It’s been a while since I’ve done an Indie Biz post, but I just got two press releases in my in-box this week that really inspired me to think about what makes a good press release and why most press releases go straight into my trash folder.
Press releases are a lot of work and generally I advocate for making them as tailored to their recipients are possible. However, I’m sure there’s still some confusion as to how much information is enough information when you need to emails dozens or hundreds of people, so I figured we could examine these two emails together as a way of examining press release dos and don’ts.
In both cases I have obscured the names of the games and the developers to save embarrassment, etc.
Press Release 1
Let’s start with number 1: Generic opening. This one is particularly egregious considering they used the ‘Contact’ box on my website, meaning that they’d been to my website and seen my picture and my name. If you can’t take the 3 seconds to replace “Dear [blank]” in your cut and paste template, why in God’s green earth would I take the 2 minutes necessary to read your email? Lazy.
2. Body text full of grammatical errors and NO INFORMATION about the game itself. What kind of a game is it? What’s it about? What platforms is it for? Why would I want to write about it? Why did you contact me specifically? Nothing. Writers need a “why,” as in “why do I care, why do my readers care?”
3. While links to press kits aren’t by themselves a bad thing, you need to give me a reason to go there, other than “all the information we could have given you a hint of in this email is hidden in an online press kit.” Weak sauce.
Overall, this press release just felt like a form letter that could have been written to anyone about anything. It failed to get me excited about the game because it didn’t include any information about the game. Sure, there was a link to the press kit, but that assumes I’m going to take the time to look at the link, and I need a reason to do that other than you need press coverage.
Press Release 2
1. They used my name. I know it seems extremely petty that I care about this so much, but I do. It’s not a difficult thing to find and it really does make all the difference in feeling that someone is writing to you, as opposed to feeling like someone just added you to a mailing list you didn’t consent to.
2. Friendly, personal tone that feel more like a letter and less like a cut and paste template (even if it probably is).
3. THEY ACTUALLY TELL ME ABOUT THE GAME. This part doesn’t have to be elaborate. Do not include the backstory of every character and land in your game. Just 25 – 50 words that concisely sum up the setting, mechanics and intended audience. Imagine you had to pitch your game on an elevator ride. Boil things down to the absolute basics. It might not seem like much, but it is enough to get me to consider if I want to keep reading.
4. Pretty picture. Just one. Even early concept art works, anything to give a visual impression of the game you are trying to sell me.
5. Reasons the game could be interesting in bullet point form. Again, I don’t need the whole backstory of how the game was conceived, just three or four talking points that relate in some way (even tangentially) to my site and my typical content. Think about what you want the finished article to be about and then give me a few examples of themes I could use.
6. This isn’t necessary, but I did really appreciate the idea that we were going to be creating this article together for MY audience. Collaboration is way more inspiring than being asked to help someone who didn’t even bother to put your name in their email to you.
Now, while I realize that some of my issues with Press Release 1 could be the result of a language barrier, I don’t think that’s a valid excuse. If you are going to be communicating with English language press, you need to be able to communicate in proper English. Ask a cousin, hire a proof-reader. Whatever it takes to look and sound professional.
But most of all, remember that there is a real, live person at the end of that email. A person who puts thought and work into the things they write. And a personal connection, no matter how ephemeral, is far more inspirational than any press kit in the world.