Before we get started on the nitty-gritty of pitching your game to media and influencers, it’s worth looking at our last blog, where we shared some of our top tips on how to write a video game press release.
Why? There are a couple of reasons for that.
First, as a collaborative effort from the whole BGM team, we’ve poured nearly 100 years of combined marketing knowledge into a cask of delicious PR goodness and distilled it into just 3000 or so words.
You’d usually pay for advice like this, but we’re giving it to you for absolutely nothing.
Second, if you’re seeking a step-by-step guide to help you through your PR journey, this post should be your next step. So, if it’s our SEO prowess that brought you here, we’d like to say thank you, but if you don’t have a press release written and ready to distribute, you’ll need to jump back a step to here.
Don’t worry; we’ll wait.
If you already know how to write a video game press release, then great! Now you have your perfect press release ready, and it’s time to ensure you get it in front of the right people.
If you thought writing your release or news story took up a lot of time, just wait until you find out how much is involved with pitching to journalists and influencers…
Here’s the golden rule before we start
Distributing a press release effectively and pitching your game or story idea to journalists can take a lot of time, but you’re not going to get the results you want or need if you simply copy and paste a load of email addresses you found (or worse, bought) into a BCC chain email and hit send.
The more time you spend researching and tailoring your story to the people you’re contacting, the higher your chances are of securing coverage. Nothing beats the buzz of seeing a PR and marketing campaign you’ve spent weeks (or even months) working on to make headlines.
To help ensure yours is a success, we’ve laid out everything you need to do in what correct order, alongside some of our top tips.
Follow these, and you’ll be pitching like a pro in no time.
CAREFULLY RESEARCH CONTACTS TO BUILD THE BEST MEDIA LIST AND IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF COVERAGE
We can’t stress enough the importance of properly researching the people you want to contact. There are various niches within the video games industry, and some gaming journalists have a beat or specialist topics that they cover.
For example, Jason Schrier is a gaming journalist for Bloomberg News, but he mostly writes long-form investigative pieces on industry issues. He’s not going to cover the launch of your new mobile game.
Similarly, you wouldn’t want to send a reporter at PC Gamer a press release about your new game launching exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, nor would you contact someone at Gamesindustry.biz about a review as they’re a B2B games website.
A quality media list is one of the essential tools anyone doing PR or marketing can have. In case you’ve not heard of a media list (also known as a press list, media database, or seeding list), it contains the contact information of key media, such as journalists and influencers.
It doesn’t matter how interesting your press release is; if you send it to a list of the wrong contacts who would never write about it, you’ll get ignored or (even worse) blocked.
If they unsubscribe from a mailing list, you’re legally not allowed to add them back. That’s a massive shame if you end up working on a story in the future that might be relevant to them.
When it comes to assembling a quality media list, it’s crucial to research journalists and influencers that have written about games that are similar to yours.
If you’re pitching media on the release of your new game, what genre is it? If it’s rogue-like, add the names of people that have reviewed similar games to your mailing list. If you’re releasing an RPG, include genre or niche-specific websites such as RPGsite alongside traditional gaming websites.
Reddit can also be a goldmine of information, especially for finding influencers. A quick internet search generates a decent selection of subreddits where users discuss their favourite streamers and content creators.
Remember that targeting influencers will require a slightly different approach than pitching journalists, something we’ll cover further down.
HOW TO FIND EMAIL ADDRESSES FOR JOURNALISTS AND INFLUENCERS
Some journalists will list their email addresses on Twitter, and some game websites have profile pages for their reporters that give an overview of the games and genres they’re into and how best to contact them.
Certain websites, like Polygon, go one step further and have pitching guides. While most of the info in guides such as these is tailored towards freelance journalists looking to write for the website, there’s still lots of useful info for PRs.
For example, GamesIndustry.biz has a lot of information about the types of content they publish on their website. This gives you an insight into their audience, what kind of stories they’re interested in hearing, and where you can direct your emails.
Outside of this, you can also pay for a subscription to certified PR platforms that hold contact information for journalists. The downside is that platforms such as these are costly and often have outdated information (game journalists tend to move around a lot!).
The downside is you only get a limited number of searches with a free account and there’s no guarantee that email addresses will be up to date.
Finally, you can always reach out to journalists and ask for their email addresses via Twitter.
Just ensure you tell them why you’re contacting them and why you think the information you’d like to send them is of interest. Also, showing evidence of any research you’ve done before reaching out to them will increase their likelihood of responding.
Oh, and one vital tip when it comes to media lists…
NEVER BUY EMAIL ADDRESSES
Don’t do it, no matter how convincing the person selling you the media list might sound, as you don’t know anything about the quality of the information or where they got it.
The contacts in there might be outdated and from several years ago, or they could just be a bunch of random names they’ve stolen from someone else.
In most cases, many of these lists have been created from contacts related to exhibitions and conferences. Sure, you’ll probably find the email addresses of some journalists on there, but these will often be addresses used for communication or attendance.
That means they may be personal email addresses rather than personal ones. If you’re contacting them via a private email address, there are going to be some questions asked about how you obtained that contact information.
Besides, if you’re based in the UK and Europe, these people haven’t given you consent to contact them and you’d be in breach of GDPR.
Media lists should be bespoke to the person that’s building them. There are so many journalists and influencers that they can’t possibly all like the same games.
It’s your job to research what they’re playing and what they’re interested in, so you can build a media list full of contacts that will find your game or game story interesting.
DON’T FORGET TO UPDATE YOUR MEDIA LISTS REGULARLY
We recommend keeping your media list stored in a spreadsheet. Ensure you update this regularly, as game journalists can move between roles at various sites.
We’d recommend signing up to VGPR, a newsletter by Lizzie Killian looking at developments impacting PR within the games industry. Lizzie often mentions staff moves and new hires in her newsletter, so it’s an easy way to keep up to date with what gaming journalists are up to.
If you’re planning on using a CRM platform such as MailChimp to send press releases, you can also import your media list as a CSV file.
DON’T SEND YOUR PRESS RELEASE AS AN EMAIL ATTACHMENT
If you’re distributing a press release, it should always be embedded within your email or whatever platform you’re using to send the release. Why? Because, trust us, most journalists aren’t using word processing software in 2021.
If they do just happen to have a copy of Microsoft Office on their computer, it’s worth noting that DOC. files can carry viruses. If you’ve saved and exported your press release as a PDF, they can carry viruses too.
But ultimately, by attaching either of those things, you’re creating more work for the person receiving your release as they’ll have to download it and open it up – especially PDFs, as they’re hard to copy info from.
But the biggest reason for not sending a release as an attachment is it can lead to your email landing straight into the recipient’s junk rather than their inbox.
CAREFULLY FORMAT YOUR EMAIL
(AND MAKE SURE IT’S EASY TO READ)
If you’re distributing a press release manually via Gmail or Outlook, ensure it’s formatted so it reads well.
Your headline should always be in a large bold font and centred, and if you’re leading with an intro/pitch (you should), use a line break to separate that from your press release.
Make sure your paragraphs are well structured and you’re using line breaks, bullet points or an image or two to make it easier on the eyes of your reader if it feels too text-heavy.
Once you’ve created your email, ensure you’ve sent it to yourself and, preferably, someone else to check it for any typos or mistakes you may have missed. Open these test emails on mobile and tablets, too, so you know they display the same across all devices.
If you’re using a CRM or distribution platform like Mailchimp to send out your press release, you’ll have more options for formatting. Just be aware that all the HTML coding and customisation that comes with that can lead to errors on certain platforms.
Most of these errors are around emojis, which some mail providers and Android devices have problems displaying. We recommend you avoid using emojis altogether to be safe and prevent potential risks associated with ‘being unprofessional’.
If you want to get creative, use a GIF or image instead – but keep these light! If these GIFs or pictures are too big, your email will bounce or land straight in the spam folder.
On that note, it’s always worth compressing images to a smaller file size if you embed them within the release (but keep them at max-res within your media assets folder).
DON’T FORGET TO PERSONALISE YOUR EMAILS – PROVE YOU’VE DONE YOUR RESEARCH
If you’re distributing a press release, we’d always recommend using a cover note or lead-in as an introduction rather than just sending the press release. It’s an opportunity to say hello, mention the critical points of the press release, and show you’ve done your research.
You might want to reference and include links to previous articles the journalist has written (or videos the influencer has created if you’re mailing an influencer) if they’re relevant to why you’re contacting them.
Don’t be afraid to tell the journalist or influencer what makes your game or story worth covering. Again, reference their audience and draw similarities between other stories or pieces of content that have performed well on their site/channel.
Journalists do appreciate it when it’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into researching and pitching them a relevant story, especially as so many press releases and stories are mass circulated.
While distributing press releases manually via email does take up a lot of time, it does allow you to personalise every email you’re sending so that it’s relevant to the person receiving it.
GIVE THE MEDIA A FEW TIPS ON HOW THEY COULD COVER
YOUR GAME OR STORY
If you’re pitching a story about the release of a new game, give the journalist some ideas on how they could approach it.
For example, if an interesting story about the development cycle or how certain real-life events inspired your game, lead on those two things separately.
If you’re offering interview opportunities with key staff members from your studio, mention what they can talk about. Rather than saying, “Would you be interested in speaking to our founder?” always say, “Would you be interested in speaking to our founder who can tell you about X Y Z.”
MAKE YOUR EMBARGO DATE AND TIME VERY CLEAR
There are a couple of instances where you might embargo something.
If you’re sending game codes out for review, we’d recommend having reviews under embargo until the day of the game’s release (unless you have a well-known game/franchise, so a clear marketing plan). This will help build hype on the day of the game’s launch.
The exception is for larger games with bigger budgets and marketing plans. These may require early review scores and media momentum to play into marketing plans for pre-orders.
If you’re issuing a press release under embargo (meaning they can’t release the information within that release to the public until a specific date/time), ensure it’s conveyed clearly.
We’d recommend putting it in a large, bold red font at the top of your release and referencing the embargo date in bold (or underlined) within your introductory email.
Avoid using ‘midnight’ as an embargo date, too, as some people still get confused about whether that’s on the day or the day before – you don’t want your story to break 24 hours earlier than intended! Also, don’t forget to include the timezone for your embargo.
Embargoes can always be helpful if you’re working with a journalist on a feature piece. Still, they will need access to specific information that isn’t publicly available yet to write that feature.
One key thing to remember is that just because you’re sending something out under embargo doesn’t mean people will listen to you.
Most journalists will respect an embargo, but a content creator, blogger or streamer is less obligated to follow it, so make sure they accept it before issuing code.
Worried about an influencer leaking the story? Don’t send them the press release until launch day or withhold specific information to minimise potential headaches.
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PITCHING INFLUENCERS AND JOURNALISTS
We’d recommend building separate media lists and campaigns for journalists and influencers, as they can cover video games in many different ways.
A gaming influencer could be someone with a prominent blog, fan website, social media following, or popular Twitch or YouTube channel. Depending on their audience, they may only cover specific games or explore games in a certain way.
For example, if you’re pitching a Twitch streamer to feature your game on their channel, we’d recommend including a download key in your initial outreach email.
A good media kit is also essential to give them the tools they need to make thumbnails and assets to accompany their content.
Even if they don’t reply to your email initially, they may end up downloading the game, playing it, and falling in love with it. If that gets you onto their Twitch channel, it’s a win-win.
While media may be busy, they fit into a ‘window’ of news much more than an influencer.
The story will stay slightly fresher for an influencer, who may not play it until their current content is produced. So be careful about expecting content on launch day – it may not be feasible for all influencers, even if you have given them time in advance.
If you’re reaching out to someone over Twitter or Instagram, you may want to consider a paid brand partnership to get them talking about your game, especially if this is how they’re used to covering certain games.
Many established influencers have representation as part of a talent agency or network, and the trend is that the bigger the audience, the higher the cost.
Every influencer is different and will require a different approach, but you’ll always need to know their audience as a starting point.
Understanding what kind of content their audience appreciates and engages with will help you pitch your game in a way that the influencer finds interesting. More importantly, it will help you find the right audience for your game.
As for content, how you say something can be just as important as what you say. Be mindful of your tone of voice and language choice when contacting journalists and influencers.
This is where your research can be helpful, as you can gain insight into how journalists and influencers communicate online (just don’t use that as an excuse to be overly casual).
Be very careful with names, too. Psychologically, we love the sound of our own names and hate it when they’re misspelled, so check these are definitely right. The same also applies to pronouns (he/she/they).
We’d recommend opening up another tab and checking out our influencer guide if that’s an area you want to focus on in more detail before carrying on with the rest of this piece!
DON’T SPAM JOURNALISTS WITH FOLLOW-UPS
An ongoing topic of debate within PR is how often you should follow up with journalists. Some of them are getting hundreds of emails every day, and yes, this does sometimes lead to emails getting missed.
But resist the temptation to ‘follow up’ or just ‘check in’ after a day or two. If there’s a sense of urgency behind your email (like perhaps if you’re contacting an outlet to run an exclusive), then let them know that you’ll need to hear back by a specific date before you offer the opportunity up to someone else.
As a general rule of thumb, we’d leave a week before contacting a journalist again after you’ve pitched them or sent them a release.
And if you are following up, try and include some additional information that adds value to your story or news release, just in case they’ve already seen it.
That additional information could provide an angle or news hook they hadn’t previously considered, making your story or game worth covering.
INCLUDE EVERYTHING MEDIA AND INFLUENCERS NEED TO CREATE THE COVERAGE YOU WANT
Whether you’re after a news post, feature piece or review, ensure your email contains all the information the journalist or influencer will need to create the content you want.
Make their job as easy as possible, and you’ll be remembered as a fantastic person who was a pleasure to work with.
This means a download code (where possible) to an alpha, beta, demo or full version of your game, a media kit containing any assets needed to accompany your story, and links to websites or other platforms where they can find additional information if they need it.
DON’T SEND YOUR GAME OUT TO DIE
What we mean by this is don’t send your game out for review in the same period when there are loads of other games coming out or foreseeable significant events – journalists and influencers can only cover so many games at once.
You should carefully plan the time and date of your outreach so you know what you’re competing against. Consider the various timeframes journalists and influencers will need to write about your game properly, as well as the quality of your build if you’re going out with alpha and beta demos.
All this is important, so much so that we’ve written a mammoth blog post on when to start pitching your game to reviewers.
Make sure you’ve got a way of keeping track of any game coverage that comes in with free listening tools like Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts. If you’re happy to invest in dedicated listening tools, we recommend Awario and Mention.
Once we have the coverage, we keep it all in a Coveragebook but appreciate that it can be expensive for a small developer, so you can just put converge links into Google Sheets.
Once a journalist or influencer has covered your game, cultivate and maintain those relationships by keeping them up-to-date with news and in the loop for future stories!