Episode 1 – The PR Playbook: Steering Clear of Costly Mistakes for Game Success

The Games PR Podcast helps you level up your PR skills to get your game noticed by media and influencers. With years of experience working with innovative indies and gaming giants alike, join the Games PR Podcast team and special guests for a wealth of tips and honest advice. From writing pitches and getting Metacritic reviews to avoiding common mistakes and working with influencers, The Games PR Podcast is your personal PR cheat code.

In this episode, we deal with some of the most important questions about the most common PR mistakes we see developers making. When should I launch my game? How do I announce my game and What is games PR are just some of the questions we tackle.

Subscribe and listen to the podcast on all your favourite services including Spotify, Podchaser, Amazon Music and more by searching for it or simply find your service of choice right now on Buzzsprout.

Here’s the things we will cover in this episode:

  1. Everything timelines; from when best to offer review codes and when to avoid launching your game! [00:02:02 – anchor link]
  2. How to tackle influencers, deciding who to approach and avoiding scammers [00:13:07] – anchor link]
  3. Dealing with social media, deciding on platforms and getting in there early with account registration! [00:28:45 – anchor link]
  4. What metrics we use and the difficulty in tracking PR impact [00:37:02]
  5. Outro [00:46:04 – anchor link]

If you’d prefer to read – here is the full transcription


Intro Theme: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Games PR Podcast, your regular dose of Video Game PR Goodness. Sit down, relax as our team of experts and special guests shared tips and tricks to help you level up your PR Game with media and influencers.

Alex: Hi, and welcome to the Games PR Podcast. This is our first episode of what is going to be a [00:00:30] semi-regular show. We’re going to aim for monthly. It might be a little bit more regular or a little bit less regular, depending on when we can get guests. I’m Alex, Senior Account Manager of Big Games Machine and today I am joined by James.

James: Hello.

Alex: Who are you and what do you do?

James: I’m the co-founder of the agency.

Alex: Jack, same questions to you.

Jack: Good day. I’m Jack, I am the account exec. I do all bits and pieces, but I’m very much focused on influencers.

Alex: [00:01:00] Absolutely. Today we are going to be the looking at some of the most asked questions that we get as a Games PR Agency. The very first one of those that we’re going address is when should I release my game and the timeframe of a term I know James hates, which is when should the beats of my launch be.

James: I don’t hate beats. I love beats. I dance to beats.

Alex: How are you guys doing?

James: Good. Thank you. How are you?

Alex: And Jack?

Jack: Excited to get started.

Alex: The first episode is going to [00:01:30] be us taking you through the most commonly asked questions that we faced the first time we start working with a studio or a developer, anyone which you are. Perhaps the first that we get asked by most people is the timeframe of the PR milestones, essentially like announcements and then the release schedule. What timeline would you tend to recommend to recommend to people, [00:02:00] Jack?

Everything timelines; from when best to offer review codes and when to avoid launching your game! [00:02:02]

Jack: Are announcement or are we talking full fact because–

Alex: [crosstalk] from announcement through to launch, I think makes the most sense because that’s normally– when people come to us, that’s normally what they’re looking at, the full from when they want to announce it and how far before launch that would be.

Jack: If they have a date in mind, it’s always good to work backwards from their preferred launch date because we need to know when they want to get review codes out to [00:02:30] media so we can work out timelines there. You don’t want a cyberpunk situation where people are getting review codes on the day of launch or too close to it, so ideally we’d want two, three weeks out to start giving review codes.

Alex: That’s obviously them having a built ready, so that’s one of the other things. We do like to give reviewers time, which is usually about three weeks, as you say, ideally, [00:03:00] but it’s rare that’s the length of time we get. James, you’ve obviously been doing this a while. Is three weeks is the recommendation that you found from actually doing a survey of game reviewers, right?

James: You beat me to it, in fact. I was going to say that we’ve empirically proven this. Couple of years ago, we did the first ever game reviewer survey[00:03:30] and then last year we also did one for influencers, and you can download it from our site at Big Games Machine, and effectively we ask reviewers and influences the optimal amount of time they’d like to be given a game before it gets reviewed, and generally, yes, the consensus is three weeks.

I think it’s really important for anyone who’s listening to understand that three weeks may not be enough. It totally depends on the game you’ve got. If you’ve got [00:04:00] Breath of the Wild, 60 hours, 100 hours, whatever the game is, that’s going to require much greater time investment than a match 3 puzzle game on mobile. Equally so you’ve got to remember the media. Influencers less so, because Jack and Alex you know this better than me, influencers turn stuff around really quickly, but certainly when you’re dealing with more traditional gaming sites, Kotaku, Eurogamer, [00:04:30] whoever it is, they have a schedule they’re working to, so they’ve got to–

When you offer the game for review, sometimes it won’t be seen immediately. There’s going to be a delay there, and someone might pass it over to this specialist or someone else who may be better at reviewing it or assign the game, then they’re going to have to find time to play it, then they’re going to have time to write the review, and even once they’ve written it, then it’s going to have to be scheduled in to be uploaded. Whereas three weeks may sound like a lot and we’ve been [00:05:00] told it’s okay, when you factor all those things in, three weeks can seem like a short period of time when you work backwards from that.

Alex: Absolutely. I think one of the things that we encounter most often, one of the things, of course, is one of the bigger issues when it comes to that day one coverage that everyone likes to see that game comes out and want to see it doing well. You want to see stories and articles being written and if people haven’t had that time to cover it, we end up in this– [00:05:30] nobody’s happy with the end result of that. People like to see it all hit in that big day one spike in interest is what I– certainly.

James: Once again, we say this to everybody, “We’re going for that day and date release thing.” That’s why when we offer code out to people, it’s done under what’s called embargo. Once again, for the sake of anyone listening who doesn’t know what embargo is, that’s just an agreement between the media that [00:06:00] they’re not going to publish their reviews or the coverage until a date that we’ve agreed with them and that we specified.

So everything we do is to hand out that code, let’s say, two weeks, three weeks beforehand to say to somebody that you can create your review, you can write it up, but just don’t publish it until the date it’s effectively available on the app store or Steam, or maybe even in retail, if you’re going full physical.

Alex: Yes, and I think that’s the interesting side of embargo, and this is [00:06:30] actually something we were going to touch on a bit. You hear a lot of interesting discussions now about when an embargo should be lifted. Some people do like the idea of having it out there a little earlier, just to have that interest building prior to launch, but I think we tend to side with, unless you’ve got some real name cache where it’s going to stick in people’s minds, just getting your game wish-listed with that review bump that you get in interest.

People don’t necessarily come back [00:07:00] to make the purchase, which is why we tend to recommend launch day being the day that we like to set the embargo for. Usually around 14:00 GMT because that way you get the majority of Europe and America.

Jack: I was going to add a point in about not just time zones, but actual holidays as well. It’s no use launching or doing outreach on July 4th if you have a big American push because no one’s going to be in the office, same with like Christmas or Thanksgiving, so you need [00:07:30] to pay attention to the calendar as well to make sure your timeline doesn’t cover too many dates when no one’s going to be in, and as well, you don’t want to be doing big pushes on a Monday or a Friday, they’re just bad day for news. You want to aim to be doing stuff Tuesday to Thursday.

Alex: Absolutely. We also seem to have that joke that we could probably advise you never to release a game at any time of year. There’s always a reason, it’s finding [00:08:00] the best time in the window that you’re releasing not necessarily that there is no right time of year, but there are certainly times of year that we tend to avoid

James: But, fairly religiously there is one period where we tell people not to launch, which is?

Alex: December.

James: Oh, I would even say venture to say from middle of October till the end of the year.

Jack: Yes.

Alex: [crosstalk] you’re running against [00:08:30] a lot of– and to explain why, just all the big games are coming out then and everyone’s just busy. All the media already have their time filled up.

James: I think there’s a misconception I’ve seen perpetuate continuously over the years from indie developers, especially, that they– and the logic is sound they’re like, “Oh yes, people are getting new consoles and shiny new phones and PCs,” and whatever gifts at Christmas, it therefore stands the reason that [00:09:00] I’m going to get featured or I’ve just got a much higher chance of getting downloads, and actually it’s quite the opposite.

From a PR perspective, we are fighting against all the other people who’ve thought that thing was a good idea. We certain advice against it because of the noise. That sheer volume means that it’s going to be very hard to get any featuring. We pretty much tell anyone we deal with [00:09:30] Q4 is a folly, especially because you’ve got not just Christmas, but you’ve got Thanksgiving sitting in November as well-

Jack: Both of those mean you are kind forced into putting your game straight away on sale as well, so you’re never going to get covered and you’re never going to make the money you want to make by doing it in that timeframe, so another reason to avoid.

Alex: Talking of timeframes and releases, the one thing that we’ve noticed recently, because obviously we’ve been talking about the actual launch of the game there, [00:10:00] but there’s also the announcement and talking about Steam early access rolling over in that. The one bit of advice that we do give there is try and give each, and I know you hate this term, James, but each beat of the campaign enough time to breathe itself. I think Jack can speak to earlier this year we add some announcement, early access, and then into launch all in such quick succession that the same game essentially cannibalized [00:10:30] its own coverage.

Jack: Just going back to the question one. Definitely seasonality and how long before, but I think to your point, Alex, as well just now, absolutely, depending on the platform and the release strategy, the beats are really important. Often when I’m talking to new clients I’ll say to many, “What’s your plan for the game?” Because for a PC game, it’s really conceivable that somebody’s going to go [00:11:00] through multiple stages. They could go for an announcement, that announcement could be accompanied by a closed beta that you’re inviting people to.

That can then turn into an open beta. An open beta could turn into early access. Often people then sit in early access for months, often years, and then that will turn into a full launch, and then peppered in between those things, there could be things like gameplay trailers or behind the scenes videos. That’s why it’s really good for us to work [00:11:30]  with people to ascertain what those beats are that we’re talking about in the life of a game launch.

Alex: Yes, absolutely. The announcement through and again, early access, puts that in there up to launch are all vital phases of the campaign, but sometimes that’s not what we’re working on– Sometimes it’s just an announcement and launch one in one block, which prevents you building momentum and [00:12:00] a story around the game that can build interest for that day one coverage, but still something we can work with as long as we get the game out into people’s hands early enough.

I think that’s one thing that we’re going to come back to as we go on in this. One of the things that we do as a company, and any PR company you work with should be therefore, is to offer advice throughout and to be part of the process. If you can keep that discussion going back and forth, then we’ll always work [00:12:30] to the timeline we’ve got and do our best to mitigate the problems that we know that you can face… with those dates.

Moving on because we’ve been going on about timelines for a while. We’ve touched on what the next question was going to be, which was lifting embargo on launch day, which came to trying to get that big pop on day one. Let’s move straight past that into what’s becoming an increasingly asked question of us, which relates to influencers. [00:13:00] Obviously they’re becoming a bigger and bigger part of getting your game out, then getting your game noticed.

How to tackle influencers, deciding who to approach, and avoiding scammers [00:13:07]

One of the questions we get asked a lot now is what influencers we can actually get on board to cover a game. James is having the response that I have when I’m asked that question as well. Jack, I think you normally handle the influencer side of this for us. Why don’t you [00:13:30] explain how we usually do it and how we target who we target.

Jack: Influencers, although they’re more multiplatform these days usually we segment them between Twitch and YouTube and for PR, and I think generally for a better long term impact for coverage, you’d want to focus on YouTube. It can come down to looking at the subscriber numbers because [00:14:00] a lot of channels with a certain amount of subscribers will start charging or have certain conditions or contracts that they need to work around.

They might already have a prior sponsorship to an FPS game, if you are trying to pitch them your FPS so that might clash. You always have to take into account that influencer coverage can cost and you have to really do your research to find the influencers who you can give your game to for free and they will make good coverage. [00:14:30] It can come down to subscriber numbers and it can come down to whether they have existing sponsorships or not. That can often be overlooked.

Alex: Kind of a long way around saying what we say about a lot of things is that PR can make very little guarantees about what we can secure. I think we obviously have a proven track record with a lot of publications in terms of traditional media, but influencers are a very [00:15:00] different thing now. I mean obviously certain influencers will cover some games like you say, but it’s very much every game we have to go out and look and build a list from scratch.

James: Yes. When I’m dealing once again, with indie devs and having initial conversations, I get the also a lot like, “What influencers do you know? Who do you think you can get coverage with?” I pretty [00:15:30] much say the same thing. There may be other PR people listening to this that are laughing at me and think I’m completely wrong, but generally I think our experience has shown us that it’s unusual for us or we don’t really have a database of specific influencers that are our go-to people every time for every game that we’re somehow magically going to get coverage.

The reason for this is because there’s hundreds of thousands of influencers on there. [00:16:00] We’ll talk about Keymailer in a minute as part of this conversation because you guys are much more familiar with it than me, but Keymailer alone has over 600,000 influencers on it and there’s a lot of wannabes out there, and there’s obviously the really top level PewDiePies and people like that that are going to charge a lot of money.

Generally speaking, yes, to your point, Alex, and for anyone listening, if you come to us with an FPS, that’s not going to be the [00:16:30] same as a horror survival game. The reason there’s so many influencers is because they’re catering to probably to very specific vertical niche interests. They’re very, very specific they’ll only play one game like Fortnite, or Call of Duty or FIFA. Other than that, they might have an interest in just horror games or just sports games or racing games or whatever.

Absolutely, whenever we are going after influencers, we usually will have to take a [00:17:00] preexisting list, and there might be some people, but we’re going to have to do a lot of research and due diligence to find the influencers that aren’t going to ask for money, but have got a good engagement rate that’s not bots and genuine followers. Jack, you can talk to this better than me because you oversee that research.

Jack: Yes. It’s the subscriber to viewer ratio. There are a lot of legacy channels who might have a million, 2 million subscribers and you think [00:17:30] amazing, especially if they get in contact with you and ask you to send them a key. We actually need to check their engagement and check their videos and see actually they’re only getting 300 views, even though they have 2 million subscribers.

It’s not always the case of the bigger the number of subscribers, the better the channel or the better the content. Sometimes you can get really engaged communities with smaller subscriber numbers who will do multiple pieces of content with your game, [00:18:00] whereas a bigger channel might just do the one.

James: Jack, just because I know once again, because you do this a lot. When we’re talking about the size of influencer, the average indie game has a realistic chance of snagging, and bear in mind we’re not saying that you can’t get PewDiePie because he does cover… or a Yogscast. The really big people will cover very quirky indie stuff because we’ve seen it ourselves. What’s a guide, would you say, in terms of the size of influencer who’s [00:18:30] still midlevel trying to make a name for themselves so they won’t necessarily ask for money?

Jack: On paper maybe 500,000 or below is unlikely to have an agency and therefore, is less likely to charge. Anything above that tends to be more likely. Anything over a million is very much likely to have some payment required. Again, [00:19:00] doesn’t always scale to quality like I just said, but I would say start, if you were looking to build up a list of targets yourself, start with channels under 500,000 on YouTube and go from there would be the best bet.

With Twitch is a different story because the system is different. You don’t have subscribers as such, you have followers or it can be people who are just viewing at that moment. That’s a little trickier.

James: It’s probably worth touching on, isn’t it, [00:19:30] because Twitch historically for us, is a very tricky–

Jack: Yes. Twitch is incredibly hard to track coverage, because a streamer might go live, not archive their stream and it’s only people who saw it during that couple of hours they were streaming for who would’ve seen that content. If you’re aiming to work with a streamer to get your game promoted, that would need to be heavily advertised so that everyone in that streamer’s audience would know [00:20:00] that it’s going to be happening. It just means that people are less likely to stumble across it.

James: What do you think is the best way for people to communicate with Twitch? Is it tweeting them or-

Alex: It was about to say it’s a lot harder to get email addresses, which is what we tend to default to when doing outreach simply because we tend to prefer emails. Is the platform itself the best place, Jack, when you’ve gone outside of emails and other..?

Jack: I would say again, depending on the size [00:20:30] of the streamer, smaller communities you could pop up in chat. We had a client who had a multiplayer game and I spent a bit of time popping up in different streamer’s chats who had a smaller but more engaged audience. I was there briefly to answer any questions they had or just to let them know what other streamers were playing so they could maybe find some games.

If the community is small enough, being in there yourself. Otherwise if their DMs are open or you follow them on Twitter, [00:21:00] just send them an message, let them know because YouTube tends to have an email address or a point of contact, whereas Twitch hides that a little bit more.

James: Although it is important to say that as of a few months ago, Google cut back on the amount of inquiries you could do daily to get the email address of influencers. Whereas it was effectively infinite before, I think isn’t it five a day now?

Jack: It hinges [00:21:30] between three and five. There’s no real. It keeps people on their toe so people can’t abuse the system. For people who aren’t quite sure what we’re talking about, when you go onto YouTube and you want to view a channel, you click on that channel’s name and go to the about tab and then it would tell you the channel description and the bottom would usually have a ‘view email address’.

James: Maybe this is a nice point here when we’re talking about the challenges of hitting the right influencers and getting to them on mass. [00:22:00] What are the tools that you guys would reckon? What are the tools that are out there to mitigate that problem?

Alex: Well we use two, at the moment we partner with Keymailer a lot, which is one of the larger influencer platforms, essentially. Would you call it a platform? A tool. I think they’ve got over 600,000 influencers signed up to the tool, which allows [00:22:30] influencers to request codes from games that are on there, and for us, or you, to offer keys to influencers you think would be interested in the game. We also have use Woovit now, which is a– I don’t believe it has as many people signed up to it, but that kind of automatically offers keys out if people meet specific requirements that you preset.

So over a certain number [00:23:00] of subscribers or over a certain number of followers, depending on what platform it is. The one thing that we have noticed recently is that Keymailer there’s a lot of people on there are not of a high quality. When Jack was saying before that kind of quality of viewers to subscriber ratios, we are now manually checking that a lot, and it’s does require a significant amount of time even with the ease of the platforms. I think Jack can [00:23:30] probably speak to better than me.

Jack: No, there’s a lot of what I deemed legacy channels, so channels who used to have millions of subs and still do, but don’t have the same viewers. It can be a little bit misleading if we see it on the platform as a channel with a lot of subscribers that requested a key, we need to actually then click on that channel and see, they’ve only made a video with like 30 views this week or two weeks ago. The value isn’t there when we only have a limited [00:24:00] number of keys.

James: I think it’s probably worth, pointing out why Woovit and Keymailer were set up because they were both set up by ex-PR people, or Woovit is currently set up by a active games PR. The problem that we’ve seen a lot of which is fake influencers. I know Jack has seen this in ridiculous amount, but if I’m just prompting you down that pathway, the fake influencer pathway, which is the original problem [00:24:30] I think they were solving. Jack, I don’t know if you could talk a bit more, because people here may have encountered it or may not, and may not even know their subject to it.

Jack: We have a sort of almost blacklist within the company, and we also have friends in other agencies and professionals we know who swap kind of names to avoid. In effect it is a scammer wanting a free key, usually [00:25:00] posing as an existing channel. We’ve had cases of YouTubers who are sadly no longer with us, they have died, whose channel is still requesting keys on the platform because someone has got into the account that-

James: That is sick. I didn’t know that. That’s really not good.

Jack: The most common one is somebody will have an email very similar to either the email on the YouTube channel, like we discussed before when [00:25:30] you can click on the about, so they might have replaced a couple of letters. At first glance you can’t really tell, or they will purposely pick channels with no email addresses and then pose as that influencer and say, “Hey, this is my channel. Can I have some keys?”

They’re not who they say they are, they just want free keys and they will usually then sell them on a key reseller site. We have to do work to avoid those because we don’t want to waste those [00:26:00] keys. For people doing it themselves who don’t have a lot of time, that could be a massive time sink and quite stressful because they’ve become distrustful. How do I know that this influencer I’m talking to is real?

James: Just a note, if there’s any in influencer scammers listening to this at the moment, that everyone in the PR industry does talk to each other. We are on Facebook groups. We do put up alerts and warnings about scammers and people’s blacklists. There is a [00:26:30] nice understanding, eco-warning ecosystem going on, on Facebook and other places between PR people about who the toxic people are. There’s some really impressively toxic, persistent ones out there.

Jack: One of the simplest things you can do as a developer is just copy the email that they’ve sent you and just paste the address into Google and see what search results come up because a lot of the [00:27:00]common scammers do come up as being scammers because people are writing about them.

Alex: I think conversely, if you are an influencer who’s out there approaching a PR company, think about what you are approaching them with. If you’ve got nothing visible on your site that indicates who you are or where you’re coming from, then you are going to be asked some questions and try and take that with some grace. Because I [00:27:30] appreciate that it must be frustrating like, “How do I prove I am, that I’m me?” At the same time, we do need to verify that.

We will ask some questions that– or we’ll ask you a way of proving it. If you just follow that rather than defaulting to some other method of proving who you are, who you say you are, then it’ll be much smoother. We’re only doing it to protect our clients. If we were a developer, we’re only doing it to protect our work.

James: It’s a [00:28:00] really deep subject, obviously, influencer-

Alex: We are going to have a show on this specifically later. These are fairly top level things that we doing today, even though I think I’ve let us drift a little bit deeper into this than I meant us to.

James: I was just going to say for the benefit of anyone listening, we’ll definitely get someone from Keymailer and hopefully, Woovit on, there in the US and the UK so we’ll definitely get them onto future show because then we can drill down a lot deeper into these topics. [00:28:30] Because obviously, because we’re trying to fit a lot of questions into this session, we’re kind of just being quite surface and all of these alone can easily have much more time.

Dealing with social media, deciding on platforms and getting in there early with account registration! [00:28:45]

Alex: Absolutely. Since we’re on the kind of social and influencer side of this, do we do social, is another question we get asked a lot, or will we run people’s social? I’m going to kick this one off because it’s something that I’ve come from a background doing some work in social media. Essentially, [00:29:00] the advice we give now is that it’s having somebody external to the team or not locked onto the team and in that environment, makes doing social like this two or three stage process.

Now, we could come up with a social schedule for tweets or posts, but ultimately, we are not going to be there and we don’t have the visibility to be answering people’s questions when they come in. [00:29:30]What we tend to recommend is if somebody in-house has the time or somebody you can be bring in to specialize in social for you is where we tend to recommend the time or money be spent rather than spending on us doing it for you.

James: I think that, well, once again, Jack can speak to this because I’ve traumatized him and put him through doing social for clients. When I get asked this, [00:30:00] it’s the same as you said, Alex. I think it’s about authenticity. Ultimately, that’s the number one thing here, is I was a community manager long way back in the late ’90s when I was dealing with pretty much bulletin boards and obviously, Alex, you’ve done it as a community manager in a more modern era for Gameloft.

I think it’s about authenticity. Unless you live and breathe a product, no one’s going to [00:30:30] really like to hear from a PR person or someone they may not perceive as part of the team. I think also, it’s about spreading yourself too thin. Often the other question we get asked is, what channel should I focus on? My feeling is, Discord is probably the number one channel for most game developers now.

A nice tip, by the way, that ties into [00:31:00] the process earlier that we’re seeing increasingly is that for the beats of a game, a lot of developers I’ve spoken to are using the closed beta or even open beta to try and get people to come into Discord to request keys. It’s often a nice way for them to help build up their community. Just going back to the platforms, I think we would often default to Facebook and Twitter. Even though obviously Instagram’s a very visual [00:31:30] medium that suits social very well, but Discord, certainly, for me, I think would be number one. [crosstalk]

James: and Reddit as well. I don’t know. That obviously features very heavily in games with subreddits.

Alex: I shared a post on the blog about this. It was one of those weird things where my default piece of advice on this is because obviously, people don’t tend to involve us as PR before [00:32:00] they’ve done at least some– stuck their toe in the pool of community as it were. Outside of Discord, I think there’s certainly an argument to going where your community is.

You might feel more comfortable on Twitter, but if you’ve got more people following you on Facebook because wherever you end up building your community, I’d recommend trying to get your product names channel locked up because you don’t want somebody else swooping in and grabbing it [00:32:30] at a later date and running whatever your game is Twitter account for you, and it being unofficial. Going where you’re getting the most interest, initially, to stick your toe in the water, see where people are-

James: I mean that’s another thing, isn’t it, that we advise people, never announce anything unless you’ve got somewhere for people to go. Generally, Steam isn’t social media, but Steam obviously, has forums which people can often forget about. [00:33:00] Don’t generally put anything out there unless some people can register an interest and follow your game, which is why it’s imperative there’s at least a Discord or Twitter or maybe Facebook, whatever someone’s comfortable with. We generally recommend there’s somewhere that people could follow your game, or engage, or register interests. Otherwise, it’s a wasted announcement, isn’t it?

Alex: Yes.

James: Just going back to Jack, I don’t want to bring you back to your Vietnam moment [00:33:30] and traumatize you because anyone– Just to benefit our listeners, I made Jack solemn promise many moons ago, I’d never make him do social again for clients. Can you perhaps give an overview of the amount of work that is typically required to maintain a social channel in terms of planning, frequency of posting, and even the kinds of things people need to generate in order to have an attractive post?

Jack: Yes, sure. It’s actually interesting, we talk about planning, because, [00:34:00] especially PR agencies could be working with multiple clients at the same time. You could end up with somebody you’re paying to do your social but who’s also doing someone else’s and then that can factor into the planning because they might not spend as much time on yours as spending on someone else’s. If English isn’t your first language, there could be translation things there because you have to schedule the posts in your native language and then also have them translated into English.

[00:34:30] For the most part, if you’re hiring someone else to do it, you’re saying to them, “I need posts Monday to Friday,” and then you might not have enough information to have a whole week’s worth of content. That could lead to audiences becoming bored of your content, if there’s not enough stuff to talk about, or they’re just not interested because you’re not revealing anything new. Spreading yourself too thin, like you said, James, is a big thing here because you don’t want to be on every single platform [00:35:00] because it’s just not worth the time.

You want to probably stick to two or three platforms, make sure you’re only posting good content when it really needs it, so updates, when audiences can expect something to be dropping, like a launch or a new beta. So I would suggest Twitter, Discord, and Reddit. Although Reddit is an interesting one, because we had a client [00:35:30] whose game launched but the community had already set up a subreddit so the client worked with the community to share the subreddit. They weren’t the owners. They let the community have enough free rein, but they were given mod status so that they could–

Alex: Do you think from firsthand experience, the creators will not always hand that over to you.

Jack: That’s a good point.

Alex: I’ve seen that go both ways twice now. It’s one of the reasons [00:36:00] that I said you want to try and get your official places sat on before you launch and before you announce.

James: That’s the other thing as well, isn’t it, is sometimes they haven’t even registered the accounts for their game, because another trick is that you want the name of your game and it’s not there. Something I said to people to do is I see people in film industry do a lot if someone has got X Men, you then just register [00:36:30] X Men the movie, as your handle, or the real X Men game or the real X Men movie, but there are ways if someone’s got a handle that you want that you can get round it, can you? [crosstalk]

Jack: The name of the games is a completely different topic right there because we’ve had clients who’ve had games that have been incredibly hard to track coverage for because their names were so difficult or so normal.

James: Oh, that’s a rabbit hole. Game naming. [crosstalk]

Jack: I have to go [00:37:00] back to that one.

What metrics we use and the difficulty in tracking PR impact through sales [00:37:02]

James: That’s two conversations, game naming and tracking coverage as well. Tracking is definitely another conversation, isn’t it?

Alex: We’re certainly not here to offer advice on what to name your game, but if I had one as per request, it must be not making it one real word by itself, because you cannot Google search, you cannot filter that out. You cannot track that noise for all the other sound that’ll be going on around it sadly. Subheaders, subtitles for your games are vital if that’s where you’re going. [00:37:30] We’ve got one last question of things that we’re regularly asked. That is, how many sales can you generate, or alternatively what can you guarantee? What coverage can you guarantee is in the same bucket to this and as James’ laugh there indicates.

Jack: If we had a dollar for every time we had that one.

James: I can even tell you the kind of people from which countries who ask that the most, but I’ll sound like I am being very [00:38:00] general. Genuinely, I speak to people from all over the world and I do have certain countries where people are much more focused on metrics and a return investment than others but it’s fairly consistent. If I can chime in with the answer to that one, just because my hearty laugh because I once again, get asked it a lot. I don’t like PR to be unaccountable and fluffy. I think that’s often something that PR is seen as for [00:38:30] maybe good reason.

I certainly think for games, I often say to people that they should not rely on PR as their sole strategy, as the sole driver of sales. Generally speaking, in a more mature marketing environment, companies will have what is commonly referred to as a marketing mix. That’s going to be paid for activity. Maybe in games it’s going to be [00:39:00] paid influencer activity. There are a couple of places you can pay for influencers apart from– you can go to agencies and you can use a platform like Matchmade, but paid influencers, paid social, which is by and large going to be Facebook, and then basically, PR is the glue that generates awareness and binds it together.

I would say to people do not [00:39:30] look for PR to be a direct response to all. Do not try and equate the fact that just because you had X00,000 estimated views on this place, that that’s going to seed back to sales. I know that with influencers, they will have unique links, they will make money as a percentage of game sales like an affiliate scheme, basically. That is [00:40:00] directly trackable when it comes to influencers, but I generally feel with anything like PCGamesn and PC Gamer or whatever that if you get a preview or a review in there, I ain’t going to say to anybody in any good faith that I know those cumulative views are going to turn into a percentage of sales.

The second thing as well is I often get asked if there’s a formula and all kinds of things, [00:40:30] an estimate to how many games they’ll sell. Obviously there is Steam Spy which is a good resource for you. If you’ve got your game out on Steam, it’s a Patreon-funded so you can spend a small amount and get access to it. Generally speaking, there’s no hard and fast formula for downloads because it’s all down to genre, it’s down to a lot of other things. Unfortunately it’s vague, but I tend to run away if people start trying to [00:41:00] equate PR coverage with sales.

Alex: I think going to your affiliate link or track URL equation, that is the clearest way to follow through anything. If we go to media and we get a something, a review or we get a news piece, we then can’t say, “Could you use this link please so we can track it,” because that’s– they’ll just use the store link as it is flat. [00:41:30] They’re not there to help with our marketing side or the sales side of what we’re trying to do.

James: It’s really tricky because obviously with Steam, there used to be a tool that was sold, so PR agency and developers that would put almost a tracking pixel or a cookie in to– I think it was a game you could put in, and it would try to make a direct correlation between PR coverage and visits to your Steam page and sales. It was a [00:42:00] very admirable thing to do, but gamers being gamers they cottoned onto it and saw it as a terrible, terrible conspiracy to– underhand a conspiracy to invade their privacy and track them.

It was quashed, and that’s not wrong because I think there were legitimate privacy concerns around any tracking and advertising when it comes to games, but it’s increasingly just been really hard to close that loop, especially because for Steam [00:42:30] it’s very difficult to– it’s not like your webpage and you’ve got Google analytics and you can set up sophisticated tracking to know UTM codes and other means to understand where people are coming from into your page.

If you do lots of downloads on Steam, it can be quite tricky to correlate where those people have come from, unless someone else can tell me the magic formula, I’m not really aware of it in a true trackable sense. [00:43:00]

Alex: I was about to really show my age by saying answers on a postcard please.

James: [crosstalk] If you guys have got something contrary to that, but that’s just my feeling. It’s legitimate that people would want to track these things. Absolutely legitimate.

Alex: Absolutely. The desire is completely understandable, but it’s not where the PR side of it lies.

Jack: What we can do on our end is obviously, look at what we call [00:43:30] coverage spikes. We can use tools that contract social mentions and if it lines up to when we did our outreach and the game launch, to how many people were talking about it. We can have some idea of how much of an impact we’ve had, but we can’t directly convert that to sales.

James: Bear mind as well that we’re not always talking about sales. We could be talking about preregistration on wish-listing. It’s a major metric [00:44:00] that we have with people, is wishlist. I often always get asked about benchmarks and wishlist numbers as well. It is all legitimate questions from developers. They’re all very fair. Sometimes I’m frustrated that I can’t be more analytics driven, because like you’ve absolutely said, Jack, when we use a tool for coverage, a tracking tool to measure spikes in coverage, then absolutely, clients can possibly see if their wishlist numbers peaked or increased above what we call [00:44:30] the organic rate over a particular period of time to coincide with that burst of coverage.

Even then, guys, if we get someone has several piece of influence of coverage, and coverage, like I said, Kotaku, PCGamesN all within two, three days, we don’t know the individual facto rthat may have spiked that coverage. It’s more likely to be a collective effect. I often term PR is a necessary evil. I know that [00:45:00] sounds like I’m damning our own industry.

Alex: Yeh, I was wondering.

James: What I mean by that is the efficacy of PR is known because otherwise EA, Activision Blizzard, everyone else who’s engaged in the business of selling games wouldn’t have lots of in-house PR people and on top of that, PR agency executing campaigns for them. It would be viewed as a folly, otherwise. It’s absolutely necessary, and I’m not sure it’s even an evil. I may have been extreme saying that, but [00:45:30]when it comes to spending money, people often have limited budgets when they approach me and they’re like, “Should I do PR? Should I do Facebook advertising, or pay influencers?”

Sometimes I’ll be really honest and say, “If you want absolute trackability like caste iron stuff, you’re better off spreading your money, your $10,000, whatever it is, over a few influencers and maybe Facebook than you are doing PR because I’m just too nervous we’re not going to be able to demonstrate return on investment.” [00:46:00]

Outro [00:46:04]

Alex: If the metrics aren’t what we can track, then we can’t offer that to them. I think that is about all the questions we’re asked on a regular basis by people coming to us for the first time and also the questions that we have answered on the first episode of the Games PR podcast. We should be having another one of these. We’re calling it regular. We’re aiming for monthly. We’ll be back next time and we will tweet out on the Big Games [00:46:30] Machine Twitter what that subject will be about.

James: Can we– maybe both of you because you’re on the front line more than I am with this kind of stuff and we’ve touched on it today, if there is some key areas just to prompt our listeners if they want to get in touch with us and there’s particular things they want us to focus on. Could you maybe give some of the key areas you think that we are likely to talk about? Because we will bring guests on in the future as well. That’s it, just if you can [00:47:00] think of some key areas to focus on for podcasts.

Alex: We’re going to touch on quite a few things. As you said, we’ll get people on from Keymailer to talking about influencers and the services they provide. We’ve got Wahid, who’s our agent in the US who’ll get on here to talk about various things, I’m certain, but the first one I can think of is esports and how that’s now factoring into the PR landscape. If you’ve got any designs on esports, how that can work and the [00:47:30] difficulties involved with that.

I hope to get people I know in the community management on in the future to talk about that, and best ways you can do that, because obviously, we gave a very superficial quick look at that earlier today, but we’re hoping to go into that in more detail and advice there. Those will be some of the topics we’ll be talking about in the coming months.

James: Sorry to interrupt there. Also I think the really big one is how to get media coverage. How to pitch the media, [00:48:00] how to do stuff so you don’t irritate the media.

Alex: [crosstalk] No need for a guest for that. James we’ve got that one.

Jack: I have a freshly written blog post about that. I can talk about that.

James: We’ll definitely, definitely be on the wax lyrical about how to try and get your game covered without irritating hell out of people.

Alex: Or with irritating the hell out of the people as long as you get it covered. That’s the truth of it. If there are any other topics that you feel that you’d like discussed, we’ve got the Big Games Machine Twitter [00:48:30] is probably the easiest way to find us. You can hit us up on there with an @ or DM us. I think our DMs are open.

Jack: Yes, DMs are open.

Alex: You can hit us up there. Thank you very much. James, thanks for joining me today.

James: Thank you. Lovely.

Jack: Thank you

Alex: No worries.

Jack: It’s been a pleasure.

Alex: Thanks lot, and see you all soon.

[00:48:56] [END OF AUDIO]


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