to do because if people can’t use your app or play your game, this is the next best thing.

When you make bullet point lists of your game for whatever reason don’t focus on the numbers, focus on the differences and features.  By focusing on numbers I’m talking about saying such things as, “My game is X levels long”, “My app has Y features”, or “My game has Z weapons”.  Instead, focus on the unique features of your app or game that make it stand out, tell people what it does, and show people what the user can do using it.  You need to define everything that makes your app or game unique, and build a PR campaign around that.  When you talk to people, be short and to the point.  Don’t be an asshole and don’t be a wimp either.  Represent your company proudly.  Remember, anything you say that is seen outside your company is marketing.  So be excited about your product!  If you’re not the press won’t be either.  Use every channel you’ve got to spread the word out.  Think of some unconventional ways that people haven’t tried before, and do those things first because the innovative bent of that will be likely to attract more people.  Also, if there’s something about your app or game that isn’t so good or that doesn’t quite work (I don’t know why there would be but whatever, I’ve seen apps and games that have this), don’t talk about it!  Focus on what’s good and always be positive in what you say and how you present yourself.

Don’t send journalists anything about your Kickstarter project.  They want to write about your game, not about the funding of it, for God’s sake.  Also, send your app or game to the right people to review!  For example, TouchArcade only deals with iOS gaming so don’t send them your PC game.  Rock, Paper, Shotgun deals with PC games only, so don’t e-mail them about your new PS4 game.  You need to read the press!  This will help you send the right things to the right people.  Remember, once you get coverage in one place, it becomes easier to get coverage everywhere else.  Also, court advocates of your app or game.  See which journalists like your product and your company, and keep them in the loop and on your side.

Don’t follow leaders, lead followers!  Gather your fan base together and have them be your PR machine.  Have them voice support for your app or game, make cool YouTube videos using your app or playing your game, and vote for your app or game on any and all internet polls.  Also, and this was pretty funny to me when I heard it, make sure your PrintScreen button actually takes a screenshot of your game!  You won’t believe how many apps or games don’t do this, and it REALLY annoys the press.  When you’re talking to the press, spell out the news hook for them.  Give them something to write about.  An example would be, “This game has grown to X million subscribers, which is a first for that platform.”  And please, don’t just fucking brag about how good your app, game and company is.  You need to show WHY your app or game rocks and WHAT your company is doing to make it cool.  When you’re taking screenshots of your app or game, which I’ve gone over and over is important, don’t screenshot menu screens, the game over screen or the social media screens.  Please don’t be stupid.  When you take screenshots, people wanna see your app or game, not everything else.  Show them what they’re looking for.

Now, when you talk to the press and they agree to put your stuff out on their publication, you need to time their articles and reviews with the release of your app or game.  To do this, you need to understand that journalists need lead time!  This means that they need some time, after they write about you, to put the story up.  How much time?  Two weeks for online media and six weeks for print media.  That’s usually what it takes but if you’re not sure, ask them.

Now, when promoting your app or game, here’s what NOT to do:

  • Explain your artistic intent. For example, “This game is about finding yourself.”  No one gives a shit.
  • Explaining the game’s story. For example, “This game takes place in the made-up, dystopian land of…”  Again, no one gives a shit.
  • Explaining how awesome you are. Third time’s the charm, no one gives a shit.

What you NEED to do when promoting your app or game is:

  • Tell people what type of app or game it is (to the best of your ability). For example, “This game is a 2D exploration game.”
  • Tell people the coolest, unique thing about it.
  • Give your audience some context. For example, who are you in your game?  What are you trying to do as the player?
  • Give an example of how it works or plays or better yet…show them!

Lastly, timing is important too.  You need to time your app or game release at the best possible date that the most people will buy it.  This means not having your game release on the same day as the new Call of Duty or Half Life game.  Sometimes, though, you just can’t afford to wait, but at least wait until all the big boys pass by.  You don’t wanna get run over by the buffalo now.

Well, that’s all the general advice I have to give.  If you have something to add to this discussion then please leave it in the comments section.  If you want any specific advice from me or want to ask me a question of any kind please feel free to e-mail.  I’d love to hear from you.

Till next week, take care and stay safe!

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