[...is writing a press release and sending out self-aggrandizing emails. For a one-man indie, it can be seriously challenging to cold-email journalists with a press release about yourself and your game without sounding stiff, cheesy or pompous.]
Making my iPhone game Voyager has been a fun, intense and educational experience. I am a better programmer today than I was 3 months ago. I am a better needle felter today than I was 3 months ago. One thing I am still terrible at, however, is this whole marketing business and sending out press release emails.
I did a ton of googling before I started to figure out how I should approach it. PR firms are NOT shy about offering their services, or advice as a thinly veiled advertisement, which is fine, but everything I saw seemed so generic and for lack of a better term, ‘press release-y’, that it seriously undermined whatever it was the press release was trying to sell.
An analogy is the way reality TV is edited seriously undermines whatever the subject matter is: the cold-open, act 1, tease, commercial, rinse and repeat structure is incredibly off-putting, and the fact that everything fits neatly into this structure makes it worse—fashion, little people, and legit medical & psychological trauma.
That being said, there is good reality TV (there, I said it). That means that it ispossible to make incredibly diverse subject matters fit into a preexisting, structured format. I saw some good press releases too. So, how could I make a press release that doesn’t suck?
Well I’m not sure that I figured it out. If I write too formally, I sound like I’m an intern who inappropriately wears a suit to his first day at an office where the dress code is jeans/t-shirt (oops, I’ll never do that again).
If I write too informally, it sounds like I am not taking the journalists/publication/whoever-is-reading-the-press-release’s time very seriously, and I totally 100% understand that the people whose job it is to read press releases get a thousand of these shitty emails a day.
So where’s the balance?
For me, the only way I could get around this was to write each and every press release email individually. I had a general idea of what I wanted to say, I just had to type it up each and every time. That was the only way I could say something and not sound generic and cheesy, and even then I’m sure I still came across that way.
I have sent out around 50 to 75 emails, and I have heard back from ~ 8 people. That’s apparently a good ratio! Honestly, I’m stoked that I heard back from anyone at all, and the people who did write back were super super nice.
So how would I do it differently next time? I think I would do it the same way, except I would make my emails a tiny bit shorter, get to the point a little bit faster, and try to sound less canned if possible. I am only one man, and for a long time I was trying to hide that fact. I’m not trying to hide it any longer. A little bit of grandeur in the language and writing from a 3rd person-ish perspective really helped. And a little bit of poetic license to spice up an otherwise bland email.