By James Kaye, Director, Big Games Machine
If you’re a developer and you’re starting out on the road to selecting a PR agency for your game, then we appreciate that it can be a bit daunting. The biggest challenge of all is that you’re likely not sure what questions to ask. Well, the good news is that we’ve put a list of things to look for below that can help set you on the road to finding the perfect partner.
- Will the agency share examples of past media coverage with you?
All PR agencies should be able to provide you with examples of past coverage. We use a tool called Coveragebook which collates all our coverage and has vital metrics such as page/article views. We’ll gladly share these with anyone who is interested in working with us.
- Has the agency asked to play your game before they agree to work on it?
We point blank refuse to work on a game unless we have played it thoroughly first. Sure, a 100 hour MMO isn’t going to be feasible, but they still need to get a good idea. An ethical agency should politely pass on a game they don’t think that they can generate coverage for and give constructive reasons why they feel that is the case. If an agency rejects your game, make sure you get good feedback as to why this is the case.
- Have the people at the agency provided you with constructive feedback after they have played your game?
Most good agencies will gladly give feedback good or bad. If they have said that the game is not for them, then they should give good reasons why. The same goes for if they like the game. What was it that they particularly liked? You want to feel that they have genuine passion and enthusiasm for your game and will go the extra mile.
- Does the agency/the person working on the game play games?
I know, obvious question but a gamer can sniff out a non-gamer at 1000 paces, and there are some PR people that seem to forget that playing games are a vital part of working in this industry.
- Is the agency or freelancer showing awareness of your competitors?
A savvy person or agency may well be making comments on your game versus others to demonstrate they understand the space and the challenges that you face
- Is the agency or freelancer giving you advice before you engage?
We’re pleased to give out a lot of advice for games that we’re interested in working on because it engenders a sense of trust in prospective clients.
- Is the agency asking you a lot of questions?
If you’re being asked a lot of questions, then it shows that the person asking the questions is thorough and is trying to gain a good understanding of you and your title
- Who will be working on the game?
If it’s a freelancer, then it’s an easy one, but if it’s an agency, then you don’t want the Directors to schmooze you and then dump a junior on the account with the Director never to be seen or heard from again. I work directly on all our games and attend all the meetings. This may not be feasible in a bigger agency, but it gives you an idea. Just don’t end up with the office junior as your only contact.
9. How does the agency propose to work with you?
It’s important that there is a clear process of communication with the agency and you want to get good visibility of what they are doing at all times. We have weekly Skype calls and use Trello for transparent project management. We also use Google Drive for sharing all documentation.
10. How will the agency report key metrics to gauge success?
In the digital age we live in, there should be plenty of ways for an agency to provide you with metrics. As we’ve mentioned previously, we use Coveragebook as the best solution to share coverage with clients as well as provide detailed metrics. If we’re working on a Steam game, then we also use Keymailer to get in touch with influencers. Keymailer gives us comprehensive reports from any coverage resulting from us sending a Steam key to a journalist.
11. Has the agency proposed any creative ideas to help your game get noticed?
A simple, cheap service that pushes out a press release will only do just that whereas an agency or freelancer may be proposing something more creative. We spent two days packaging up and sending Donald Trump toilet rolls to select media for a North Korean mobile parody game we’re working on called Dear Leader. We even went as far as to include fake letters to the press and put official North Korean stamps on the envelope to make it look like it had been sent from North Korea. Yep, we charged extra for this but the client liked it, and it helps them get noticed.
Ultimately, you need to go with your gut and also ask the right questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof points and references. The other thing to bear in mind is that your game may not be as great as you think it is. I know, it may sound harsh, but I speak to far too many developers that operate in a vacuum. They seem to have little awareness of the competition, nor have they gotten honest, unbiased feedback on their games.
Don’t forget, a mediocre game that’s then accepted by an average agency which is happy to take a game at any cost will ultimately end in tears. That said, a great game in the hands of a great agency or freelancer can do great things!