What is a PR Campaign

Creating Hype & Campaigning for Success

What Is a PR Campaign

Creating Hype & Campaigning for Success

Welcome back to another entirely informative Terminals Blog Post! Our team has been pretty busy finishing off Launch Package campaigns that started late last year, and we’re gearing up for a busy spring in the world of video games. For the new faces in the audience, Terminals.io is a site developed by Evolve PR as a tools suite for running marketing campaigns—either for clients at Evolve, or via Launch Packages we offer directly through Terminals. 

Gamers, press, and content creators see the news beats, request the keys, and can download the assets provided during these campaigns; but for the curious cats among you, you’re probably wondering about the big picture. What’s the point of the steady drip feed of information, and why can’t we just learn everything there is to know about a game all at once?

What is a PR Campaign?

The word of the day is "hype." There are a lot of games being made, and if you're a developer or publisher who wants to stand out, it’s important to set up an organized campaign of events, activities, and content to put your game in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

PR (public relations) campaigns are coordinated efforts to promote and bring awareness to the press and consumers for a video game, product, or company. When you hear people talking about PR in video games, they're generally referring to getting coverage from press and content creators or influencers. It sounds simple enough in theory, but planning and executing a successful PR campaign isn't straightforward, and it's not enough to have a great game. There are countless factors outside your control that will impact your campaign, but all you can do is try to deliver the best campaign you can.

It's important to remember that PR campaigns are not free: there comes a cost for all the time and effort that will be required to organize events (public, private, or digital) and create marketing materials to promote your product or service. So the budget is definitely a major consideration when it comes to getting things started.

What’s In It for You?

So why should you run a PR campaign? Because there are hundreds (thousands) of games on a dozen different platforms launching every day, and developers have to somehow wrestle the attention of millions of eyeballs to focus on them. If you’re launching a game in this day and age, the main reason you’re doing a PR campaign is because of the competition for attention: if you want to stand any chance of success, you have to secure and spread awareness about your game—and you'll generally want to do that with extensive coverage from press and influencers.

Alternatively, you can just do your own thing, start a Discord, send some email blasts and hope for the best, and build up some natural engagement at your own pace. There’s nothing wrong with marketing the game the way you want without a coordinated PR campaign, as long as you’ve set realistic expectations and enjoy the process of actually making video games (keep up the good work, by the way; you’re a credit to the entertainment industry). 

A Quick Guide to Setting Goals for Your Campaign

The PR process can be as simple or complex as you’d like, but if you’d like to go the textbook route and prescribe to Grunig’s theory of excellence, then you’ll have made a smart choice (more on that in a bit): align your plans with the needs and desires of an audience that's receptive to the message being delivered. Putting that mindset into practice will definitely make the race for the attention of gamers everywhere a lot shorter. 

Speaking of racing, did you know that the R.A.C.E. method is an effective process to follow when developing a strategic PR plan? It consists of four steps: Research, Actionable planning, Communication, and Evaluation.

Research with internal and external stakeholders involved in your project to answer the “Who?” “What?” and “Why?” of how to market your project. Who is your target audience? What is your product? Why would they be interested in what you’ve created? This is the step where you establish your objectives by identifying your audience based on the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities that your project touches upon. You’ll also want to be realistic about competition and threats to the attention you hope to secure for your project.

Actionable planning is the next step in the campaign process. Set S.M.A.R.T. objectives to put into action everything you’ve learned from research, both within your team and with external consultation (preferably unbiased). The objectives must be Specific, matching the purpose established from studying your audience and taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of your product. You don’t want to do something like promoting features that won’t be in the final game (that would be super awkward to explain later; it totally happens sometimes, but if you can avoid that… aces). You also have to be able to Measure the metrics of your success with whatever you’re planning. So you’ll want to plan to attend events, distribute keys, or email press—things where the success or failure of those efforts can be tracked with KPIs, setting Attainable and Realistic goals. Doing a round of competitive analysis to temper expectations and understand opportunities for positive press is always a good idea, as well. I briefly touched on this before, but I want to say it again now: If you didn’t discuss your budget for the campaign before you got started, please stop what you’re doing and go do that. You need to look over the pricing of event management, advertising, and tools, and factor that into the project goals. It would also be a crime to not establish a Timeline with phases and milestones to stay on task and organized as you initiate the steps of the campaign.

Communication is also a key part of the campaign. You’ve already heard what we’ve had to say about developing a social media presence being important for your project, so we won’t get into the nitty gritty of that again here. What I will say is that establishing a line of communication with your audience throughout the campaign is absolutely essential: and in this case, your audience isn't just players, but press, influencers, other developers, business partners, potential publishers, and many more.

By maintaining clear lines of communication, you’ll be able to get a vibe check on how your campaign is going and know whether or not you need to go full steam ahead or back to the drawing board. I don’t know how many hands I’d need to count the number of games that get delayed in a year just to get some “extra love” before release, so right up there with establishing your audience, listening to that audience is important. Another aspect of communication is content. Make sure you’ve got a press kit, as well as a plan for asset releases alongside your product announcements—trailers, screenshots, gifs, concept art, etc. are all vital to getting visibility. You’ve got to be ready to show off your project as part of the campaign!

Evaluation should happen at key points during your campaign, but also in a deeper way at the end. This is where you run the numbers, see if you met the KPIs set during your actionable planning, and review the sentiment people carried toward your launch. You can do this sort of insight building in the form of case studies, KPI analysis, and sentiment analysis. Unless you really love datasets and parsing, though, this may be an area to get some outside help.

Phew! This was a long one, and we've barely scratched the surface of how to build a campaign: which press and influencers you should reach; which events you should attend; what assets to create; whether you should do hands-off or hands-on previews; when to announce your game; when to launch it; and so much more. You’ve got to understand at this point that PR campaigns are often a fairly long process. If you’re thinking about getting into one, you’ll likely want to start several months before you launch your game because it should definitely be something you think about during development: we recommend anywhere from six to 18 months depending on a number of factors.

Depending on the size of your game and your team, this may all be too much for you to handle. The good news is there are plenty of companies (like Evolve) and consultants out there who can help; they can handle PR while you focus on development. You’ll want to get in contact with someone pretty early on if that’s the case—certainly at least two or three months before your planned launch, but ideally much earlier. If you’re an indie developer and you’ve only got a month or two before launch, then Terminals.io might be able to help you out via one of our Launch Packages. Our larger packages can be suitable for longer campaigns, as well. We'd love to help you out or give you a bit of guidance to make this all seem less daunting.

Published February, 22 2023
Last updated February, 22 2023
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