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Whether you’re a veteran developer or just approaching the world of indie games marketing, you likely know how important it is to develop solid media relations.
In our previous blogs, we spoke at length about the benefits and opportunities that both traditional games press and media outlets can give developers access to. The role of the press remains central to a successful marketing campaign, and it’s paramount you get their attention as early on as possible to increase your chances.
But what do you do once you actually have the ear of the press? That’s when the ability to craft a well-structured press release can really help you stand out.
So, for today’s blog, we’ll look at how press releases work, how you should go about creating one, and how to fine-tune your message to ensure maximum coverage!
Before diving deeper into the elements and sections that constitute a solid press release, it’s important we understand what these documents are intended for.
At their core, press releases should help bridge the natural gap between game developers and whatever journalist they’re addressed to. In addition, despite the name, press releases aren’t just for press anymore.
With media outlets, social media influencers, and content creators playing an increasingly bigger role in games marketing, you might find yourself sending the same message to multiple professional figures at once.
As a result, these documents shouldn’t just convey a message, but also act as a single point of contact from where the recipient will be able to start working without further interaction with you — at least for the most part!
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s take a look at how you should approach writing your first press release.
As you can imagine, crafting the perfect press release for indie games can feel like a bit of a balancing act. If you don’t really know where to start, the typical structure for a press release usually includes:
Located right at the beginning of the document, this section should present and summarize the topic in a direct and digestible way. It is usually the part that journalists skim through first - as well as the one that might show in email previews - and, as a result, has the potential to decide the fate of your press release.
Alongside the introduction and a first mention of all involved parties, this section should also include a date, a location, and any details regarding embargos for the entire document.
The second and third paragraphs of a press release are where you can spend a few more words on what the document is all about.
Always making sure you’re not going too overboard with it, this is the place where you can share information about your indie game, the activities you have planned, a bit of background, and any other flavor text that makes the event newsworthy.
Including a quote from the studio head or creative director is good practice here. This can be placed directly in coverage articles, saving a journalist precious time from following up for a chat.
A word of advice: while there are really no restraints on what you say here, you should still try to keep it short and on topic as much as you can!
Alongside the meatier parts of a press release, most gaming journalists also expect to find a section dedicated entirely to media and assets.
As the name suggests, this part of the document should contain links to your press kit, your media collections, your trailers, socials, and anything else an editor might need to spruce up the article they’re working on. This is also the place where you might add links to request a review copy of your game and a small collection of quotes from other key media if you have them.
Keep in mind that the positioning of this block within the press release itself also plays a role in its visibility: while most people prefer to place it towards the end of the document, others might decide to have it follow the first paragraph or even position it at the very top.
Don’t be scared to experiment, as different combinations might yield different results based on the other elements that make up your announcement!
A nice way to wrap up the press release, this part should include a general introduction to your studio and to any other involved entities.
In layman’s terms, the objective of this section is to give whoever’s reading a general understanding of the company and some details they might want to add to the articles themselves.
That said, because it is ultimately a secondary part of your press release, make sure that the about section isn’t more than a couple of sentences in length and doesn’t overshadow the actual contents of the release itself.
Lastly, this final section should also include a Press Contact for your company, with a name and email address, should journalists wish to make follow up contact.
Looking for some inspiration? You can find a near-infinite number of public press releases over at Games Press.
The formatting is often a little spoiled there, however, so be sure to bear that in mind.
Unfortunately, putting together and sending a press release often isn’t enough to guarantee your indie game will get coverage.
With over 6000 indie games hitting Steam every year, the reality is that major publications and outlets receive hundreds of press releases every month. It would be impossible to cover them all even if they had unlimited staff and resources.
While generating coverage ultimately boils down to the contents, timing, and the list of recipients you’ve selected for your media outreach, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances.
Among them, the most important remain:
One of the most common mistakes, especially among first-time developers, is to consider everything newsworthy.
Instead, a press release should only be saved for truly important beats – like a game reveal, release date announcement or launch. There are other ways to contact the press for minor beats, some of which we’ll cover in our future blogs!
Furthermore, the timing of your send-out will also greatly influence its reception by the media.
As a rule of thumb, keep in mind that creators will need some time to process what you’re sending and turn it into shareable content. If, for example, you’re working on a major announcement that you expect will bring a lot of traffic, pre-seeding it with key media and establishing an embargo might be the best way to go.
Similarly, you should send out review copies of your indie game at least two to three weeks in advance if you want media outlets to talk about it when it comes out.
Another fairly common mistake is mass-sending your press release to a pre-packaged list of contacts - perhaps one you harvested or bought off the internet. On top of being relatively easy to spot, mass send-outs also tend to yield worse results - mainly because they get caught in spam filters.
As a solution, you should try to only reach out to people that you know will be interested in what you have to say.
An easy way to do it is to look for creators that have either covered similar games in the past or that consistently play titles like yours.
Once you have your list worked out, remember to send each of your emails separately and pair them with a bespoke message to the recipient.
You’ll not only sound more human, but there’s also a chance you might forge a lasting friendship! 🤗
While press releases are primarily a functional document, there’s no reason they shouldn’t also look good.
When crafting your email, consider formatting text for readability, paying particular attention to the various sections and how they flow and fit together. Avoid the wall of text.
Additionally, adding an image or gif to the top of your email is also an easy way to create a header, which will help catch the reader’s eye and give you a place to align all of your important links.
Styling your email to match your game’s mood is another easy way to stand out in the ocean of incoming messages. If your game follows a specific style or if it is built around a defined concept, try working that into both the subject line and the body of your press release. When done well, this will greatly boost your chances of being read.
With creators hearing of and checking out so many games, it’s not uncommon for content to get delayed. People get busy, after all, and it might be that a certain outlet doesn’t get back to you or publish what you sent them at all. In those cases, it’s okay to follow up.
While you don’t want to constantly ping people, a gentle nudge a couple of days past your embargo should be enough to remind the recipient of your game and potentially secure your coverage.
Press releases remain one of the most used ways to let media outlets know about your game, and putting together a good one will likely require some trial and error. You shouldn’t let this discourage you, though.
As you continue to curate your communication and reach out to press, writing press releases will almost become second nature to you. 🙂
We’ll be looking at other ways to improve your indie games PR and marketing in future blog posts.Subscribe to the IMPRESS newsletter to get access to our next blogs, and check out our growing list of bespoke tools for better games marketing here!
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See you next week or so! -Ashley