Last time we took a look at how motion control played a major part in this year’s E3. Now we’ll look at the other innovation that is looming on the horizon; 3D gaming

3D Gaming

Apparently, the future is in 3D! For the Big Three at this year’s E3, each is putting their chips into 3D in varying levels. Ranging from no-show (Microsoft) to let’s try this out (Nintendo) to let’s go insane (Sony). Let’s look at how each was represented this year:

Microsoft: The house that Gates built didn’t show any 3D tech at E3, because (as far as I know) they don’t have any 3D projects in the works. They are most likely hoping that Kinect will be the boost that will draw in and captivate new users, and they may be onto something. After all, what’s more immersive than using your own body as a controller?

Microsoft might be looking at this from the most practical perspective. Only recently have we seen the HDTV adoption rate in America pass 50%, meaning that consumers are sluggish to take on new tech, especially in the current economic climate. What does that say for 3D-enabled TV? Sure, I’d love to have one at home; but how long until I can actually afford one? Due to cost factors, this is one device that I probably won’t be able to adopt early and it’s likely that most other consumers will have to wait too.

Nintendo: Nintendo seems to be taking the smartest approach to 3D gaming. The plan looks simple enough – take the world’s most successful handheld gaming device (Nintendo DS), add in some 3D tech, ship it out to the public and gauge their response before dumping more resources into 3D home gaming consoles. I have to admit, the Nintendo 3DS stole the show for me at E3. Here is a device that is within my price range, is 3D capable, and can be taken anywhere. Are you kidding? That’s all win to me!

I love the idea that I can try out 3D gaming as soon as it’s available with Nintendo 3DS. Even if it isn’t for me, the buyer’s remorse won’t be so strong since I won’t have to sell a kidney to afford this setup.

Sony: If there’s one thing you have to give to Sony, it’s that they consistently innovate. I have never seen a company that is constantly pushing out new devices, new ideas, and new technology like they do. The tech giant doesn’t let anything stop them; if a solution doesn’t exist they will create said solution. So it’s no surprise that when PlayStation says 3D is on, it’s on.

Future 3D games for PS3, 3D support for existing PS3 games, 3D movies through PSN, 3D movies through Blu-ray and DVD – if you own a 3D-enabled TV and a PS3, the future is going to be very enjoyable for you. However if you’re like me and can’t drop the cash (around $2,000 on average for 3D TVs now), this tech isn’t going to be something you’re likely to experience outside of the Magnolia showroom floor at your local Best Buy. The price of the hardware will be the hurdle for Sony’s 3D tech to overcome, but the tech is definitely head and shoulders above anything else that’s out there in terms of gaming.

There you have it! What tech or developing trends are you most interested in when it comes to gaming? Feel free to leave your comments below!

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The Electronic Entertainment Expo – also known as E3, also known as the place where the latest and greatest in video games is shown every year. If it’ll melt your face off and it’s somehow related to video games, chances are it’ll be at E3.

And this past year’s E3 was no exception, as the show was akin to 1,000 noisy arcades (remember those) combined into one massive paradise of everything we’re going to want to drop money on for the next 365 days. A rule of thumb to follow around E3; if it’s trending and important, the “Big Three” (Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony) are probably leading the charge. And two of these trends were on display in full force – motion control and 3D gaming.

Motion Control

Thanks to Nintendo’s gutsy move in 2006 with the Nintendo Wii, wii’ve (brilliant) been playing our games by waggling remotes around for nearly four years now. Still, that doesn’t mean we’ve seen all there is to see from motion controlled games.

Nintendo: The innovators in motion control really don’t have to prove anything more in the area, and were a little quiet this year in that regard. They did drop a major bombshell with an announcement of new tech though (more on that coming up). One peripheral that I was a bit sad to not see was the Wii Vitality Sensor. I don’t care about fitness games, not in the least, but I think that could be an innovative addition to the games I do like. Imagine playing a first-person shooter that reads your pulse through the sensor, and affects the stability of your firearm in the game. The faster your pulse, the harder it is to keep the gun steady, that would be incredible. If we see this implemented in games, remember you probably read it here first J Or if you’re from a major gaming studio, hire me as a game designer. Either/or, I’m flexible.

Microsoft's Kinect with new Xbox 360 console

Microsoft: The makers of the Xbox 360 went all out at this year’s E3 with their new peripheral called Kinect. Kinect is basically a camera that attaches to your Xbox 360, reads your body movements and communicates with your games, making the in-game characters mimic your actual movements. It also has voice-recognition technology, so it can identify a user based on their voice and follow verbal commands. This is a very cool device, and brings us closer to “futuristic” movies like Back to the Future 2 than ever. While I like the idea of talking to my Xbox to turn it on and start up games, I don’t know how often I’d use it for playing games. I mean, what about the games where you have to play through the same level multiple times? Before, the only thing stopping me was my patience; now I might have to worry about muscle cramps and fatigue!

PlayStation's new Move controller

Sony: Sony’s approach to motion control is a balance between Nintendo and Microsoft, as the company will be pushing out the PlayStation Move later this year. Move uses a remote-like controller (a la Nintendo) along with a motion-detecting camera (a la Microsoft) to make a new kind of motion detecting device. Much like Kinect, Move can do some very cool things. There are demos out there that show producers using it to navigate futuristic looking graphical interfaces, and it adds a new level of interaction with games. It has been described as “Wii HD”, but only time will tell if it will be as wildly successful as Nintendo’s hit console.

Overall there are some interesting things going on with motion control, but nothing too groundbreaking from when Nintendo did it first four years ago. It’s obvious that the competition is looking into ways to incorporate motion control into their hardcore-aimed gaming systems, because it will hopefully attract more casual gamers or newbie gamers to their systems. You can’t blame this kind of thinking, as it was such a huge success for Nintendo. Regardless, these peripherals will add new ways to play games, and possibly a few more years to each console’s life cycle as well.

The other major innovation, 3D gaming, has more appeal to the hardcore gamer. We’ll take a look at that one in a future installment!

The year is 1996. I’ve had my PlayStation for a few months and I’m looking for something new to play, something different. A trip to the game store and what catches my eye? An intriguing package containing some game called “Resident Evil”.

When I get home, it’s still early in the afternoon and I begin playing. The light outside acts as my greatest ally, and sets the stage for a trend I’ll continue all the way until Resident Evil 4 – never playing at night with the lights off.

Let me state this clearly: I friggin’ love zombies. I love them mostly for the way that they can scare the crap out of me in virtually any medium in which they’re found shuffling about. When I say zombies though, I mean the traditional slow-moving, rotting corpses. Not these new zombies that sprint around like Jesse Owens. That’s not a true zombie in my book (although their creators might argue that they are). It’s not scary; it’s unrealistic. How can a zombie move that fast if it’s all rotting away? I run for like a block and my leg hurts for days, and I’m not even in any remote state of decomposition.

But I digress… back to the game. Resident Evil was full of these shuffling zombies, and no matter where you turned there were more of them waiting for you. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there were other horribly mutated abominations trying to eat you as well. The zombie dogs had me, one of the world’s biggest dog fans, frantically trying to kill them all before they could get me. And who could forget that classic scene when the dogs first come crashing through that window in the long hallway? I screamed like a girl and tossed my controller when I first saw that scene.

Doors? Dogs don't need doors...

Resident Evil was such an amazing game to me because it introduced me to survival horror, ands showed that games can provide me with another emotion. Horror flicks didn’t even scare me (they still don’t) but something about playing through something built like a slasher movie really struck a chord. Resident Evil was like my gateway drug into other games like Silent Hill and Eternal Darkness, but I’ll never forget how amazingly perfect Resident Evil is. Check out the guy below playing Resident Evil 2; he gets how scary these games are!

Social media, much like the Internet itself, is still a young and untamed frontier with vast potential. Given the reach, mobility and accessibility that social networks like Facebook, Twitter and others provide, it’s natural that business and organizations would like to use these networks to interact with their publics. However, much like how you wouldn’t rely on a sight gag to get laughs on a radio show, you shouldn’t approach social media with the same methods you would with traditional media. As is always the case, the effectiveness of the message is dependent on how you use the channel to disseminate it. Here are a few tips to avoid looking antisocial when using social media.

Be conversational

There’s a reason why networks like Twitter limit themselves to short messages of 140 characters – because social media is about back-and-forth conversation. When communicating via social networks keep it short and open; the result you want here is interaction, discussion and conversation. Remember Michael Meyers’ character from SNL, Linda Richman the Coffee Talk lady? Approach your social network communication in a similar fashion. Tell your audience, “Today we’re announcing product X, which is both Y and Z in one package, talk among yourselves…”

Be human

Remember you are talking to customers, enthusiasts, people who are so interested in what you’re representing that they follow your blog or status updates. These folks probably don’t care about sales numbers, or how your CEO thinks this product will revolutionize the industry, or anything else your marketing team thinks is amazing. These are normal people, and they want a normal conversation. Come at them like you were describing a movie you like to a best friend; it will make you appear more genuine and your message seem more credible.

Be funny

Effective social network communications can be a lot like a good commercial – funny, memorable and short. Let’s face it, people these days have attention spans that rival those of houseflies. If you want to get someone’s attention, entertain them. You can go out and Tweet things like the headline and link to your last press release, and while that might work well with traditional press it isn’t going to hold the average person’s interest for long. Again, try being conversational and funny to set up the message. You’ll be surprised how quickly things can spread if they’re accompanied by a humorous Tweet or blog post.

Be transparent

Social media communication is a great way to give your public an inside look at the corporate culture of your organization. Feel free to share things that you’d share with friends, like news about a company outing, who you like in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, or what your favorite things are about working there. This kind of transparency goes a long way in making your organization seem less like a faceless corporation and more like an inviting place where great people work.

Be sensible

The final key to remember is that you should always use your head when interacting through social media. The same basic rules of communication apply here, so don’t go off topic with your message. Be fun, but make sure whatever you say has some relevance to your company’s message. Don’t say things that you wouldn’t say to your boss; it’s important to remain professional. And if you receive some negative comment or message from a user or follower, be respectful. You represent your company and co-workers, and the last thing you want to do is say something regretful that makes everyone look bad.

Social networks and other forms of new media have amazing potential and can help you interact with your public in ways never before thought possible. With a  little bit of creativity and sensibility, they can help you engage your community and strengthen that most important of relationships – the bond between a company and its customers.

In the world of PR, there are few guarantees. One thing you can count on though, sooner or later you will be faced with a communication crisis. These can be major or minor, and naturally your first reaction will be something akin to, “Oh I do not want to deal with this now. Get me out of here!”

Maybe your company’s microwave emits deadly Gamma rays when users heat up popcorn for longer than four minutes. Perhaps your CEO has been caught embezzling investor money to feed his Faberge Egg addiction. Whatever the case, good communication practice mandates that you answer for yourself and your constituents to quell the public outcry for information.

Having to fess up to mistakes or act as the bearer of bad news is scary; nobody wants to have to do it. It’s an unpleasant part of life that in business can mean the difference between life and death (figuratively). Here are some steps to follow to make the best out of this bad situation.

Stay on top of the crisis

This should be pretty elementary, but easy to forget when the waves of a media storm are crashing all around you. Since the crisis originated from something your company created, or someone your company employs, then chances are you’re already right in the middle of ground zero. And so, you should have no problem staying ahead of the situation – what caused it, what’s being done to rectify it, where the process currently stands, the likelihood of it being resolved and when, etc. In essence, you control the information at this point. All official news has to come from you now, so you’re in the position of control and it’s up to you to stay there. Make sure you always know what’s going on at any given moment, so you can correct any rumors or explain any processes.

Don’t turtle!

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, it seems like it will never end. Even so, most people want to attempt to hide from it and wait for things to blow over. Things don’t blow over, not in the way you’d hope. While it’s true that the situation will eventually pass, people won’t stop talking about it just because you’re not talking about it. In the digital age, news and information spreads faster than ever before. This means it’s more important to make sure your presence is out there during a crisis, as keeping quiet will make you look ignorant, guilty or worse. Don’t be afraid to get out there and make the public aware that you’re on the case. You don’t have to give full disclosure, but make sure you aren’t perceived as being completely closed off.

Get everyone on the same page

The most important thing in one of these situations is to make sure everyone is agreed on what the message is and what can/should be said. It doesn’t do any good if your spokespeople are saying one thing, but an employee is approached by someone and tells a conflicting story. So make sure everyone follows a set protocol. It’s fine to say “no comment” when approached by the media if you’re uncomfortable with being questioned. The best way to handle it though, is probably to decline giving comment but passing the question along to someone who has been appointed as an official spokesperson during this period.

It will pass

Even though bad times seem like they’ll never end, they always do. And in this current age, the news cycle is even shorter than ever before. The 24-hour constant influx of news means that something new will get a spot in the public eye before you know it. Give it time, and a celebrity will probably cause a drunken scene in public or another key figure will be caught in an infidelity scandal, making your old crisis seem like small potatoes. While this seems to suggest that turtling is an option, because this will pass shortly, it isn’t! It simply means you should keep your cool and stay on top of things, hold down the front line and follow the emergency plan with the reassurance that this too shall pass. What happens after the dust settles though, is up to you and how you acted when things were hectic.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. True, but too much imitation is the most effective way to kill a great idea. We see this all the time: someone has a brilliant idea for a product, television show, movie, etc., and then all the “me-toos” come out of the woodwork with half-baked imitations of the original. And before too long, we’re all so sick of the ripoffs that we no longer even pay homage to the uniqueness and brilliance that was present in the original idea.

This affects all areas of society – business, art, entertainment, you name it. I’ve always wondered why people are so quick to jump on and copy someone’s innovative tactic. It’s fine if you’re genuinely inspired by something, and you want to take that to a new level by building on a great idea that served as a catalyst. But when you’re just beating someone’s good idea to death by creating cheap clones for the sake of a quick buck, it always comes across as lame and uncreative in my opinion. Here are a few examples of PR tactics that were once great ideas, but quickly became ineffective as they were used so often that they saturated their respective markets.

The Countdown Clock

This is a pretty popular tactic in the realm of video game marketing and PR. I’m not sure how many other industries use them, probably not many because the concept behind it is pretty ridiculous. A clock counts down to a certain time on a certain date, when “information” is revealed. It’s like the video game equivalent of the movie teaser trailer, where if done correctly it gives you a taste, piques your interest, and drives you mad with speculation until the pellet of information is awarded to the Pavlovian dogs who salivate for the countdown’s conclusion. The problem with said clock is that the anticipation built up in the viewer’s mind rarely meets the level of release provided by whatever reveal is being counted down. Also, putting out one of these things too early could result in people just forgetting about the clock. I don’t like watching and waiting for pots of water to boil; I have a similar interest in nursing some digital clock on the Internet as it counts down to what might end up being just another corporate press release.

Can you imagine if other businesses did this? Like if a potato chip company came out with a website with a picture of a scale on it, and a countdown clock that ran for a week.  Then at the end of the countdown, you’re told that the chips you’ve been eating all week are horrible for you, have additives that cause obesity and heart problems, but this new chip that hits stores TODAY will be better for your health? Yeah… ridiculous.

The Stunt

The stunt is an essential part of public relations. It gets noticed, which gets tougher to do every year as there are more things competing for people’s attention every day. A well-planned stunt can be extremely effective as it should quickly get attention that can be redirected to a company’s product, message, or service in a way that makes sense. Far too often though, folks who plan these tactics try to outdo some invisible adversary by putting out the most insane stunt imaginable, that often doesn’t have anything to do with their business.

Call me crazy, but I think your stunt should have some relevancy to what it is trying to promote. The chain of events should go like: person sees stunt, is interested; person then sees your message/product featured in the stunt; person is intrigued, wants to learn more about said message/product as he makes the connection from the stunt to the purpose driving it. Too often though, we see stunts that make no sense whatsoever, and are borderline irresponsible in the way they get attention.

The Embargo

The embargo is a tactic that basically forbids media to cover a certain topic or announcement until a specified date and time. The reasoning behind embargoes varies, but they always result in headaches on both ends of the table. PR folks stay stressed because they have to worriedly monitor news coverage constantly, making sure that nobody “breaks” the embargo by covering the news before the embargo date. Journalist hate them because it means they can’t run the story when they want, and may have to “sit” on it until a time that’s not convenient for them, or even see an overzealous outlet get a scoop by breaking the embargo. To further complicate things, many times embargoes will be placed on things that aren’t even newsworthy, making them appear to be more important than they are. This video sums it up nicely:

Embargoes are fine when used as a last resort. Occasionally, things will come up unexpectedly and embargoes are a great way to manage the flow of communication. However, proper PR planning will eliminate the need for such tactics unless absolutely necessary. Plan the timing of your asset releases, demos and events, and there will be no need for instilling embargoes on a whim to attempt controlling what is being said. Stay ahead of the flow, and you won’t need to use these played out tactics too often.

One thing I want to stress – I’m not saying that the tactics above are useless and need to be stopped altogether. They are, however, often overused and not thought out well enough. If you know your product, service, message, whatever you’re promoting, well enough and you know your audience, you can come up with new and effective ways to engage them without having to resort to these tired old techniques.

Whether you’re in-house, at an agency or doing it yourself; having a strong foundation in managing a PR campaign is essential for getting the results you need at the end of the program. Effective PR management can not only help you hit all your targets, but maximize your ROI, stay under budget, and forge an effective team that’s a force to be reckoned with in the communications world. Here are a few quick tips on how to stay on target with your plan.

Get everyone involved in planning

Before any campaign gets started, there’s always a planning stage that outlines the goals you want to reach, the tactics you’ll use to reach them, and the underlying message that every tactic should hit back to or support. Make sure everyone who will be involved in the execution of the plan has had some input; this helps achieve two key elements of a successful plan. First, it will make it easier for everyone to understand the plan and stay on point if they had a chance to contribute their ideas. Once everyone understands how their ideas fit in with the other moving parts, it’ll be harder to lose focus of the “big picture”. Secondly, people are more willing to fight for something if they feel they have a vested interest in it. If you’ve contributed something to a plan, no matter how small, you’re now a part of that plan and you’ll want to see it succeed.

Stick to the plan

Anyone who’s worked in PR knows that the only thing that’s certain in the business is uncertainty. Things can change at a second’s notice, so it seems counterintuitive to focus on “sticking to the plan”. However, with every plan there are outlined goals, tactics on how to reach those goals, and and underlying message that every tactic should lead back to, tying it all together. When you have to change tactics on the fly, choose your substitutions wisely. Ask yourself, “Does this fit in with the plan? Does this support our message?” When you have a strong plan outlined it’s okay to color outside of the lines every now and then, as long as you don’t lose sight of the ultimate focus.

Know your team

A great manager is above all else, a great leader. And as such, it’s a manager’s responsibility to know their team’s members, their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes, etc. If you’re delegating tasks, make sure that you assign duties to the team members who have skills that complement that task. If someone is a good writer, have them be your first choice for written materials. If another stronger by communicating verbally, have them be your lead on phone pitching or on the floor at industry events. When you’re managing externally, like with an agency or other vendor, take the same approach but keep in mind things like each team member’s billing rate and skill level. Making the right assignment choices are key to getting the results you want, and staying on track with budget.

Work with the ebb and flow

Things always change with any plan, and a good manager stays on top of these shifts with quick responses. If someone on your team did a great job on something, make sure they’re recognized for it. Well-timed kudos are key for building team morale and project momentum. If someone missed the mark, open up discourse with them and work together to identify the misstep and how it can be improved in the future. And above all else, listen to your team members who are operating on the front line of the campaign; they will have first-hand insight as to what is working and what needs work.

Evaluate constantly, not just at the end

Most folks save the project evaluation stage until the campaign has ran its course. However, evaluating every tactic in real time can make for more impressive results when all is said and done. During a game’s life cycle, chances are you’ll show it at more than one trade show. So, take what you learn from each showing and apply it to each subsequent event where you’ll show the game. Apply it to every tactic like what development team members you bring along, where you show the game, who you show it to, etc. Judge every tactic’s effectiveness and use it to tweak any upcoming tactics where relevant; don’t just let things “run their course”.

When you’re effectively managing your PR plan, team and strategy, great things happen. The key to staying ahead of the curve is staying on top of the day-to-day, and that type of attention to detail is a cornerstone to any successful management.



I’ve been playing games for more than 20 years and during that time, I’ve experienced some that have stuck with me and kept me coming back. The one game that I commonly cite as “my favorite game of all time” is Final Fantasy VII.

There are several reasons why this game means so much to me, but the most significant is that it is the game that got me back into gaming after a brief hiatus. Before FF VII, the last game I remember getting absorbed by was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. After that game, I was pretty caught up in things like high school and sports, hanging out with friends, learning to play musical instruments – I had a lot of new hobbies and things going on that demanded my time. It wasn’t until FF VII when I really got caught up in games again.

I had a friend who owned a PlayStation, and we played a bit off and on. I figured that I’d get one too, after all I hadn’t played games in so long that it seemed about time for a new console. When it came time to choose the first game I’d buy with it, I saw FF VII and remembered the love I had for the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II on SNES (which was IV to everyone else). Nothing could prepare me for the experience that soon followed.

From the opening sequence, FF VII was so much more than I was expecting. No more 2D sprites, these characters were moving around a wonderfully crafted Midgar that was beautiful in its dreariness. No wandering through a town to ramp up, this game threw you and a partner right into the thick of a full-scale infiltration mission. The music, pacing of the action, sense of scale, was all so epic and more than I was used to.

In the weeks that followed, time seemed to melt away. I poured so many hours into that game; locating every monster, reveling in all of the side quests, and becoming connected to all the characters in this grand story.

FF VII was also able to convey this amazing amount of emotion. We all know the scene that got the most attention from fans – the death of Aeris. When that happened, even though she wasn’t a character I used much, I was floored. Conditioned by the usual video game rules, I kept expecting her to come back before the end of the game until I finally accepted that she was gone forever. I couldn’t remember a time where a character death affected me so much, so I came to the conclusion that this was the first FF game where one of your characters suffers a “true death” that Phoenix Downs won’t solve. A while later I went back and played FF IV and realized that characters there died at the drop of a hat, some never to come back! It was odd then, that those characters didn’t have the impact on me that FF VII characters did.

Brilliantly detailed lands, deeply written characters, amazing cutscenes, and epic summon spells. FF VII had it all, and was the transitional point from Final Fantasy games of the past and the epic adventures we enjoy now. I’ve played through this one several times, and it never gets old. And if the long-standing rumors are true and the game was remade for today’s systems, you bet I’d be more than happy to get sucked into this world once again!

A cornerstone of effective communication is that who you relay your message to is as important as what your message is. For example, you can convey the same basic information in many different ways, and you should consider doing that when communicating with a variety of audiences. If you don’t, your message won’t be received as effectively and consistently as you’d hoped.

In this second installment of PR Facepalm, we’ll look at the importance of identifying your audiences and customizing your message to tailor to them.

It’s Not What you Say, It’s How you Say It

In PR one thing we do often is act as a bridge between parties, connecting them and initiating discourse for an exchange of ideas. Most often that is between a party we represent and another party, usually a media outlet or reporter. And frequently, this is done via an interview; in-person, via phone, through e-mail, etc. Interviews are a golden opportunity to prepare your spokesperson to drive home your message in a forum that can be uber-effective; if you are willing to put in the effort.

Working with video games, one of the most frustrating things is seeing a great interview opportunity squandered because it wasn’t handled correctly. For example, the kiss of death for any interview is to not consider the tastes and personalities of the people who will be reading said interview when it runs. If you’re doing an interview for a business publication, then it’s perfectly fine to use marketing speak and boast sales numbers, because that’s what that audience is interested in hearing; it will resonate with them. But if you’re doing an interview for an outlet that is read by males age 18-35, with no interest in investing or portfolios, and you hit them with the A-List material from last quarter’s shareholder PowerPoint presentation, then you’ve got a problem.

The reason is because that audience doesn’t care about those sales numbers, and they can see right through that marketing speak. And in the end if all you’re offering is sales stats and rehashed lines from your most recent press release, then you’re not providing any real substance to the discussion and your future communications with this audience will likely fall on deaf ears. There’s a reason why people fast forward through commercials on their DVRs, or why they mute their speakers when an ad comes on before some Internet video they want to watch – these things are boring, and they get in the way of what the audience came for in the first place.

In spite of these obvious facts, the trend continues. You’ll see an interview with a gaming exec, featured in a gaming outlet, that looks like it should have run in the Wall Street Journal. Or you’ll see a thinly veiled attempt at a “blog” and “corporate transparency” that looks like it was generated by an automated press release writing program. And what results from that? The last thing you want to hear when you reach out to an audience – indifference. Readers who want five minutes of their lives back after reading that boring interview, reporters who won’t be so quick to respond to your email next time you pitch an interview their way, and worst of all, no momentum as a result of all the time you put into arranging this great opportunity for your team.

So the next time you want to pitch an interview for your executive, or someone involved in the creation of your game, take the time to do the legwork! Research the outlet you want to pitch to, find out how they’ve been covering games that are similar to yours, learn how their readers have responded to this coverage (comments make this a snap) and identify your opportunity. Pick out what your game could benefit from in terms of coverage with this outlet, then use your knowledge of what the readers want and what your message can provide to make that connection. Then, tailor your messaging and spokesperson to knock it out the park. Make the most out of your chances; it will result in fewer facepalms when all is said and done!

Facepalm. That’s always my initial reaction when I see the way that many companies decide to take a shotgun approach to their messaging and outreach. As a PR professional, I know how difficult and time consuming it can be to come up with effective messaging. But as anyone should realize; all people are different, and people change. What works for person A won’t always work for person B, and what was resonating with your audience six months ago might not get results today. But for some reason, many companies tend to go with the plan of taking the idea that seems to be best to them and throwing it everywhere they can, hoping it works.

In this current economy, everyone is scaling back and working with fewer resources. That’s why now, more than ever, well planned, efficient tactics are necessary. The old adage goes, “A stitch in time saves nine”, meaning that if you allow yourself to be proactive and anticipate major problems before they get out of hand, you can save yourself a lot of “stitching” later down the road. This is the first installment in a series of posts that will touch up on things I’ve noticed in PR; things that could definitely be improved.

Identify your “Big Game” Targets and Why you Must Have Them

During my career in PR I’ve been fortunate enough to score some truly massive coverage for my teams. Ironically, most of the wins the higher-ups consider to be epic are the ones that make the least sense to me.  Here’s an example: In one particular campaign for a major game I was representing, my team scored two big hits. One was for an entertainment trade publication, circulation was around 300K. The other was for an online gaming outlet with a circulation equivalent to around 5M. The trade pub hit took A LOT of work; lots of back-and-forth communication, lots of late nights making sure that we had everything the editor needed to make the story happen and that we didn’t fall off his radar. The gaming outlet piece ran much more smoothly. Obviously they knew more about the game we were working on so we could cut straight to the chase, adding more substance to the piece and covering the items our research showed that readers wanted to know more about while highlighting what made our game stand apart from the competition.

At the end of the day, I saw two very different reactions to the coverage that didn’t make sense to me. Upper management fawned over the trade publication hit, which I didn’t get. First off, look at the circulation numbers: 300,000 vs. 5,000,000. Right there we’re looking at one story that reached roughly 16 times more  people than the other. Then, let’s consider the quality of impressions we received. Out of the 300,000 people who read the trade publication, how many of them actually play games, let alone play them enough to make a purchase? On the other hand, if you’re visiting an online game site then obviously you’re a gamer, and more inclined to make a purchase after reading a strong article on a game.

I get the prestige that comes with a traditional, institution of a publication. When you land a story in them, they are few and far between, and it definitely impresses your execs. But correct me if I’m wrong, don’t sales ultimately impress execs more? And don’t sales usually lead to those harder-to-nail stories in the prestigious publications?  Sure, everybody wants these placements but you’ve got to ask yourself, “why do I want them so badly?”. What does it get you in the long run? How does it map back to your overall PR plan and objectives? Is the ROI on running down a dream hit like that worth the resources you dump into making it happen?

Obviously I’m not suggesting that anyone just give up on these types of story placements. They play a crucial role in a well-rounded PR campaign, they do serve a purpose and can always be considered a success when they show up in an evaluation of a campaign’s effectiveness. What I am saying is that it’s okay to rethink the approach on what should be considered a big win. I feel that a good story with a gaming blogger is worth a great deal, because of the potential for word-of-mouth spread among the blog’s readers and their friends. Many companies overlook bloggers and still haven’t caught up to how effective a good relationship with them can be.

A little bit of planning and thinking can go a long way. So when you’re choosing your targets to go after, and how aggressively to pursue them, always think back to how it will benefit the product and the team working on it. That way, you can avoid having to facepalm later!

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