Comment & Opinion

You can easily handle PR on your own, can't you?

You can easily handle PR on your own, can't you?

Merja Turpeinen is the founder of Finnish PR agency SagaSocial.

You are a mobile developer about to release a game.

Your game's launch is just around the corner but the game is so freakin' awesome you don't require any PR - it is definitely going to get noticed.

Of course, you've timed the launch for Thursday; the game must be featured on the App Store. So you release your game and there it is, amongst the hundreds of others in the store.

But hold on, what's going on?

Why doesn't anyone notice your game and write about it? Why doesn't anyone play it when it's mentioned on a YouTube channel followed by 30 million users? Where are all the downloads?

Plan b

Ok, fine. You will do some PR...

You write a press release. You buy a media list online (or get one from a friend for free), and send the release to the contacts on the list, and boom - tons of visibility and hundreds of articles, which your free analytics tool shoots over for you.

Time spent: a couple of hours max. Result: dozens of investors calling and inquiring whether they can invest in your company.

PR is not about sending press releases; it's about being visible and standing out, so be unique.
Merja Turpeinen

Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is. Because you are not yet a world famous game studio such as Supercell, and that media list contains endless rows of outdated contacts.

You could have saved a lot of time (which equals money) and avoided these headaches by using PR professionals to handle your announcement.

Another way

After working in PR for over a decade, on both the client side and now more recently on the agency side, the advantages of PR agencies and making the public aware of your company and product are obvious to me.

In the game industry, it's even more vital nowadays. You're not just competing for the attention of each console or PC gamer but for the attention of practically every smartphone owner.

"We wish to put our full focus in developing fun games and because of our great PR agency partnership, we don't need to be experts in PR," comments Markus Pasula, CEO of Finnish mobile game developer Grand Cru.

In many cases, the smaller game studios simply don't have the resources or the contacts to reach out to the media, whether it is YouTubers, tweeters or traditional media.

A small studio also doesn't necessarily have the experience to create the correct messages to gain media attention. I often come across cases, in which the client believes their message is very strong even though from a wider perspective, it doesn't have what it takes to generate interest.

What a PR agency can do for you

Public relations is not rocket science. If you have the right contacts, you know what kind of topics and issues are newsworthy, you know how to write, and you have the time and resources, then why not do it yourself?

However, PR professionals can offer you:

  • Knowledge and experience on creating and fine-tuning your message.
  • Experience on what could be considered newsworthy.
  • Resources to run the "PR show": managing the whole project on your behalf (including writing press releases with clear key messages, doing media outreach and follow up, coordinating interview requests, media monitoring & reporting etc.).
  • Up-to-date media contacts to whom to pitch your story to, also in person.
  • 'As happens' media monitoring (publications and social media).
  • Network of PR professionals around the globe to help localize your message - the same message might not work as well in Japan as it does in the US.

"The local media contacts and knowledge of the culture are crucial, if you aim to reach a local target audience, say Italy, like we at MAG did when launching Ruzzle Adventure," says Daniel Hasselberg from Swedish game studio MAG Interactive.

More than launch

And it's not just game launch announcements you should communicate.

Public relations are a tool to help you accomplish the goals determined in your business plan. Your plan is to head towards that goal, so what can PR do to help you hit that goal?

Your story lives and develops, and you should communicate it - persistently.
Merja Turpeinen

Everything should be linked to your overall business strategy. Your story lives and develops, and you should communicate it - persistently.

It is invaluable for a company to create a story that backs its strategy. While this can seem like a daunting task, PR agencies are experts at guiding you towards a meaningful story and sharpening it along the way.

In this context, the importance of public relations has grown in the free-to-play era.

If you release a free game, it's hardly enough to announce it's out, even if your game is Featured for a week on the App Store. Unlike paid games, F2P games don't generate their revenue during the first days after launch. Hence you have to communicate about your game for a longer period.

And don't forget that PR and media aren't a tool for user acquisition, but they are necessary in terms of telling the world about your game.

Longterm status

This sort of positioning is important if you haven't released a game yet, or even if your game hasn't turned out to be a huge success. If your story and team are already known, it makes it easier to talk to your stakeholders, whether this is a potential investor or employees, partners or gamers.

Equally, if you have been written about in the media before, you're more likely to get attention the next time around. So start thinking about your story early enough, not just at launch.

PR is not about sending press releases; it's about being visible and standing out, so be unique, and have something different to say.

All-in-all, if you don't have any marketing dollars nor any magical spells with which you can affect your game's success, then I suggest you have some sort of a plan to PR your game.

Start the planning early enough to get the best results!


Comments

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Semia Bremia
To combine business and art is a difficult task indeed.
i mostly meet biz guys trying to eat my title (rights), and get the most part of the profit form my work of 2 years by ho knows what engagement.
Trying to handle PR on my own this way, am i?
cheeeez
John Ozimek Director and co-founder at Big Ideas Machine
@ Tom - you are right, the ability of PR agencies to be effective in this space is much less than many would like to suggest ;-)

One of the biggest challenges when marketing apps is that there is very little direct correlation between media coverage and installs. That's not to say that there is no influence at all, but in a world where everyone is obsessed with granular CPI and ROI measurement, PR can be difficult to justify. In my experience, this is biggest reason why developers feel they have a bad experience with PR agencies.

A lot of our work with developers comes from recommendations, often from journalists. So I would definitely suggest to any devs out there thinking about working with an agency to get in touch with other devs and journalists they follow, and just ask them who they suggest.

But devs need to be realistic about what PR can do for them. If a game doesn't have the DNA to be a success by itself, it's unlikely that PR can change that; what it can do really well is amplify an already good product.
Tom Ricket Partner at Inert Soap, LLC
I'm an Indie developer (since late 2009), and everything you've written sounds good -- I'd describe many of our current strategies as, "scrambling to attempt our own PR, because we don't have a lot of other options," which admittedly is not the most solid plan...

Our biggest problem with getting outside help, though, is actually researching companies to find out who is, well, reasonable. We've spent thousands of dollars on various services, with vastly varying results. Some of them basically have us fill out a form, generate a generic, "New [Game] from [Company]!" and send it out to a few hundred e-mail addresses, many of which are wildly inappropriate for our product.

So... not trying to be particularly sarcastic or cynical, but I'm wondering if you have any suggestions on methods for finding good PR companies (and feel free to toot your own horn, if that's the case). Even the cruddiest ones we've found seem to have a bunch of testimonials, and we've spent hours upon hours (when we should be developing) trying to figure out how to spend money on good PR, with only mediocre results.
Merja Turpeinen CEO at SagaSocial
Hello Tom, thanks for your comment! SagaSocial works in cooperation with various agencies around the world all focused on games & tech, so I do indeed have an idea on good agencies for you :) Please send me an email to contact(at)sagasocial.com (goes also to others in the company), and let's continue the discussion there!
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