This isn’t a post of answers to “how do I get PR” or “how can I guarantee coverage of my game”. I don’t know, it’s your game, you’ll have a better idea than I do. It’s not a complete guide to indie marketing either. It’s some things that anyone, no matter how good/bad they think they are at PR can use to take the weight off themselves a tad.
So. Here’s 5 things you can do RIGHT NOW to help yourself promote your indie game.
1. Get yourself Promoter.
Not a promoter, Promoter. Promoter helps you keep track of any and all press mentions. Wait, what? You don’t have any? That’s ok, because Promoter has a handy database of sites and twitter handles also. And as a bonus, it also allows you to easily compile your own press quotes page. Fabulously useful.
Do not make a list or follow everyone on the Twitter list and proceed to spam them with a generic message to try your game though. If you think that’s a good plan, you should probably stop having plans.
When I was doing mailouts for the recent DRM trailer and initial announcement, I mailed out 3 sites and 3 sites alone. I only wanted to contact the sites I knew would be receptive to a slightly weirdy video, conveniently they're the same sites that I truly love to read. At some point in the next few weeks, I’ll mail more and I’m sure there’ll be more press done for me once it’s out of my hands but still, target – don’t be scattershot and hope someone picks up your press.
Related, courtesy of Anthony Carboni.
"If you use a PR firm, get reports of who they’re pitching your game to. Sending a release to the wrong outlet will get you ignored forever."
"Too many devs get excited by the size of a firm’s rolodex without seeing if those relationships are strong/relevant. Anyone can spam blogs."
There’s an old hand at indie PR who has recently started sending me PR guff and it’s clearly stuff that even 30 seconds researching the site I contribute to or a cursory browse of my Twitter feed would reveal is not for me. I just put it straight in the recycle bin now. It’s obvious that he’s just got a list and he’s working through the list sending mail to everyone.
If you pay someone to do this, they are not better at PR than you. They’re really not. You are effectively paying for someone to have your announcement binned.
They’re the same sort of folks who’ll mail an iOS game to RockPaperShotgun, a PC games and only PC games blog.
You could save yourself that money. Promoter helps you make your start there.
2. Do PressKit.
Another easy tool for your arsenal. Presskit() lets you quickly and easily set up a port of call for the press. A one stop website to hold videos, screenshots, company history, contact details, pretty much everything you might want a member of the press to see.
Set aside an evening to do it right. It also (handily) integrates nicely with Promoter.
Do this and you have a port of call for all the information you’ll soon tire of repeating. It wastes less of your time and less time of the folks you’ll end up contacting.
3. Read Things.
Ok. There’s a video in there too but shush. Point still stands.
I’ve only chosen articles where anyone can get something from them. There's so much advice on the internet and some of it is bad advice. You will find lots of it is useless advice. Sometimes you'll find good advice.
I've tried to pick the pieces that have universal advice.
There’s a common thread running through most of these, that of having/being a story, having practical things that people will need and supplying those things.
Anyone who claims they have a definitive guide to how to market your game is wrong, each game is different. Every journalist wants certain things, prefers different things, likes their PR differently but there’s some common things you can learn, most of which are contained in the links above.
It'll take a few hours to read and digest these articles. You can start that right now.
4. Take Pictures.
Screenshot Saturday is mainly dev to dev, that’s an inevitability but it’s not solely dev to dev either. Something intriguing will find its way out of its Twitter hole. Recently, John Polson has been running Screenshot Saturday round ups on indiegames.com. Interesting things escape.
It’s good practice in learning to take good screenshots too. I usually end up with a folder containing anything between 10 and 100 screenshots of whatever I’m screenshotting at any one time. I then work through them until I have the 2 or 3 best screenshots and I use them. This is the same method I've used for PR shots for a number of years now.
Unlike videos which can be tough to pace, cut or just put together in general, everyone can take screenshots.
PS. No-one cares about your menu screens. Don’t screenshot them and certainly don't include them in "official" PR shots.
5. Don’t just rely on the internet.
Why Game City? Here. Here’s why. Why somewhere near you? Because these are people who might not read your favourite games news blog and you might just catch their eye. All for the sake of some busfare.
For PR, don't limit yourself to just the games press. Not unless you only want to sell to the games press.
If you want the public to see your game, show it to the public.
Often, it's one heck of a way of finding out what people think of your game too. My experiences of watching other people just play unhindered, complete fresh eyes to the work has been a thousand times more valuable than a thousand play tests. So it's a double bonus!
Hopefully, these tips will help you feel a bit more comfortable, a bit more bold and a bit more informed about what you can do to help yourself when it comes to plugging your games. Sometimes, PR and marketing seems like the devil, sometimes it feels like a mystery. It's neither. It's just something that requires a bit of time and a bit of knowledge.
So, y'know, read then go forth and get plugging. I look forward to reading about your game soon.