Small but smart: How small mobile devs can master games PR, by Cosmocover's John Tyrrell
Part 1: Broken words and tall stories
Founded in response to a need for effective and efficient international PR and marketing solutions within the emerging digital gaming space, Cosmocover works with international clients from major publishers to small independent studios.
Hardly a week goes by that I don't receive an email from a small studio or publisher somewhere in the world.
Some of them are start ups, some are trying to reach new markets, but they're all looking for more or less the same thing: how can I do effective international PR with a small budget?
At Casual Connect in Hamburg this February, I delivered a short talk titled 'Small but Smart PR' with the aim of giving a few pointers on exactly this. PocketGamer.biz was there and asked if I'd do something similar for the site, so welcome to part one of Small but Smart PR.
First, though, there's something I need to get off my chest. To set the scene, I'm an Englishman living in France, and so naturally language ability is a frequent topic of conversation with my adopted countrymen and women.
If you ask a French person if they speak English they often reply something along the lines of, "Bof, I'm not so good in English," when in fact they speak it perfectly well (and much better than the average English person speaks French).
So, despite their lack of self-confidence in their own mastery of English, why do so many insist on translating websites, game descriptions and press releases themselves?
My French is fairly decent, but I wouldn't dream of trying to write any kind of official document in it, let alone when my livelihood depended on successfully selling something off the back of it.
It's not just the French of course. Every time I read a bit of broken, badly translated English in an effort to promote a video game, a small part of me dies inside.
This is a plea: if you're not English yourself, and you need to sell a game in English, get someone English or American to write your copy. And not just someone native, but someone who understands games and marketing. A real Anglophone copywriter.
S or Z?
But there's another twist in the tale: the difference between American and UK English. "
Two countries divided by a common language" was one of my favourite refrains when I was working in a global video game marketing department.
At first I was mortally offended every time the Americans took their language hatchet to one of my lovingly crafted British press releases, but I quickly learned that the US and the UK can have very different expectations in terms of how information should be presented.
It's vital to tune the language to the audience, even if sometimes it can be baffling. For example, American press releases tends to be written in a straighter, "just the facts ma'am" style, whereas the UK approach can often be littered with witticisms and references to the zeitgeist.
I've been guilty of some dreadful puns in my time, but, in the name of making my job and the job of the reader just a little more fun, I stand by every single one. I just no longer try to force them on my American friends.
I'm a strong believer in the idea that the job of PR is to tell stories. The same principles that are important for telling a good story in any context also apply to planning a PR campaign.
I recently ploughed my way through the entire seven book Game of Thrones box set (or Song of Fire and Ice if you want to be picky). There's so much going on in those stories so many characters, cliff hangers, twists and turns that I just couldn't put them down. I had to know what happened next.
I admit that the intrigues of Westeros and the Narrow Sea may not seem immediately relevant when you're putting together a PR campaign for your latest iOS puzzle game, but the principles are the same.
Grab your reader's attention and draw them into your story.
Don't give everything away on the first page. A common mistake is throwing everything about a product into the first press release, but resist the temptation and plan a series of information releases instead. Tease and drip feed the information so you can keep going back to your audience with the next chapter.
Individual press releases and media alerts are an attention grabbing exercise essentially trying to sell the whole book on the basis of the chapter title and opening paragraph (because not many of your readers will actually read further than that).
Of course you need to focus on the essential 5 W's of communication first who, what, where, when and why but that doesn't mean you can't tell a story with a beginning, middle and end and create something that people will remember.
Journalists and bloggers receive hundreds of press releases every week. The most perfectly organised information in the world is worthless if nobody reads it, and this is where your ability to tell a gripping story is all important.
The title, subtitle and first paragraph need to contain all the essential information that you want to communicate about your product, and in such a way that it's more than just a list of information. Bring some flair and originality to it.
Go crazy with the thesaurus and try to find new ways of describing things. It's not always easy, but it's worth it.
Road test your prose on colleagues by reading it aloud or sending it to someone whose opinion you trust. Doing anything in a bubble is risky and you want to make sure you haven't gone too far there's nothing worse than being laughed at for the wrong reasons.
Ultimately, though, you should have fun writing, because if you do, you can bet that your audience is going to have fun reading it too. And we all like to remember the fun times.
For more information on Cosmocover's clients and services, visit the company's website.