Event Recaps

PAXAUS 2014: Setting up interviews with the press

One thing I definitely wasn't prepared for at PAXAUS was being thrown a huge list of all the media that was going to be at the show. How big? This year, 280 people big. So the question is... what do you do with it?

My first piece of advice is this: if you're doing a con, and you get sent a giant press list like this, drop what your'e doing and deal with it*. Because you'll need to sooner or later anyway, and when it comes to organising interviews, you wanna try and get in early and make your impression before the press gets bombarded with invitations to the point they just ignore them. Early bird, worm, etc. etc.

*My one caveat on that piece of advice is in the case that you haven't actually got the game you'll be exhibiting to a presentable point -- you should probably do that as priority number one. And this is actually the boat we were in, cramming up to the last few days, so we left things late and definitely didn't arrange as much as we could have.

step one: SPAM THEM ALL!

If there's one thing the press loves, it's spam! Wait...

actually don't do that.

Do the opposite of that.

These 280 email addresses you've just been given? Some will be there to cover sports games, or AAA games, or board games, or whatever. Basically, not everyone on that list is actually of any interest to you or what you're working on. And if you send a journalist an email about something they don't cover, it's a surefire way to irritate them. Which... isn't the end of the world and won't destroy your career, but c'mon now, etiquette.

So, what you'll probably wanna do is go through that email list, find out which journalists work for websites/mags that cover the kinda stuff you're dishing up, and then make a sublist of those journalists. And just as a warning to you: unless you know a whole slew of small-time websites and so on by name, this is going to take A LOT of time to research. Make sure you allot it in your pre-PAX planning. Of the 280 journalists sent our way, I emailed a total of 23 journalists and addressed each by name. Targeted PR: it's worth the time you put in.

Step two: working out what to say

A lot of indies are at a loss when it comes to what to say to press. Especially if you're new to the game, the press can seem like gatekeepers to some weird promised land of success and riches. In reality, they're a) only mortal, and can be slain like any common beast and b) capable of giving you what's more the equivalent of a leg-up in terms of visibility; it's your game's ability to wow people into talking about it that will actually make or break you. But that's an article for another time.

In order to work out what to tell the press, it's first important to understand what they want, and what they want (hell all they ever want) are stories. You're selling them a story they can sell to their readers. When it comes to something like PAXAUS, the stories they're after are usually pretty specific: either "this is exclusive news that was announced at PAXAUS," or, and this one is probably more relevant to the kinds of small or budding studios who will be reading this, "these are cool games coming out of the indie sector that you should keep an eye on."

So that's what you'll want to tailor your pitch around. I'm not going to give you a 101 in pitching in this article because Rami Ismail has already covered that as well as anyone could hope to in this talk, but basically what I'm getting at is your email to the press should be enticing them to come to your stall because that's where their story is.

ALTERNATIVELY... if you leave everything to the last minute like I did, a simple invitation to your stall/booth is still better than nothing. This is the email I sent out, and it was good enough to start a correspondence with some of the press members who did come and interview us over the weekend.


We'd like to invite you to swing by our stand at PAXAUS and blast some space punks! We're showing off the prototype of Starslinger Kings, an arcade-style bullet hell game for up to 4 players about mechs shootin' other mechs... in space. Gameplay-wise, it's Metal Slug meets Luftrausers.

We're also running a promo for the weekend: join our mailing list and go in a draw to win every game we ever make, from now until the end of time!

And we're open to interviews. Feel free to get in touch to organise one, or just drop by our stand any time :)

We'll be in the ANZ Indie Pavilion. For more information on the game and how to find us, please follow this link: http://www.2hitstudio.com/index.php/blog/13-press/68-we-invite-you-to-play-starslinger-kings-at-paxaus#.VENnRPmSx8E

We hope to see you there!

Adam Carr

If you read that and thought, "there's room for improvement there," well good! There definitely is. Think about the ways you would improve this pitch, and adopt those lessons into your own pitch writing. 

To personalise or not to personalise?

This is an interesting question you'll get a variety of answers on. As you can see above, our emails were basically form emails with the name changed, EXCEPT to people we had pre-existing relationships with.

My gut feeling is that while form emails may be offensive to people you already know, very personalised emails to people you DON'T know can be just as off-putting. Starting with "I noticed you write a lot about X type of game on your website" is generally fine, because it acknowledges their work and a mutual interest, but then there's the type of email that's just plain ass-kissing, you know? "I read your article on X and Y and Z, these are my favourite games and your work is the best! Come and play our game almighty goddess of words?" Those emails go in the bin.

Conversely, I think form emails can be fine, it just depends on how you phrase your value proposition. A lot of people I've spoken to find it rude to ask a complete stranger to do something for them, which is kind of the wrong way of looking at it. If your value proposition is good enough, you're not asking them to do something for you, you're telling them where their piece for the con is. You're making their job easier by giving them a lead to work with.

You're creating value for them.

And in return, they're creating value for you in visibility. When I first started contacting press I was nervous about it, like maybe I was obstructing their day -- but that's just how this big machine turns, and trust me it gets easier. Like most things, you either overthink or underthink it the first few times round, then it clicks and starts to feel like a natural part of the job.

And that's the advice for this week. If you have any questions or want help workshopping a pitch, drop me a line in the comments below, or shoot me an email at adam at 2hitstudio.com!

- Adam Carr @2HitAdam

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