The fastest way to grow your fanbase is to get in front of someone else’s audience. Getting featured on Polygon, a decent review on TouchArcade, or even a mention by GiantBomb can have people flock to your game.
Getting the press to pay attention to you is getting increasingly challenging. Over 500 games are released on iTunes every day. The media naturally discovering your game is unlikely, so the next best thing is to bring your game to them.
Below, I’ll share real quotes from journalists on how they prefer to be contacted and pitched.
The tips below on how to pitch requires practice. As a busy game developer, this is a new skill that can easily take hundreds of hours of trial and error. It may be easier to hire an experienced professional to handle the heavy lifting. It’s possible to learn how to do it yourself—like a programmer who has to learn how to make graphics. But a professional can execute at a fraction the time at a higher success rate. Look into the BSM Services area for more information.
The Mindset of a Journalist
“If you got a few hundred/thousand e-mails a day, how would you prefer
e-mails be written? Less is more. Know how to make your pitch in a
sentence or two—if you can’t wrap up your own product in a concise
and interesting way, we probably won’t be able to either.”
—Greg Kumparak, mobile editor, TechCrunch
The press has a lot of work on their hands. One ex-journalist commented on how she was penning five articles a day. Another mentioned that a game magazine has 19 days to generate 65,000 words. Overall, game journalists are short on time and are continuously producing stories.
The benefits of getting in a game publication are enormous. The fastest way to grow your fan-base is by getting in front of someone else’s audience- and game publications have the eyeballs you want.
The press needs you, as much as you need them.
More importantly: the media needs stories that generate eyeballs.
One of the ways publications earns income is through advertising, which uses page views as a metric. During Pokemon Go’s release, you couldn’t go a day without 3-4 stories about Pokemon Go. The reason is that even minor stories about Pokemon Go could produce 10x the average page views.
When you pitch your game, think like a journalist.
- How can they turn your idea into page views?
- What makes your pitch interesting that it gets thousands of eyeballs?
Remember the smaller publications out there. Buzzfeed’s Ryan Broderick shared that it’s a common misconception that journalists only want exclusives. If a small gaming website breaks the news first and gains a lot of traction, then bigger publications will jump on it as well. He shared how he saw an engaging story on Guyism, noticed it was picked up by Gawker, then he reported and shared the story on BuzzFeed.
Many freelancers have gaming blogs where they report on the news they enjoy. Major publications frequently hire freelancers. Connecting with a small gaming blog may lead the journalist to report on the story in a bigger blog.
The Process of Contacting a Journalist
Many journalists share their work email on their website profile or their social media feed. Avoid making your pitch via a social media platform, over the phone, or in person. When journalists need a story, they’ll go into their inbox. Don’t be afraid to contact them directly.
If possible, avoid going only the [email protected] route. Relying on the [email protected] email or website form is like hoping the receptionist lets her boss know. In companies I’ve worked for, interns manage the generic support emails to protect the higher-paid employees from distraction. Of course, every publication is different, and I’ve had some luck with support emails getting picked up by the press.
While I recommend that you make your pitch via email, start connecting with them outside of email, and in a casual way.
Weeks before you even make the pitch, create a list of potential journalists you can contact.
Connecting with journalists on social media will also benefit you in learning about their beat and their writing styles. Focus on building a connection: comment on their articles. Reply to their tweets. Give them a high-five at a convention. Get to know them personally. Get on their radar.
When it’s time to email them, suddenly it doesn’t appear so cold.
There’s no guarantee that they’ll make a story from your pitch, but there’s a bigger chance that they’ll read your email and consider it.
What Journalists Are Looking For in a Pitch
The main elements that journalists look for are knowing what they do, keeping it focused, the point of this email, and a good angle.
We don’t need to be convinced it’s worth buying in a sentence—just that it’s worth investigating further. To that end, apply your brain. Don’t live in a world where you dream your precious game has no antecedents. Show your game to a few of your more knowledgeable friends and get their basic references. Hit Mobygames or Underdogs to discover what these ancestors actually were.
—Kieron Gillen, former editor at PC Gamer UK & Wired
Know what they write about before reaching out. Have a strong subject line, and in the first paragraph, let journalists know that you did your research and who they are.
Talk about how you’ve commented on their articles. Or how you’ve been replying to their tweets. Or share the time you high-fived them at a convention. This mutual respect will let them know you aren’t just using them as a pawn in your marketing game, and will let them know you aren’t a corporate drone sent by PR companies to shove another “flappy-birds” clone their way.
Keeping it Focused
Journalists reach into their inbox when they need a story. While other PR advice will recommend that the length is about two paragraphs, I’ve discovered it not to matter too much. A journalist will read the first two sentences to decide if the rest is worth reading.
The Point of the Email
Each sentence must inspire the journalist to go to the next. Remove anything that does not contribute to your angle, and make your writing visually appealing with bullet points, titles, and spacing. Journalists will ignore your pitch if it’s five huge blocks of text or poorly written and are heavy on screenshots. They are looking for every reason to toss an email that looks like work.
Watch what your top reporters are talking about online. By getting to know them, you learn about what they’d be interested in covering – so in effect, you’re actually helping them when you do contact them with your news.
—Shauna Causey, Board Member of NPR, Former VP of Marketing for Decide (Ebay), Nordstrom & Comcast
Think like a journalist. How can your pitch get them page views? The method I suggest to my clients is to have users play-test it, and ask them, “What is the coolest thing that they experienced?”
If you have to put the word “innovative” into your pitch, then you failed.
Finally, some other elements to include in a pitch email:
• A link to your Press release. (Check out Marketing 101: The Press Release.)
• Link to download/try out/etc
Who hires these PR people that don’t link the app they want you to try?
—Kyle Russell, former reporter at TechCrunch and Business Insider
Your press release should have everything they need.
My job is to cover the news, not to promote your company. If press is your only user acquisition strategy, you have a bigger problem. So please stop acting so entitled and cease the manipulation and attention-getting tactics. Treat us with respect, and you may just get respect back.
—Bekah Grant, VentureBeat
If you didn’t get a response from a pitch email, don’t take it personally. The numbers I’ve heard are 95% of emails to journalists are deleted. With only so many slots for stories in a publication, only the best get chosen.
If your pitch was ignored, problems may be:
• Your subject line wasn’t compelling
• Your angle wasn’t interesting
• You caught them on a busy news day
Don’t be afraid to pitch again a little later in the month with changes.
The Thank You
If you manage to pitch successfully to a journalist, and they write an article about you, thank them. Thank them on Twitter, comment on their article, and send them lots of internet love.
More importantly, thank them for sharing their posts. You get to be in front of their audience; they get more page views. Win-win.
If you like this post, do me a favor. Share it with your friends/family. Get me page views! 🙂