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Online PR For Games: There Is No Going Back Now

Following two earlier columns on the subject, video game PR professional Duane Brown takes a final look at public relations for games, discussing the use of Technorati, trends tools, and more to 'monitor, analyze, interact, and lead' in online game PR.

Over the last two columns we’ve looked at online public relations and what it took to get us to this moment in time. Your campaign has gone gold and you’ve released it out into the open. Now what you do next is just as hard as launching the campaign.

You have to bridge the gap between online and offline public relations as well as monitor what is being said about you online. Those are the two areas I want to focus on today.

Bridging The Gap

When you look at what CP+B did for Burger King, Microsoft & 42 Entertainment with ilovebees or what Viacom’s MTV Networks is doing with the Virtual Laguna Beach as well as the hit TV show, it makes you stop and wonder - can that be done for my video game? The long and short answer to the question is yes, but you have to be creative about it and think on a smaller scale (unless you’ve millions of dollars to spend on PR/marketing/advertising).

The Behemoth is a cool little independent shop within the video game industry. Recently they started handing out trophies for their cult classic game Alien Hominid. The PR for simply rewarding the community that this is generating for them is priceless.

Back in the 80s, Activision used to hand out badges for players who achieved goals within certain games. I’m sure the winners will blog and brag to their friends about how they won, which is going to further prolong their effort. What I like here is that, The Behemoth found a unique way to add an offline component to their online efforts as they build an online community around their game.

I’m not saying go out and copy The Behemoth, but I’m saying find a cool way to combine what would traditionally be only an online PR tactic and add an offline component or vice versa. Some ideas are as follows:

  • An online/offline scavenger hunt.
  • Stream your live event online with participants
  • Use Facebook’s group feature and allow your community to submit real world locations as a level in your next game

You kind of get the idea now. There is a lot you can do, as you start to harness the unique aspects of your game. Building a cohesive online and offline strategy will help increase your brand awareness among your community and potential community.

M.A.I.L.

You’ve bridged the gap between your online and offline efforts. The public relations plan is coming together and maybe it’s even a runaway success. Now you need to follow what is being said about you and get involved in the exchange of ideas, thoughts and opinions about your video game.

Some of it may be inaccurate and due to the nature of the Internet space, completely wrong. Some people don’t check facts and are thus a part of the problem when rumors or wrong information is out in the open. You need to be a leader and at the forefront of it or else you may only be hurting your PR plan.

When it comes to tracking what is being said about you online, I try and break it down into four areas so clients can understand the process as much as possible. The four areas are monitor, analyze, interact, and lead. We’ll go through each one and list a few of the tools you can use during the process.


At Creative Traction, much like any PR firm, we have half a dozen or more tools we use for any one process. No one tool is absolute and we find using them in combination is proving to be a better metric to grade against.

Monitor

What does the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Google and Blizzard Entertainment all have in common? They monitor the people within their community. CSIS makes sure Canadians are kept safe from all forms of threat. Google and Blizzard make sure that the users (aka community) of their software are playing by the rules and having fun. All three also listen and solicit feedback from their respective users and use that to improve on what they offer.

You need to treat your public relations plan in the same way. Whether it’s internally or externally, you need to know what everyone is thinking and saying about you at each stage of the execution of the plan. Some of the tools we use include the following:

Technorati

Technorati is the Google of search engines for blogs. Technorati does more then just search blogs. It also ranks the top blogs globally, which allows you to see what the community is talking about and what is hot or not from news to movies to video games. However, we are going to stick to the search engine aspect of Technorati.

Here is the search result for Guitar Hero 2 on the 360. With your results you can refine them and only show blogs in one of 20 languages or those with high authority like Joystiq or Kotaku. You can also grab the RSS feed for your search and be kept up to date on the latest for your video game or that of your competitor. A Technorati search is one of the first things we do for any client. It’s a good way to gauge what is being said about them online, in a broad overview kind of way.

 


 

PODZINGER

PODZINGER is the Technorati of the podcasting and video world. You can search for your name, a brand you love, or even a new client. They just added a feature for searching YouTube, which is a good sign of things to come. To give you an idea of how the site works, let's search for Army of Two, as I’m completely looking forward to the game.

Here are my results for PODZINGER and for the YouTube feature. Just for fun, here is the search result for World of Warcraft. A nice thing about the results is it shows a snippet of the conversation around the word and where it is in the show. You can click on any of the words to start the stream at that precise point in time. We also get a date, screen cap and link to the show. So whether you are searching video or podcasts, PODZINGER should help you find what’s out there about your video game.

Inclue

Inclue is a free tool that lets you read RSS feeds in your Outlook. So instead of using NetNewsWire, Google Read or Bloglines, you can use Inclue and have one less program to deal with. What sets Inclue apart from the other rss feed readers is that it just doesn’t deal with blogs. You can also add a podcast, video and music to your RSS feed reader and play the podcast or video right there in Outlook as well.

Inclue is a great way to stay on top of what is being said about you after you’ve used Technorati, PODZINGER and other tools to survey the land. I think Inclue is a great tool and one that isn’t better then the other rss feed readers above. It’s just different and brings certain traits to the table. Maybe you want to sync your Blackberry to your feed, which you can only do with Bloglines. So it’s more of a question of which one fits into your digital lifestyle better.

All of the above tools and the other half dozen or so that we use at Creative Traction help us monitor what is being said about our clients, as well as their brands and products. However, unless you can put all that information into context, respond, and then lead your team toward your goals, it’ll all be useless, which brings us to our next point.


Analyze

You’ve been monitoring what the online world has been saying about your product and now you want to analyze everything. Maybe you want to compare the buzz of your game vs the competition, since they will be coming out just weeks apart from each other. As always, GameSpot’s Trax and other similar services by IGN and others are good tools to use. However, maybe your needs are different and you don’t want to cover the consumer editorial publications run by the big four media publishers in the industry but only cover the blogs run by gamers. Then a few of the tools listed below will do that for you. It’s not an exact science, but it’ll give you a good idea of what people are saying.

Ice Rocket Trends Tool

Ice Rocket’s trend tool allows you to compare the buzz on blogs across different search terms. You can only search for the last three months, so it might be something you want to track once a month and see how the buzz is shifting overtime. Here is the result we got for Army of Two vs World of Warcraft.

The results page allows you to see posts per day, average % and total posts over all. Also, if you click on your search term, then you can see all the posts that Ice Rocket is using to calculate your buzz. As I mentioned, it’s not an exact science but it’s a good place to start. Your online reputation and buzz is just as important as what people are saying about you in the real world.

 


 

RepuTrace

RepuTrace is a corporate security intelligence tool, as the website so boldly claims. However, RepuTrace isn’t just about analyzing what is out there, it also allows you to monitor, review and then communicate the information to everyone. The service also covers video and images, so it seems to cover everything that is the digital world. If you can afford the service and you liked the demo that they showed you, I say take it for a drive and try it out.

There will always be a few services that you use together to get a better picture of what is being said about you and your brand online. Analyzing data can always be one of the hardest parts, but if you don’t do it you are only hurting yourself. I’ve not personally used RepuTrace but a friend has and he said it’s quite useful, just a slight learning curve as you would get with any new piece of software.

Interact

After you’ve monitored and analyzed what is being said about you, you need to decide what you’re going to do next. How you react at this stage in the game says a lot about your understanding of the online world and the etiquette that needs to be followed. First, I want to look at a tool that will allow you to keep track of your interactions online and then we’ll look at leading your online assault.

co.moments

co.mmoents lets you track your comments online. If you are finding that a lot of blogs are writing about you and people are leaving questions and comments about your game. You can add your response to the blog and then have co.moments track what everyone said after you answered the question or commented on the blog post.

Co.moments really becomes more useful as you start posting on numerous blogs across the net and maybe even multiple posts on one blog or site. I know I have found the service useful when I’ve 20 different comments that I want to track and see what people are saying. You never know when you might want to follow-up on your original answer as someone might have asked another question from your response.

There aren’t many tools out there that actually allow you to keep track of your own online presence, which in some ways proves to be an opportunity to capitalize on for some. However, co.moments is the best tool right now and one I highly recommend your marketing/PR person use as they enter the online world and leaves comments all over the world.


Lead

It’s important to understand that not responding to what people are saying about you, good or bad, is equivalent to not giving a rat's @$$ about what your customers say. And what they say is everything to some degree. What may be a small website today could be the next IGN 5 years from now. You don’t want to hurt that online relationship. As I mentioned last time, people want to be treated with the same respect they would show you.

So if a blog has the wrong idea or there was a misunderstanding, simply reply in the comment section or send them a note and let them know where there might have been a misunderstanding. You can’t be every where online as there are just to many websites, podcasts, videos and blogs to make that even possible.

However, if you try and cover as much as possible and show that you are listening, then your community will see that and know you care. You have to do even more when you try something new in terms of online public relations. Being the leaders and stepping outside the box is going to yield some negative comments and reactions from the community and you need to be prepared for that. Keep your head up and learn from your mistakes and you’ll be fine.

To use an example from outside the industry, last year Facebook added a new feature called “news feeds”, which didn’t go over well with the community. There was simply a misunderstanding about what “news feeds” is, how it worked and how you can control it. When the backlash occurred, Facebook responded on their development blog and let everyone know they were sorry and would work overtime to solve any issues people had.

Part of that overtime was spent educating people about how “news feeds” actually worked and the other part was spent adding more controls into the feature and setting up a special focus group that would see new changes to Facebook before they go live to the entire community.

I think how Facebook reacted and worked with the community is a good example of the online world. It’s about relationships and much like the one you have with your girlfriend/boyfriend or other half. Sometimes you have to walk a mile in their shoe and work things out, compromise or talk until you are blue in the face to make sure you communicated correctly. Leading an online assault isn’t easy and protecting your brand is even harder these days, and it’s only going to get harder as more of the world goes online and diversifies into micro-communities. You might as well start now because there truly is no going back now.

Conclusion

Over the last few months we’ve covered what online public relations is, how to use it to your advantage, what compelling content can and should be. We also tackled how to practice safe and ethical public relations and making sure to treat your customer with respect. Today, we looked at bridging the gap between online and offline public relations and how to monitor, analyze, interact and lead your online efforts. This is just the tip of a very large iceberg and knowing that the rules are changing and, in some cases, being made up as we go is important, especially, if you are thinking outside the box.


In the end, I want to leave you with one final thought. We are all consumers at some point, and if you remember why and how your favorite brand used online public relations in some funky way to leave a lasting impression on you then you’ll remember why you should make a lasting impression on your community. Until next time, please practice safe, ethical and smart public relations.

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