Reaching out to content creators is all about personalizing your approach. You can’t try to connect with every journalist or YouTuber in the same way. Some YouTubers are super colloquial and talk very casually to their fans, and some journalists take a very businesslike, formal approach to their craft. Plus, every content creator and influencer has their own tastes. Can you expect a horror-game-loving, childishly screaming Let’s Play YouTuber to react to a formal, structured press release the same way a professional gaming journalist would?
This is why it’s vital to tailor your emails before you try to contact influencers. Before you get in touch with a content creator, do your research. Figure out what kinds of games they like, what their voice is, and how you can take advantage of your understanding of their style to get them to open your email.
Spend some time (you don’t need long, just a few minutes) watching their videos or reading their articles. Make sure you understand what their expectations are and what kind of content they cover. Take a look at the voice and marketing strategy for games that they’ve already covered, and see if you can identify what those games did right that caught the attention of the YouTuber or journalist in question. Once you’ve figured out what makes the influencer tick, you are ready to write the email itself.
The number one thing to keep in mind when composing effective e-mails is: The person you’re emailing probably doesn’t care much about your game. They’re not on your side, at least not at first. They don’t know your story, and they don’t have a reason to make your game the one they focus on instead of any of the other dozens or hundreds of emails they’ve gotten that day. Large creators get contacted a lot by every Mario, Link and Kirby that’s ever made a game. It’s your job as the marketer and publicist for your game to figure out your angle and how it’ll get your email opened. Let’s talk about how to create an effective email once you’ve identified who you want to connect with.
Give a lot of thought to your subject line: it’s the first thing the person you’re emailing will see and may be the deciding factor when it comes to whether or not they even open your message. Let me give you an example. In early 2016, Black Shell Media published a game called Close Order, an awesome space shooter that allows you to build a badass armada of ships. We were trying to send an email to journalists and YouTubers to raise awareness for the launch. In our initial draft, we thought about approaching things very businesslike and formally.
Our first draft email had the subject line “Badass indie space shooter Close Order launches on Steam this Friday!” Very organized, very straightforward, and very clear. Just one problem. It was a snoozer! The “[XYZ] game with [ABC] features launches on Steam” approach is tried and true, but a lot of developers fill up journalists’ inboxes with the same subject line. So how do you make sure your game stands out in a sea of emails with almost identically copy-pasted subject lines?
As we asked ourselves this question, we realized that we had a really cool aspect to highlight that could set us apart from other games: Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, had commented on the game when the lead developer sent him an early build. There! We had it: our differentiating factor would be the social proof of having a major industry icon who liked the game. Our subject line became “Check out the game that had the head of Xbox saying ‘Wow…need to play more!’”
The open and click rates on that email were significantly higher than the industry average (and as a reminder, tracking your email statistics is a must). Granted, all games won’t be able to cite a major influencer as their differentiating factor, but the principle still stands: Find what sets your game apart and make that the focus of your outreach. Half the battle of email marketing is simply getting people to open the email.
For the rest of the email, keep it short and sweet. Here’s a short checklist for sending a clear, effective email to content creators:
- An engaging subject line that highlights the unique aspects of your game
- 1-3 short sentences that briefly explain your background and motivation for creating the game (mention any inspirations you had here)
- 2-4 short sentences explaining the premise of your game, its gameplay, visual style and genre
- A feature list with 3-5 bullet points highlighting the game’s key features
- A link to the Steam store page or download page for the game
- A download key or link to a build of the game
- A link to a presskit (collection of relevant images and videos that a journalist might want to use in an article) (the presskit can also be attached to the email as a .zip)
- A short thank-you at the end
Your email shouldn’t take more than 45 seconds to quickly skim through. Major content creators are inundated with emails, so keeping your content short and sweet is the key to success.
One more thing to note—while it’s definitely important to be insistent when emailing content creators, you have to be mindful not to inundate them with emails. When I started my work as a games marketer, I thought that the more emails I could send to creators, the higher the likelihood of them noticing my work. This was not the case.
Very often, if you email creators too much, they will observe that and start ignoring your emails. You want to make sure you contact people often enough that they remember who you are, but not so often that they are turned off by your outreach. It took a lot of experimenting and talking directly to creators to figure out an optimal email frequency.
I would say that as a general rule of thumb, if you’re emailing a journalist or YouTuber more than once every 10 days, it’s far more likely that they’ll start ignoring your emails. Send a solid first email, and one or two gentle follow-ups to check in. After that, you can probably take it as a sign that they’re not immediately interested. Step back for a little while, then reach back out in a few weeks or months with some new content or a new angle. You don’t want to become a nusiance!
Overall, play it safe but don’t let your game fall off the radar. Good luck, and happy emailing!