PR Tips for Indies

One of the goals of Indie Press Day is to set up indie developers with some “tricks of the trade” to help with getting coverage for their games. Here are a few of the PR tips we shared with our participants.

Start a conversation. When someone writes about your game, send a note to thank them. Be casual and conversational — there’s no one right thing to say or right way to say it, so don’t worry too much about being formal or fancy in your communications. Try not to be defensive or confrontational in the face of criticism, though. Writing to a reviewer to tell them why they were wrong usually doesn’t go over well!

Share your story. A lot of projects have really interesting backstories that help them stand out. It might be the genesis of the game idea or your unique take on a mechanic. Or it could be related to your background — the big developer you used to work for and why you chose to go indie, or your career outside of the game industry that influenced your game in an interesting way. (Picking up on a few from Indie Press Day attendees: A former visualization programmer who worked for NASA is now bringing these graphics skills to a space-based arcade game; a game with shades of The Shining where YOU play as a ghost; a game where you literally throw trucks with your mind!) The press get many, many pitches. Grab their interest and make yours stand out, rather than risking having it lumped in with the tedious, data-sheet-like emails they receive so many of.

Make it easy. Journalists are busy and your game is one of zillions competing for their attention, so make it as easy as possible for them to get the info they need. Include a Press link on your website’s main menu or footer that leads to a self-serve asset area similar to the one we set up for your game on the Indie Press Day site. Make sure to bullet out the details press are likely to be looking for: platforms, expected release date, price, where to buy, links to Steam Greenlight or Kickstarter, etc. You might also consider tools like Vlambeer’s http://www.dopresskit.com.

Let press know when your release is near. Don’t assume that someone who saw your game midway through development will still have it on their radar when it’s time to release. A month or two before release, you should send the people on your press list a heads-up to let them know the game is coming and start keeping track of who wants to review it.

Don’t give up! There are no guarantees in PR — even for those of us who do it for a living! Results are rarely instantaneous, and some relationships with journalists will have to develop for months or even years before they really pay off for you. Even if you’re not seeing coverage right away, it’s still better to put effort into this stuff than to blow it off. The more you reach out, the more you’ll establish yourself among the press and the better your results will be in the long run. So don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a flood of coverage the first time out. (Or the second, or the third…) Remember that everything you’re doing now isn’t only in support of this game, but also of the (hopefully many!) games that will come after it.