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21 Oct 2013

Writing a Press Release With Pizazz

If you want your indie game to get noticed, make no mistake: it is crucial that you have a captivating, top-quality press release written about your game. Simply put, press releases written about your game must interest the press into looking further into your game and covering it on their own website, blog, or other type of publication. Unfortunately, simply ‘writing and forgetting’ a press release isn’t that simple: rather, you need to have a press release written about your game that will stand above every other press release by standing out above the countless press releases sent to the media on a daily basis.

Take it from me: I receive dozens of press releases from developers asking me to cover their game in some capacity daily, and that’s just me as a sole person! Think about different publications such as IGN, Polygon, Gamespot, and even smaller publications. They receive too many press releases in one day, and there is no way all of them could be read – there just isn’t enough time in the day. Thus, you need to have a press release that is unique, interesting to read, and will have a high chance of catching the attention of the press.

How do you do this? Read on to find out!

But first: if you are uncomfortable with writing, hire someone to write a press release for you!

Unless you are a native English speaker and have at least a little bit of experience with writing a press release, it is advised that you hire someone that does this sort of work for a living. There are multiple people available on outsourcing sites such as Elance and Odesk that can write a press release for you that read amazingly well. Yet if you have minimal experience and want to write a press release yourself and/or you want to save money by writing it yourself, continue reading to learn how to craft that outstanding press release you are yearning for.

A headline with sizzle

Your headline is the roof of your press release: if it isn’t sound and sturdy, then the entire foundation (i.e. your press release) is going to come crashing down. Simultaneously, your headline is the knob to the door of your press release, and if it doesn’t jump out and ‘grab’ the reader? The reader (i.e. the press) is going to move on and not even bother with reading the rest of the press release.

Many people state you need an opening ‘hook’ when writing anything for publicity, and while that is true, the headline is the true hook of the press release, and it is imperative that you write a captivating hook that is going to force the reader to read further. I have seen too many press releases with a headline that read something like this:

‘Trial of the Shogun Releases on iOS October 25’

And? Why should I care? There are many other games releasing this week too, so what makes Trial of the Shogun so special? That’s really the trick to writing your entire press release: what makes it so special?

But I’m getting ahead of myself for a moment. For now, we need to entice the reader to read further by making the headline contain a little ‘spice.’ A few examples of an enticing headline include:

‘Trial of the Shogun Slices its way to iOS October 25.’

That’s a little more interesting, but we can go a step further and make the headline even more interesting.

‘Live the Life of a Shogun on October 25.’

or

‘On October 25, Become Legendary. Become Heroic. Become….a Shogun.’

Notice I didn’t include the name of the game in the last few headlines, but I didn’t need to. The reader (again, the press) now knows the main point of my press release involves the shogun, and something is happening on October 25. They need to know what it happening on October 25, so guess what? They are going to keep reading further.

That’s it: you hooked them. You have the reader’s attention, and now it’s time to hook them further.

The tagline and opening paragraph

Now you need to add a tagline beneath your headline. When I write these, I usually italicize the entire sentence and keep it a fairly short sentence. A tagline is useful in that it announces information that you couldn’t fit into the headline. Remember how we didn’t include the name of the game in the opening headline? This is where the tagline comes into play, as now we can clarify exactly what the opening headline was all about. Here’s an example:

‘Experience Japan through the eyes of a shogun in Bigbopper Games’ upcoming iOS RPG, Trial of the Shogun.’

Functional, simple, and to the point: that is how your tagline must read.

As for the opening paragraph, it needs to grab the attention of the reader once again. Here is another example:

‘Betrayal: it’s a word that’s bitter, pungent, and feels worse than a katana in the heart. Yet that’s exactly how Ryo, the greatest shogun in the last 100 years, is feeling at the moment. Betrayed by his brother in exchange for the wealth of his family, Ryo has been falsely accused of murder, and is set to be executed tomorrow morning. Only you have the power to clear Ryo’s name, and help him regain his rightful title of Japan’s greatest shogun.’

The reader has no idea what type of game they will be playing, but one thing is certain: they are intrigued.

Body of the press release

Going forward in the next paragraph, you need to include details about you (the developer) and your past games (if you have any). Be as detailed as possible, but do not make this paragraph long-winded (short, to-the-point 3-4 paragraphs will suffice).

In the next paragraph, go into a full description of your game. Why do people need to play your game? What is the main type of mechanic of your game (i.e. is it a stealth-based game, a hack-and-slash, an adventure game, etc.)? Are there a limited number of levels and areas to explore in the game? If so, name them. Is the game free-to-play, premium priced, on multiple platforms, and most importantly, what is the release date? Answer all of these questions, and basically, answer the biggest question of all: what is your game, what can players expect, and most importantly, why should they care?

In the middle of every press release, I like to place a quote from the person behind the product I am writing about. Moreover, you can also place a quote (or a set of quotes) near the end of the press release from recognizable figures in the industry discussing your game. My main point is this: add a quote that discusses your game as a whole, as it makes your game sound as if people are talking about it – even if it’s only you.

Contact Information

Describe where the reader can find more information about your game: your personal website, company website, website devoted to the game, contact email, Facebook group of the game or company, Twitter handle, and so on. In short, you want the press to be able to get into contact with you easily, and you want them to be able to pass along to their readers how they can follow you via social media.

Let me stress that adding contact information is vital. I cannot count how many times I have been interested in conducting an interview with a developer, only to be unable to find their contact information and thus unable to provide them with a little extra publicity. And when I’m excited about a game? This really stinks. People in the press do not have the time to find your contact information, so make it easy for them to contact you by adding appropriate contact information near the bottom of the press release.

Screenshots

Add a screenshot (header) after the tagline of your press release, and add a few screenshots after you have listed your contact information. Many PR firms add a link to a press kit and/or an FTP server with a wide array of assets that they can choose from when covering the game. If you do not have your own personal FTP server or even a press kit created (we will discuss this tomorrow), don’t sweat it: for now, adding a few screenshots into your press release will suffice.

There you have it: you have the outline needed to create an awesome press release that will capture the attention of the press. What you do with it is your next challenge, and I mention this fairly in-depth in one of my posts from a while back. It goes into detail how to pitch your game to the media, how to know which publications to send the press release to, and so on, and is worth the read.

Of course, if you have any further questions or even pointers, for writing an awesome press release that I may have missed, mention them in the comments below!

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