In the coming months, we’re going to present a series of tips and guides about various parts of this wondrous industry, focused on helping media and content creators–new and established–to work with PR (or developers and publishers in general) more effectively. Some of it may seem elementary to folks who’ve been doing this a long time, but across the dozens of games we work on and the thousands of people we work with, we see a lot of the same questions, concerns, and confusion day after day; we think there’s a ton of opportunity for education, and for the benefit of everyone involved, we hope we can help those new to the industry get insight into best practices. Note: for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to use “media” as an all-encompassing term for traditional press, streamers, and YouTube content creators; if you produce any sort of content about games or cover them in any way, we’ll call you “media”.
Today I’m going to shed some light on E3, and how you–as someone in the media–can and should approach the show to get the best access to games and to build relationships that will benefit you as long as you’re in the industry. Here we go, with The Evolve PR Guide to Getting the Most Out of E3 for Media, Streamers, and Content Creators.
On Scheduling Appointments and Keeping Them
One of the most common surprises for first-time media at E3 is that many game demos actually take place behind closed doors, and schedules are often full weeks in advance. Don’t have an appointment for these presentations? Well, you probably won’t see that game, or you’ll only see the public demo, while those who do have appointments will get an extended version, access to developers for interviews, or hands-on time*.
How do I schedule appointments?
In pretty much every case, your best bet is to reach out to (via email, Twitter, or smoke signals) to the “PR rep”† responsible for a game, developer, or publisher. Make sure they know who you are, and tell them you’re interested in booking appointments–or any other opportunities that are available–to see their game at E3. That’s about it. Each company will have different processes for scheduling (we try to use an automated scheduling site to make it easy, but not everyone’s come around to that yet), as well as different criteria to determine whom they can schedule appointments with (more on that below). But unless they/we know you’re going to be there and that you’re interested in seeing a game… well, PR people are amazing, but we’re not mind readers.
It’s helpful for PR reps if you’re on the official media list, which requires you to go through some mystical process with the show organizers. Be forewarned that you may end up getting spammed incessantly by developers who are showing things totally irrelevant to your interests, as every exhibiting company (and others) gets access to the press list ahead of time. Anyway, it doesn’t hurt to email every developer & PR rep you know to see if they’re going to E3. If they’re not, they’ll tell you, and you haven’t missed anything.
When should I start booking appointments?
At Evolve, we try to start booking appointments for our clients’ games at least one month in advance of the show; that means we’re already two weeks into booking now, and in the case of major games, schedules are already full or close to it. We do have to prioritize larger outlets and channels in some cases; it’s nothing personal (or is it? I guess it depends on how you look at it), but if we only have, say, 30 available slots for appointments, clients will expect those to be filled with those media who will provide the greatest impact with coverage. It’s an unfortunate reality, but we want to be honest about it. Back to the point: try to schedule appointments as early as you can! It’s still not too late, as not every developer or publisher is quite as anal about booking early as we are.
What if I don’t have an appointment but really want to see a game?
It happens. Even if you’ve previously been denied an appointment, there’s still often opportunity to slide into these behind-closed-doors presentations. Head to the booth and ask if there’s any room for media, streamers, or YouTubers (whatever you’d call yourself, really). Ask, “Is there anyone from PR I could talk to?” Be ready to explain who you are, reference past correspondence, etc. If you’re eager to see a game–but not too eager–and act in a professional manner, you may find your way into an appointment later in the show. Sometimes people cancel appointments or don’t show up, and that’s your opportunity to slide in. It really depends on how stringent the company is; I might have a bit of a reputation as someone who overcrowds booths… our Witcher 3 and Gwent booths have been notoriously packed because we really just wanted everyone to see the games. If you don’t mind standing, I don’t mind you cramming in!
Keep your appointments.
Here’s one of the points that is relevant to long-time media as much as to beginners. There are few things more frustrating to developers and PR reps than people who miss appointments, and while there are certainly times when it’s justified, more often than not it comes down to a) “I thought this other meeting was more important, so I just bailed on you”; b) I didn’t keep track of my schedule appropriately and just didn’t realize I had an appointment”; or c) “I just didn’t feel like it.”
Your appointment was not only a spot that could have been provided to someone who’s more interested in the game or company in question, but maaaaan, it reflects poorly on the PR rep who scheduled the appointment. Do you have an obligation to help the PR rep? Not at all. Am I going to remember that you missed an appointment without any sort of explanation or remorse? Yeah, probably. Nonetheless, if you miss your appointment, realize that we’re going to be on the receiving end of complaints from clients–“Why didn’t you get them to come?” and we may end up having to call you, text you, email, tweet, etc. just to show them that we’re trying to make up for it. Not fun.
If you’re going to miss your appointment, call the PR rep. Email them. Tweet at them. Do something to show them that you realize their time is also valuable.
Plan your time.
You may be surprised to learn that the Los Angeles Convention Center is a big place. For example, it takes a solid 10 minutes to go from South Hall to West Hall, and that’s without a crowd. So if you have two appointments booked back to back in different halls… welllll… you’re not going to make that second one. Also, remember that the show floor and meeting rooms open at a certain time each day; if you have an appointment right at the start of the day, you are going to be a few minutes late; you have to wait for the doors to open, and then make your way to the booth/meeting room.
* “Hands-on” is a term you’ll come across regularly, and it just means that you can actually play a game, i.e. get your hands on the game. A hands-on demo is an opportunity to play a game, whereas a “hands-off” demo is a guided presentation.
† “PR rep” is just a short term for “public relations professional.” A PR rep works for the developer, publisher, or a PR agency, and is responsible for getting media coverage and interacting with media, streamers, and content creators. In some companies–particularly when it comes to content creators–these duties might fall to a community manager or a marketing department, but in general, you’ll want to know who the PR rep is. They’ll also generally be the person who sends you press releases or game codes.
On Professionalism and Etiquette
While this year is going to be a bit different, with 15k tickets available to the public, E3 is first and foremost a business event. In order to get the most out of the event–at least if you don’t want to piss people off–you’ll probably want to act like you’re also there for business reasons… and you are there for business, whether you realize it or not. While seeing games you’re excited about is a big part of E3, as media you’re also there to build relationships that will help you in your career–let’s assume you’re not one of those who holds tremendous disdain for marketing and PR–and your interactions with developers and PR reps will determine how they perceive you in the future, as well as their desire to work with you. Here are some tips for maintaining a professional image.
Introduce yourself properly to PR or developers.
When you approach a booth, be ready to tell people who you are. You don’t have to be crazy verbose; it’s enough to say, “hey, I’m _____ (real name), and I’m a partnered Twitch streamer. I’d love to check out your game!” If you know someone at a company, ask for them: “Is Tom around?” It sounds like common sense, but it bears repeating.
Consider doing some research.
I can’t tell you how often we’ve had media (or other folks in other industry roles) stroll up to the booth and go, “So what do you guys do?” This may be a well-received question by a tiny developer who’s just trying to get any attention, but a better question may be, “Hey, are you doing any private demos for [insert game that you’ve learned about before approaching this booth]?” Better yet, you know about a game they’re showing and are actually excited. If you say, “I love everything I’ve seen about this game, and it’d be great to get in on a demo!” I’m probably going to be a bit more likely to let you into a full demo than if you seem to have no clue who my company or what we’re showing off.
Get business cards or otherwise have contact info readily available.
It really helps us (PR folks) to get a card from you that clearly lists your contact info and outlets, whether that’s the website you run or the URL of your channel. Bring 200+ and be ready to hand them to just about everyone you meet.
Be honest and humble.
This is as much a life lesson as it is a lesson about behaviour at E3. Really, no matter how amazing you think you are, don’t assume that your celebrity precedes you, and approach every encounter with utmost humility. Last year at E3, a young guy came up to our booth and introduced himself with a fancy business card. The exchange went roughly like this:
Him, handing me his fancy card: “I’m ___, CEO of ___. Have you heard of us?”
Me: “Nope, what do you do?”
Him: “We’re a YouTube network that works with the biggest influencers in the world. Do you know [name] or [other name]? We work with them.”
Him: “Well, name a couple of people you know.”
Me: “How about [insert name of major YouTuber] or [other name of major YouTuber]?”
Him, now clearly getting a bit discouraged: “Yeah, both great people, really great. We don’t work with them, but…”
Me: “Right. Well, happy to grab your card. Here’s mine, and [insert my explanation about what Evolve PR is, who our clients are, what we do, etc.]”
Now, let’s be clear: we work with a lot of people (there are over 15k media registered on Terminals.io) but there are countless others we don’t have relationships with yet. It’s okay that this guy represented content creators we didn’t know; in fact, that’s awesome for us, as we always want to start working with new people. His approach was the issue; if he had simply come in and told me who he was and whom he represents, things would have been much different; instead, he presumed that his reputation–or the reputation of his team–would make me swoon. When I had no clue whom he was talking about, his whole shtick fell apart. Be humble.
We’ve also seen countless other examples where someone tries to portray themselves as far more well-known than they actually are. If you’re just getting started with streaming or in journalism, say so. It may mean you don’t get into an appointment now, but at least you won’t be perceived as a bullshitter, right? I’ll be happy to get you into a demo if you say this is your first E3 and you’re really just trying to build some relationships and see cool games; I’ll be less inclined to do so if you act like you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread and that I should totally know who you are.
Don’t get wasted.
You want to party, and that’s fine. But the minute you miss an appointment or fall asleep in a demo or otherwise can’t be bothered to pay attention because you got too drunk the night before, you’re starting to impact someone else’s job. Just don’t get so drunk you’re going to be a waste of space the next day. Or do. Just cancel your appointments with me the night before so I don’t have to explain that to a client the next day.
And no, we’re not saying you have to wear a suit and be all stiff and lame. We’re professionals, and I can still say shit ass poo crap in a blog post.
On Eating, Peeing, Cleanliness
We’ll keep these sections a bit shorter, because, frankly, feel free to go ahead and do what you want when it doesn’t impact our day; what you eat probably doesn’t affect us as much as you skipping an appointment, for example.
Leave the convention center for food
Be prepared: the food options inside the convention center aren’t all that great. There are a few food trucks just outside West Hall that are solid bets, but you may also want to just plan time to get out of the convention center. A number of options are available nearby.
Bring a snack
You may just want to pack a snack: granola bars, fruit, etc. Sometimes you’ll have access to snacks at certain booths, but don’t count on it. Have something to eat ready in your bag.
Try to be clean, yeah?
Advice suited to every event: wash your hands, wear deodorant. You’re going to be stuffed into a small room with too many people, and the last thing everyone needs is for the air to be thick with unpleasant body odour. Wash your hands so you don’t get everyone sick. We’re in this together.
I hope that gives you a little bit of insight into what to expect from E3. We’re happy to answer any other questions you might have; just ask away in the comments, or tweet at us @evolve_pr (or me directly @EvolveTom).