Ask IndieGames is a monthly feature that takes a range of topics relating to indie gaming and development and poses them as a question to the editorial staff. While sister site Gamasutra has already touched upon the subtleties of creating a 'kill-it-with-fire!' sort of press release (and, in part, what comprises an enticing press release), we've decided to take a look at the topic yet again in the interest of providing indie developers further insight on what makes a press release 'pop' (and how to avoid having it lost amidst the tidal wave of similar press releases).
I think it goes without saying that an effective press release should be put together with correctly structured sentences and correct spelling. Since I have very limited time (I do this on top of a regular full-time job) and have many, many e-mails to wade through, an effective press release shouldn't be too long. An effective press release is one that makes the reader want to find out more about the game it promotes.
Bullet-point feature lists are meaningless when they focus on numbers -- I don't care about how many levels your game has because I don't have any idea how long or complex the levels are! Accompany this with something to look at-- an effective trailer on YouTube or Vimeo or some photos-- and an easily navigable, informative website. I'm sure everyone else on the team has provided more than enough good material for how to write a great press release, so I wanted to focus on the supplementary text that accompanies the press release when you email it out, and gives the member of the press the impression that you haven't just fired out a bulk PR to everyone under the sun. Start the email by introducing yourself (or asking how the reader is if you already know them). Don't forget to tell the press person that they can contact you if they want any more information - it's a small point, but it can sometimes cause the reader to think "actually yeah, I would like to know more." And of course, make sure your writing is friendly and well-written - get it spell checked and grammar checked before you hit send!
I know it will sound almost childish, but the very first thing that will catch my eye and thus make for something I'll be inclined to read will be a nice, colorful picture somewhere at the beginning of the press release.


Mind you, having the press-release addressed to myself or the place I'm writing for is pretty mandatory too, as is making sure it's relevant to what I'm usually writing about. Other than that, do make sure you keep your press releases brief and informative and avoid too much teasing. If this isn't your strong point, I can't emphasize enough just how important this is - find someone, anyone, that can do this and get them to read over (and possibly re-write) your press release if you trust them enough.
If your press release has humour that actually makes me laugh, it increases your chances for the following to happen: continued reading of your press release and an increased chance at taking a look at your game. It shouldn't be overly long or comprehensive, but it should hit a few key points that lets the reader know why they should care about what it's discussing. In one or two sentences, you should be able to explain what the game is about and why it's special. This could be the part of your press release that makes the reader think, "Oh, it's from the guys who did THAT game!" If any members of your team have worked on notable games in the past, mention them, too. If you are not ready to announce all release details, let me know in the email that these are not available until the next announcement to avoid needless follow-up. Then *very* briefly explain what the press release is about, and why they should be interested in reading it. Try to stick to the facts and make sure they are obvious at a glance, while avoiding the standard and rather tiring marketing lingo. An email that addresses me by name and shows that has a vague idea of why I should be interested is bound to have my full attention.


Not everyone will be interested in your hardcore RPG and contacting IndieGames in order to promote FIFA 13 would be rather silly.
If you can make a connection with someone the reader knows or something he or she has previously played, you've got their attention.
However, let me know who is available for interview and have someone monitoring the email account rather vigilantly so I can complete the story. Finally, sum up key points of the PR to the reader - for example, the platforms your game is coming to, whether it's going to be on specific distribution channels, games you've worked on before, and other such notable points.
To give you an example, an adventure developer would fare much better by contacting either me or Cassandra when trying to get us to write about their new project.
Lastly, email every website you want to be on at the same time, or wait to see if I pick it up from another site. Now, I totally get the fact you want to hit everyone and everything (Excuse the innuendo!) with your press release but it still feels somewhat disrespectful to make mistakes like this, innocent or not. If you want me to take twenty minutes of my day to write about your trailer, shouldn't you take a few minutes to sculpt your press release?



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