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Six simple steps to productive and effective games PR

How to get the most for your time and money
Six simple steps to productive and effective games PR
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Natalie Griffith has been in the games industry for 23 years and spent the last 14 in PR. She started Press Space PR in early 2013 to provide PR support, training and mentoring for indie developers.

Most developers understand the importance of PR these days but few know where to start when it comes to deciding what they need or choosing who to work with.

If you're devoting time and money to PR, it's vital to understand how to work with agencies to get the most out of your relationship. While it's certainly not an easy process to find the right partner, there are some rules you can follow that will make the whole affair far more straightforward.

Indeed, I'd suggest that choosing, managing and working with PRs comes down to the following six simple steps:

#1: Be honest

Take a long, hard look at your game and get honest, impartial feedback from others (no, your mum and your boyfriend don't count).

Even the best PR in the world can't make something out of nothing so don't ever think that you can get someone to promote a weak game so that you can earn a few quid to fund the thing you really care about.

A PR is only as good as the studio or the game they're representing so give them something good to work with. Put your passion and your creativity into everything.

#2: Decisions, decisions

Decide what you want to achieve. Are you confident in your promotional abilities and just want some training to point you in the right direction? Do you want an agency to take on the PR strategy and activity? Are you looking to promote your studio as well as your game?

All agencies offer different things so think carefully about what you're after. Decide whether you just want to spread the word about your game or if you want to partner with someone who can build your studio reputation over time, perhaps to help you seek investment or attract new staff.

These decisions will be crucial in helping you choose who to work with and how to brief them.

#3: Choose the right partner

Speak to other devs who have used agencies in the past, and learn from their experiences. Ask for recommendations from other indies, speak to journalists about which PRs they respect.

All of my indie clients have come via word-of-mouth or people seeing me speak at events, and that personal connection is a great way to create a short list.

Once you've sought the opinion of people whose judgement you trust then you need to back that up with your own research too. Study their websites, take a look at their work and clients, check out their LinkedIn, read stuff they've written, and get a handle on how they feel about their client relationships.

This is going to be one of the most important business relationships you'll ever have so make sure you share the same values.

But most of all – talk to them! Never make a decision via email. Make sure you either meet or Skype them to properly chat through what you're after and find out what they can offer. And never, nver rush this process – plan early and talk to potential partners way ahead of needing them.

#4: Communication is key

Many fail to realise that communication between the developer and their PR is every bit as important as the outward-facing kind.

The most important element of a productive developer/agency relationship is openness. PR's can't function effectively in a bubble so bring them into the team and keep them updated on what you're doing and why.

Be clear about your goals and your expectations, and above all – trust them. They don't exist to simply repeat in public everything you tell them in private. The stuff I don't share about my clients makes the stuff that I do share all the more relevant, engaging and well-targetted.

It's all about the context. You'd never hire an artist and get her to create your lead character without sharing the broader art vision or design. She may not be creating that stuff but she can't work effectively without being aware of it.

#5: Eye on availability

Never assume your PR will run off and make your game a success without bothering you again.

Make your team available to discuss the game, create quality assets, prepare demos/review code, answer Q&As, attend events, join podcasts and deliver presentations.

Your PR will sell the vision but you'll have to back it up with substance. You're hiring their experience, their connections, and their creativity – but you need to support them with your own.

A good PR will help make the time and effort you put in as focussed and efficient as possible but accept that you must allow that time.

#6: A little understanding

Understand a little of how PR works. You don't need to be an expert but an appreciation of deadlines, media outlet readership, and the processes a journalist goes through will help you support and empower your PR to do their best.

They can help you navigate this but be prepared to listen and learn. Use that understanding to manage your expectations, and your vanity – not everyone can have the lead story on RPS or a cover feature on Edge, and not everyone needs it either. Decide where your target audiences lie and work with your PR to reach them.

By taking a little time to understand the process of working with an experienced PR, and by combining that with a considered marketing, advertising and user acquisition strategy, you'll be putting yourself in a much stronger position to be a success. Good luck!