Media 101: The Esoteric Art Of Press Releases

Game publishers are expected to be Jacks or Jills of All Trades, but a lot of things end up falling through the cracks. The reason why are many, and the primary one is that the bulk of the people publishing tabletop role-playing games are working with budgets that are pared pretty close to the bone and that often doesn't allow publishers to hire the experts that they may need to get their games the attention that they want. That is really the main purpose of these irregular Media 101 articles, to give publishers some tools to help them. In today's article I am going to discuss something esoteric and arcane: the press release.

In my first of these articles, I talk about the importance of contacting the media, but I don't really talk much about what to communicate to them, once you have your attention. Just to rehash my credentials again, I started out studying journalism in high school and college, and from there I went to a couple of low level media jobs, primarily in communication. I started blogging in 2003, eventually started writing for Bleeding Cool (both on the website and for their print magazine) and ended up here at E.N. World.

Sometimes, the press release is the first contact that media might have with your company or your game. It is important to make this first contact count because, like I mentioned in the linked article above, developing relationships is important to getting coverage for your games. Drawing on experience, let's list a few things that aren't press releases:

  • Links to a Facebook post
  • Links to a Kickstarter project page
  • Links to a Reddit post
  • Honestly, links to any sort of post that says "HEY! We're doing this!" but is light on details of what you are actually doing isn't helpful.

I don't want to single anyone out, but I've seen these types of posts from publishers at all levels of publisher, from smaller presses to big publishers. If there is one basic rule for releasing information to the press it would be: release information to the press. Obviously there are things that you probably cannot discuss yet, like details about the physical product itself, but there are things that give the media things to write about. Tell who is involved with the development and design of the game. Mention what you can about the system. If the game is licensed, talk about the source material and why you think it should be a game.

Everyone is enthusiastic about the new games that they are developing, but it can be hard to get that enthusiasm to spread without some basic information.

Just like with the lede in an article, an effective press release should give the important information: Who (the publisher, the people working on the game), What (the publication, setting, mechanics, whatever is important to know about the game itself), Where (where can people get your game? Is it in PDF from DriveThru? Is it in print distribution through Indie Press Revolution or Studio 2 Publishing?), When (a rough idea of when the game is expected to come out).

These are the sorts of things that give games journalists and bloggers things to talk about. When the available information about a game can be summed up in the headline, it doesn't encourage people to talk about your game on their site. That should be the goal of a press release or announcement, to get as many people to talk about your game as possible. Of course this fits in with my first Media 101 article about developing relationships with press and bloggers, and creating mailing lists. You really need to send your releases and announcements out. We're busy people keeping up with writing, editing, herding writings and all of the tasks that keeps sites like this running. This means that if your "announcement" is a post somewhere, particularly a post to fast-moving social media, that it might get lost in the shuffle. It is always best to reach out to the media rather than assume that your posts are being seen.

E.N. World has a contact email that is posted to the front page of this site that is useful for adding to your mailing lists. If you're a blogger, you should have a contact form on your blog (I know that Blogspot has a plugin for one that I used on my blog), or a published email address that publishers can use to reach you. Like I said in my first article on this, it is important to make sure that your releases are on topic for the sites of the people that you're sending your information to.

What is a good part of a press kit to send out with your press releases? An ashcan edition of your game. While, hopefully, the people who go into the media for gaming have a broad base of knowledge about gaming, it is also hard to keep track of every game and every system that is out there. Even if you're sending your press release as an email, bundle it with some sort of a quickstart or other introduction to the game, or the system, that you will be using in the new product. Being able to get an idea of the mechanics of the game helps us to be able to better write about them.

Hopefully this article has helped someone have a better chance at getting the information about their game out. These ideas are applicable whether you're publishing your first game, or your fifth one. No matter how large or small of a press you are, there are always people that you aren't reaching, and getting the help from media sites, large or small, is always helpful to building your audience.

These Media 101 articles are the tip of the iceberg on the subject of interaction between role-playing game publishers and the gaming media. I would like to see more gaming conventions invite media people to their conventions, not just to provide publicity and coverage, but to have a conversation with not only publishers, but also with the people who are getting a start in blogging and gaming journalism so that we can not only strengthen relations between publishers and the media, but at the same time make a stronger gaming press. These things benefit everyone, and as geek media not only gets more attention from mainstream audiences, but also comes under greater scrutiny, everyone is able to be better accountable for what they report. These articles are a start, but there is only so much that can be done through this medium.



Thanks Christopher, I know that as the PR guy for PCGen I'll be taking this to heart and making some changes. I'll also be interested in following this series of articles.

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