Common Misconceptions: 5 tips for indie developer PR

Public Relations is a wild and dark discipline according to a lot of people. I’m not talking about unethical practices and conspiracy theories here, more about the perception of what me and my peers doing on a daily basis.

Since I opened my own little company I have been approached by a lot of people, potential clients and students curious to get their game covered by media, YouTubers, influencers. The usual misconception is that it’s possible to get the game reviewed in the week of launch: while this is true and should be the aim of every good PR campaign, it’s worth noting that to achieve those results every PR professional has to do a lot of preparation and planning.

Get some media training, which is a super posh word we use for ‘common sense’. For example, do not bad mouth competitors. Or anyone

Stefano Petrullo, Renaissance PR

The external result of a PR campaign is only a fraction of the curation and planning that takes place before launching the game, like lifting an embargo on a trailer or having those preview codes sent out.
While some people think (and this is our fault) that doing PR is ‘sending the code out’, the reality is very different. Let’s have a look at a couple of things that help a lot with the alchemy of discoverability, coverage, buzz or, in simple words… letting people know you are there.

One of the most important factors is the time that you have to launch the game. Calling a PR professional the month of launch will definitely increase your visibility, however if you want to get the top 5 websites in the world talking about your game and you engage a PR professional the month of launch, you will end up paying a lot for a short last minute campaign. And likely not get anywhere near those top website. The reason for this is that a good communications professional is not a postman (without any offense to postmen, who do an amazing job). Delivering the code in time is one of our top priorities, but is far away from being the most important one.

To achieve your objectives and have your game in the inbox of every single media outlet and influencer in the world, you have to have a communications plan. Today, the average campaign length varies from 2-3 months to 6-8 months (this is excluding delays, cancellation, bankruptcy etc). It’s fair to say that most indie games can live with a good short, intense campaign versus a long one. But you have to contact an agency long before to actually start 3 months before launch.

This is what is happening behind the scene, this is where all the conspiracy theories about the game industry and the relationship between PR and media/influencers have come from the past. Curation is the key… Curation in understanding the project and curation in engaging media and influencers in a conversation, looking at what is trending at the moment (Pokemon GO and No Man’s Sky anyone?) and seeing if there is a link to your product. After you have essentially laid out your plan and set up the production pipeline, it’s time to go out and made your product unique and, nowadays guys, this is really hard!

We’ve reached a stage where a game needs to be not only of good quality, but also newsworthy in order to emerge from the crowd. A good PR professional will dig into your history, visit the studio and look for any details that can help to make your game stand out or be interesting.

The media wants to tell interesting, non-scripted stories, they want to have people expressing their opinions on what’s happening in the market or in the world. Stay updated and be available to comment and express your opinion. Before storming on Twitter… Stop. Think twice. Get some media training, which is a super posh word we use for ‘common sense’. For example, do not bad mouth competitors. Or anyone. Expressing disagreement is okay, but expressing hate for something is a bit too much. To summarise, it’s less about what you are saying and more about how you are saying it.

Agencies are good at selling their services and there are tons of good people doing PR for indies. Be wary of anyone that promises you too much, like newspaper coverage, top-tier website front pages or the biggest YouTubers. Try to get an idea of KPIs, a rough quantity of articles they plan to generate and do not be afraid to ask for clarifications.

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