Press Releases Are Important, So Why Aren’t You Writing Any?
Welcome back to our marketing lessons focused on the indie developer, aptly titled “Indie Marketing For N00bs”. This lesson will focus on the importance of getting the news out to journalists and the media. This can be done a number of ways, but our primary focus is on proper etiquette for writing a press release.
If done right, a press release can be seen by thousands of people, so there’s certain things that anyone writing the release needs to focus on and present. The world has their eyes on you for that brief second; make it count. A well written press release can go a long way.
What makes a good press release, though? We can talk for hours on intricacies of writing and proper culture in dedicated writing. But, we’ll bring this down to some general tips to make your writing better without boring you too much on the details.
Look, the details are important. You need to make sure you convey everything you want to say to the masses and I understand that. But, this isn’t technical writing. This is your great stand about your game.
People don’t care about the coding that goes into a game. They don’t want every detail about how it was made. Leave those to Dev Diaries and blogs that you can go into detail about how you made your main character’s arm move super realistic with a special line of code.
“Tl;dr”, which is shorthand for “Too long, didn’t read”, is a well-known term in writing. Get your point across first. Saving important details until later in the press release can damage your chances of getting eyeballs on the post.
“Personality” Doesn’t Mean “Opinions”
Personality is key and will optimize the eyes that see your writing. Boring press releases get overlooked because writers want to write about things that interest them and get their attention. Be humorous and witty. Don’t be afraid to make a relevant pun in writing. If you can make the journalist laugh, you’re likely to have a good write up about the news.
Extra fluff can come in a number of ways. Press releases, for instance, should be devoid of opinions. You can be happy you get your game out there, but going into opinion and blog-like writing is an automatic turn off for a lot of journalists that are picking up the write-up. People want news to be, you know, news.
Inject some personality into the writing, though. This isn’t an expository high school essay. This is your masterpiece. Be proud of what you’d got here. But, be careful not to turn it into an opinion piece. You may love it, but someone else may not.
Create hype by being honest and straightforward. If I wanted your opinion, I’ll read your Dev Blog or watch your Dev Diaries (which are also a great way to create hype, but need to remain separate from the news).
Empower Yourself With Quotes
Now, let me go against everything I’ve said prior, but only if done in a specific way. Quotes are the one place that a press release should have enthusiasm or opinion. By quoting yourself or someone on your team, you open up the ability to say whatever you want. This is your time to shine as a human that made the game.
Be excited and enthusiastic. I’ve seen too many quotes that read like a robot wrote them. I once had to explain to one of these robots the best way to give a quote, “Pretend you’re telling your best friend in the entire world about your product for the very first time. Show the excitement from that moment!”
I do have a personal rule that works well for quote, though. Too many quotes will drown a press release. Most reporters that take your release and have to massage it are going to pull the main information and re-write it, then maybe snag one or two of the quotes for the article, if any at all. Limit the amount of quotes in a single release to be no more than three, with no more than two quotes for a single person.
Source Your Sources
Everyone wants to compare their game to a bigger, well-known game. Everyone wants to mention other companies, studios, or events that are relevant and/or topical to the news. This is where the ground gets a little shaky.
This release isn’t about others. This isn't an elevator pitch, this is the real thing. This is about you, your team, your game, and everything involving those things. I highly recommend keeping others out of the mix. But, if you have to, there’s good ways of going about it.
Make sure to include the proper copyright and trademark information for any brand you decide to utilize. You can’t mention another company without the proper legalese. This should be included near the bottom of the release, just to cover your own behind. Additionally, if you mention any copyrighted systems that your game will be on, it’s important to give the proper copyrighting symbol with it and make sure it’s named properly.
Look up proper style guides for anything you mention, because each brand has their own unique shorthand. It’s “Sony PlayStation 4”, not “Playstation” (The “S” is Capitalized). It’s “XBox One”, not “Xbone”. Properly attributing your mentions makes you look more professional, as well as more likely to have people pay attention.
Don’t be afraid of links in the press release. Embrace them and link to all of your sources properly. Did you attend an event that is in your news? Link the main page of the event. Are you name-dropping a specific console or game series? Give them props. Do you have assets for your own game, like a press kit? Link it and make it bold.
Adventure, Excitement… A Journalist Craves These Things
I talked about journalists a bit in a previous entry to this series, but I want to elaborate on their thoughts about press releases. When you network, you make allies. But, it’s a lot easier if you give them news that they can do something with.
Searching them out makes their job much easier for them. They are actively looking for things to write about and most publications keep themselves on a constant stream of press lists for this exact purpose.
Even if you don’t know them, utilize that press list that you made in the earlier lesson to get ahold of them and make yourself known. Journalists, for the most part, are pretty personable and are just looking for a new scoop.
Just remember: Journalists and the media love press releases. Even if the release you write isn’t as successful as you had hoped, they can be added to your own “Press Kit” that any game should have for later usage. But, Press Kits are a lesson for another day.
Also, don’t forget: Hit all of the relevant news-wires and aggregators if possible. This will be key to getting the press release to those you don’t already have access to, as journalists (and even everyday people) look at sites like Gamasutra and GamesPress. Even websites and forums like GameDev.Net are notable examples of places to put your news, sharing among other developers. Additionally, don't forget to share the press release on your social media.