If you’re an indie developer, you probably don’t have a whole lot of cash to hire a PR firm and promote you’re game’s launch. The smaller the shop you are, the less likely you even have a marketing person on staff. Don’t fret! Here’s how to get press with no dough.
1. Make a List
Before you reach out to any publication, do your homework. Make a list of all the publications you want to be featured in. Wikipedia is a great place to start building your list. (Don’t forget blogs, forums and social media).
Next, categorize the publications into three tiers:
- Tier 1 is for publications you would literally kill someone to be in. These are the IGNs, Game Informers and Kotakus of the world. These publications receive a ton of traffic and will in turn drive a ton of traffic to your site.
- Tier 2 is for publications that aren’t the most read in the industry, but still get a good amount of traffic. These publications help spread the word and could lead to reprints.
- Tier 3 is for lessor-known publications that are lower trafficked. These publications are most likely new and local. They crave content that the big guys don’t have. If you get an article published in one of these, you can use it as leverage for a Tier 1.
Tip: create your list in Excel or as a Google doc to easily sort and find publications.
2. Find Contact Info
After your categorized publication list is in place, start visiting the publications’ sites to search for writers’ contact information. Most sites have this information available under an “Editorial Staff” link in the footer. Record everything you can, most importantly: email addresses, phone numbers and twitter handles (if they have them).
3. Create “Copy & Paste-able” Promotional Material
Here’s a little secret: writers don’t like to write. Unless you’re EA Sports, a writer is not going to take the time to interview you and write a 10-page article from scratch. All writers want to do is show some cool looking screenshots and copy and paste text to build their article. If you make it easy for them, you’ll have a far better chance of getting mentioned.
Make sure you have the following handy:
- Press Release: this is what writers will copy and paste from. Make sure it’s attention grabbing and includes all relevant facts. Here is a great article on how to write a press release.
- Screenshots: treat screenshots like you do your game–they are art too. Screens should be vibrant and beautiful. Also, try to capture them as hi-res as possible.
- Teaser/Trailer Video: 30 seconds is ideal, but absolutely no more than 60. Make sure to work your company’s name/logo and game’s name/logo into the intro and end the video with where to go and play, download, buy or get more info on your game.
4. Get in Touch
Grab that Excel sheet and organize it by tier. Contact Tier 1 publications first, then Tier 2 and so on. Make a column called “Status” to record the date of your first contact and every interaction thereafter. This will help you remember what you sent/said to who and when. It seems like overkill, but when you’re contacting hundreds of people, you’ll thank me.
Here’s how to start contacting the press:
- Email: the shorter, the better. Even if you’ve never spoken with a writer before, don’t waste time introducing yourself. They don’t care who you are, they just care about your content. Use your first sentence to introduce your game and why it’s awesome. List the secondary pieces of info as bullet points. Make sure to provide links to more information and your teaser/trailer video. Attach your screenshots and press release. End with your contact information and when YOU plan on following up with a phone call.
- Call: unless a writer replies to your email, follow up with a phone call. Cold calling writers can be nerve racking, but worth it. Just remember, writers write articles for their readers NOT you. Make sure to speak about your game in the context of what their subscribers find interesting.
- Repeat (without being annoying): pretty self explanatory.
Tip 1: start contacting writers at least one month before your game’s launch. Even if a writer is interested in doing an article, it can take him/her a while before he/she actually publishes it.
Tip 2: upload your press release to Games Press. Writers check this often for material and even if they don’t write an article, they usually reprint the press release in some fashion.
5. Thank You Notes
Here’s another little secret: no one writes thank you notes to writers. (If Emily Post were alive, she’d be appalled). It’s true. I once sent a writer a thank you note and instantly he wrote back thanking me! From then on, I was able to pass him press releases and always get a mention. (Of course I continued to thank him).
6. Keep in Touch
Whatever you do, don’t fall off the face of the Earth with the contacts you worked so hard to make. At the very least, reach out once a month through twitter, Facebook or email just to say hi or comment on an article they wrote. Writers are your biggest allies for traffic generation…and you never know when you might need them again.