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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!

Earlier this week I fired up my Xbox 360 for the first time in a long while, and noticed that I still hadn’t updated my system with all the new elements of the NXE Dashboard Update. My wife and I wanted to download some TV episodes from the marketplace, and after downloading the new Zune video marketplace I realized something that clicked with me. All the videos I’d ever purchased under my Windows Live ID were there, and I could stream them from the dashboard. No more having to mull over what game demos to delete, no more frantically trying to free up space or ponder upgrading my HDD. It just made perfect sense and I immediately wondered why all of my digital content couldn’t work this way.

Some people resist the shift of game distribution from physical to digital media, and some hate the idea of cloud computing. I say they can’t come soon enough. I recently had a bad experience with a retailer I won’t name (national chain store, not a gaming store) that left me fed up with brick and mortar. I preordered Final Fantasy XIII, thinking I’d get it a day after launch at the latest. What followed was the most infuriating ordeal as my shipment got delayed five times, finally shipping out a month after the game launched. In the meantime, I bought it at a more reliable store to ensure that I’d get it then and there. The entire time I was dealing with customer service for the original store, I kept thinking to myself about how this would never happen if I was just given the option to download the entire game straight to my console.

Another part of digital content I can’t live without is downloadable content (DLC). One of the best games I’ve played in the past 10 years, Fallout 3, had brilliant DLC. And the best part about it was that it was there to download whenever I felt ready for it. And when I finished the main game, I snagged up each installment of the DLC to create a seamless reentry back into The Capitol Wasteland I’d grown to love so much. Lately I’ve grown so spoiled by digital content that I even loathe having to get up and swap discs to play a different game! I’d much rather have all my games on my HDD, ready to switch around on a whim. As a multitasker by nature, if I find a way that allows me to juggle more things in an afternoon more efficiently, I’m all over it.

Brick and mortar stores do have their charm; and some things they provide can’t be replaced. But as I get older, those irreplaceable intangibles mean less to me than the time I save by having things at my fingertips ready to download. I used to love getting preorder bonus swag from the game stores, now I’d prefer them to take it in a digital direction. Yes, I’ll still preorder a game from a traditional retailer if they offered it as a digital voucher. But you can give me my preorder bonus in the form of a digital in-game item or unique mode and I’d be way more receptive. Digital doesn’t have to mean the end of business as we know it; more like a new venue to engage and interact with your customers.

So for someone who’s getting more conscious of his free time, I say streamline my content and make it all digital! No more trips to the store is fine with me. I’ll download a game and that means one less disc to worry about getting lost or damaged. I’ll gladly keep my saved game files and movies on a cloud storage solution; I’m smart enough to backup the data that is important to me if I need to have it on hand. I definitely consider myself to be a gaming purist at heart, but I’m not going to cling onto the old ways, afraid of stepping out into a bold new digital world.

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