[FOR INDIE GAME DEVELOPERS]
You might be thinking you’re about to read a sales pitch trying to convince you to buy into an expensive PR service to promote your game. That is not this article. In fact, if you are trying to make up your mind about whether to even hire a PR agency or not, this is not the article for you either.
However, if you are already working with a PR agency, or you just wrapped a campaign with one, this blog post might help you see things in perspective and tackle your next collaboration with a new toolset and mindset that could help you increase the value of your investment by a large margin.
The ROI is not in a press release factory
While most indie developers consider calling a PR agency to help grow their game’s Wishlists and sales by pushing news out, one of the most overlooked value of hiring an agency is tapping into their expertise around planning and strategy. We see this a lot, and not without a reason.
There are plenty of PR agencies just focused on the publicity rather than the relational aspect of the public relations job – news distribution instead of effective storytelling.
Writing and sending press releases to news editors is a part of our wheelhouse, but that alone is not enough to stimulate the excitement of the audience around your game.
It takes a lot of preparation, creative thinking, and careful planning around timing to have a chance at building that connection. Sometimes, certain news are simply not marketable through news media, in which case sending press releases can be a dead end. That’s where our expertise comes in.
After reading this, you’ll be able to get the most value out of your investment in PR and marketing services.
The most valuable thing in PR is insight and planning
Yes, sometimes games succeed without any foresight; they just happen to be in the right place, with the right offerings, at the right time. These games are a sort of unicorn.
The hard truth is that many of our clients don’t even consider there’s more to PR than sending news out. They pour money into PR in the hope it will land a ton of mentions on important outlets to bump sales. Unfortunately, that’s a misunderstanding of what PR is.
Public relations is more than just news regurgitation. It’s about building trust and long-lasting relationships with ALL the stakeholders that are important to your business and products. It takes a lot of time to properly research and build a strategy that helps you achieve your goals with each stakeholder, though, so considering your strategy early is of the utmost importance.
How to make good use of PR agency budget
Alright, so you have a set budget to spend in PR and marketing for the entire campaign, and you hire an agency; as experts, we are meant to tell you how best to spend that budget to help you reach your goals. We will look at who are the right target audiences for the game; the kind of positioning that will resonate; the ideal style, frequency, and medium for communicating with each audience; and, come up with creative angles to pitch your game.
Now, here lies the point I am getting at but let me preempt it with a disclaimer. As an agency that aims to be transparent on how our billable hours work, it’s important for us that clients understand the following factors to better plan and allocate their funds for marketing.
We charge clients for each hour we spend working on the project no matter what that task is. If we have to spend 10 hours collecting information on your game and competitive titles, in addition to building the PR strategy plan and timelines before we actually begin work on press releases and outreach, that can trim off a significant chunk of your budget. If you are a small indie developer with constrained marketing spend, every dollar counts.
Here’s a juicy TIP: it can save you a lot of money if you do your homework before you bring in a PR agency to help out!
As an agency, our eyes are trained to spot your game’s ‘wow factor’ and seek out creative ways to make it stand out. Regardless, as you begin to collaborate with us or with another agency, it will save you money if you do the homework in advance.
Things you can prepare early in your cooperation:
- Basic Game Information – this is essential information you would use to create a store page, so consumers have a basic understanding of what kind of game it is (genre, specs, platform, number of players, controller support, etc.) Check out this template for guidance.
- One Pager or Fact Sheet – A one-or-two-page document that includes an in-depth description about the game, its key features, unique selling points, strengths, and weaknesses.
- Campaign Outline and Collaboration – It’s helpful if you know what you hope to achieve through the collaboration.
- It is even more effective if you lay out the goals you have in mind for the campaign in terms of sales, positioning, recognition, etc.
- If you have a development and marketing timeline, please include it!
- Feel free to drop in any questions you have for us right in there (i.e. When is it best to announce the game? How can we leverage opportunities or mitigate risks given the strengths and weaknesses of the game?)
- Asset List – A list of all the different assets that you can produce for the campaign – including timelines (e.g. gameplay trailer, dev diaries, dev walkthroughs, key art, screenshots, game demo, etc.). If you’ve already released assets, it’s great to know that, too!
- Design Doc – A document that provides deeper insight into game features, levels, design, and more. It’s a comprehensive resource to help us understand the appealing (and not-so-appealing) elements of the game.
- Game Script/Narrative – A document that provides an overview, or even a full game script, of the game’s story.
- Sales Deck/Presentation – A polished presentation (PDF or PPT/Slides) that highlights a range of information, which may include key selling points, market analysis, marketing plans, development roadmaps, team bios, and more.
- Game Build – Let us play the game! Allowing us to play and test the game gives us greater insight into how to market the game and better evaluate its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, risks, and audience.
I can tell you the vast majority of clients come to us with just a game build and a few lines that describe the game and genre. By now we are used to it and the beauty is that having worked with so many different games and genres, we know what matters most to players and media and we’ll ask you straight up the questions that need answers for us to get going.
The point being is you should consider that the time we spend getting familiar with your title could instead be time spent on the campaign to strategize and to get your game seen by media, content creators, and the community.
“The more you can do, the less $$ you spend”
We are here to help you where you need the help most. If you are comfortable writing the first draft of a press release, why not take the first pass at it? We can just edit it and send it. If you have a great community manager with strong relationships with influencers, then we will just focus on the press.
We’ll focus on the strength of your team and offer support on the areas we see are lacking. As a matter of fact, at Evolve PR we have experts in research, a video production team, community gurus, and even graphic designers. All and any of us can jump in and help if you need it.
“But I just want PR to write and send news for us”
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! That said, no matter how big or small the announcement is, you should always create a plan if the budget allows. Better results come to those that prepare and start media outreach as early as possible. That gives journalists enough time to follow up and work on the story, and they really appreciate that!
For those who currently work with PR agencies and use their services mostly for writing and distributing press releases, here’s a tool that can help you save time and money. I made this press release briefing template that contains all the essential information an agency needs to draft a press release for you. Scrap the minutiae and let’s get right into the action!
Check out this blog post by Astrid on the topic of the ‘wow factor’. Another really good read is this blog post by former Evolver Carly, where she talks about how to find out what makes your game special, walking you through some of the aspects you should consider (art, music, story, studio pedigree, etc.).