How to Write a Press Release the Right Way
February 28, 2020

You have a game in development, or perhaps you are about to start one, and you are thinking of letting your potential audience know about it. This can be done through a variety of channels, including social media, direct emails, or conferences. However, significant news should be distributed in the form of a press release. Depending on your studio’s capabilities and needs, press releases can be managed by someone on your team or by an outside PR agency…Writing a proper press release is crucial since it increases the odds of being noticed. Your game might even land on some of the large gaming media outlets. Below we will explain what you must keep in mind when working on your press release.

What Information You Should Write About

Generally speaking, your press release should describe interesting, important, or unusual news. Positive things are welcome too. Just don’t write a press release for the sake of a ‘press release’.

Much will depend on the media outlets you are sending the press release to. Gaming websites look for games-related news. You can alert them to huge announcements or even technical requirements. Something niche, like technical updates — unless they solve a major bug — are better left for the store page. Similarly, fan art contests should be announced via social media. It’s best not to bother serious outlets with such updates.

Here are a few examples of good press releases: 

  1. Product Releases
    PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Full Product Release Now Available on Xbox One
  1. Partnerships
    Microsoft and Samsung partner on Xbox cloud-based game streaming
  1. Awards
    Xbox Recognized as 505 as the best game of the year
  1. New Hires
    Playfab Board Elects Joe Smith as Director
  1. Technical Releases
    Xbox Series X release date, specs, design and launch titles for the next Xbox

According to Chris Rosario from HomeRun PR, the big three events to have press releases for are: the announcement, the launch date, and the launch. These are followed by smaller-scale news items, such as trailers or gameplay videos. Updates on things such as awards, conventions, or the hiring of a new 3D artist are more suitable for social media posts.

Choose wisely and consider who you want to share the news with. Ask yourself: “Why is this important?”

How to Organize a Press Release

The structure of your text is highly important as it allows you to present information in a clear way, putting every idea on the shelf and making sure the reader can find what they need easily.

A well-structured press release will consist of several essential parts that detail its newsworthiness and highlight additional information. Generally speaking, your press release must contain a title, a lead paragraph describing the news, game details, contact information, and a press kit with media files. The structure, of course, depends on the type of news you are delivering. Describing the game plot for the 100th time may be redundant.

Here’s what you should include in every press release:

  1. Headline: This is what entices the reader into clicking the article and explains what it will be about. Headlines must be clear and catchy, I use the 4U rule, useful, urgent, unique, ultra-specific, but not too long. 5-8 words should do (although some say you can use up to 18 words). Avoid using metaphors or vague titles since these can confuse the reader. 
  2. Subheadline: This elaborates upon the headline and entices the reader to go further. Subtitles are usually a little longer than titles and their tone can be a bit different since you have already explained the main idea in the headline. Here are a couple of examples: Headline: Modern Warfare Season 2 Content Outlined
    Subhead: Season 2 of Modern Warfare is about to begin with new maps and more.
  3. Date and place: State when and where the press was written. As usual, it goes right before or at the beginning of the first paragraph. Date formatting may vary, so check a corresponding guidebook. Formats can be written “29 January 2020”, “Gainesville, Fla. – Jan. 29, 2020”, or “Amsterdam, January 24, 2020”.
  4. You may also add FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE after the headline so journalists know they can release this information right away. Otherwise, if you want this news to be announced at a later date, add EMBARGOED UNTIL [INSERT DATE].
  5. Introduction: Also called a lead or a grabber. This is the first paragraph of the press release, which details the news. You should list all the most important information here. As usual, it’s best to follow the Five Ws principle, meaning the paragraph must answer five questions: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. For instance, what happened and why it is important. Making the introduction clear and engaging is crucial otherwise the reader might not catch the purpose of the story and may not think it’s worthy of their attention.
  6. Game description: Following the main news, you should describe the game you are writing about. For instance, you can provide plot and gameplay details. Don’t overhype your game calling it “the next WoW killer”. Instead, explain what makes it unique. Keep in mind that this part may be unnecessary if your game is well-known already.
  7. Features list: You can also add various key features to your press releases, such as supported modes or facts and figures. Just don’t duplicate the game description.
  8. Quotes: Quoting team members or a CEO will add some life and an air of authority to your press release. For instance:
    “This collaboration with Skybound will be a good opportunity for Com2uS to expand its influence in the global market and create synergy between the two companies,” said Com2uS CEO Byung Joon Song. “We will continue to work together to create a product that people around the world can enjoy.”
  9. Technical details: Similar to the features list, you could provide a range of technical information. This can include system requirements or supported platforms. It’s better to include these details if it is new information. If not, consider it optional.
  10. Call to action: Usually shortened to CTA, it’s a finishing line that persuades the reader to click the link to the game’s website or store page. 
    1. For more information on Saints Row: IV — Re-Elected on Nintendo Switch head over to www.saintsrow.com.
    2. More info at http://assettocorsa.net/, follow us also on Twitter & Facebook.
    3. For information on GungHo Online Entertainment America, visit www.gunghoonline.com.
  11. About: In this section, you should provide information about the studio, publisher or the game itself (for instance, release dates or awards the game has been nominated for). In addition, you can include a link to the game’s website or store page.
  12. Press kit: Providing journalists with assets is a nice gesture. These can be screenshots, trailers or even GIF files they can use in their articles. This way, game journalists won’t have to bombard you with requests or google these files themselves. Upload the files to a credible file-sharing website and make sure they work. Make it easy for the media representative to obtain media assets.
  13. Contacts: Providing a list of contacts is a must. These can be emails, websites, and social media links. Even a phone number or a physical address can be useful.

RULES

  1. Use common sense when composing a press release. Details are good, but overloading your text with every bit of information on your studio and title may make it an overstuffed mess. Vague and metaphorical titles don’t help either. Journalists are already busy with all the updates coming from every notification, so save them some time and make your text clear. 
  2. Listing essentials like dates or platforms will help them cover the story quickly. A Nintendo reporter won’t be pleased to find out they wasted time on an Xbox news piece.

Check out these press releases to see how it should be done:

Which Style You Should Choose

Both journalists and PR managers agree that a formally-written text is preferable to a creative one. Flamboyant phrases will slow down the reader when they are only looking for the news and facts. This, however, is a stylistic choice and depends on the tone of your product and audience. A serious simulator won’t go well with jokes and punchy lines. As the Airem studio lead said, “Use your creativity in your game.”

Editors of large gaming outlets tend to rewrite the original text and adapt it to their readers. However, small websites may just post the news as they receive it, not bothering to make it comprehensible. Keeping that in mind, be sure your press release is engaging not only for the media but for the community as well.

Every rule has an exception, though. Take Devolver Digital, for instance. Its online streams or news publications are nothing like what other companies do.

“The very back parking lot across the street from the Los Angeles convention center and behind that hooters restaurant – June 10, 2018 – Independent game label Devolver Digital has pulled back the nachos-cheese-stained curtain on a myriad of new games during their 2018 Big Fancy Press Conference ahead of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Introduced by the seemingly indestructible CEO Nina Struthers, Devolver Digital revealed a remaster of From Software’s 2004 mech opus Metal Wolf Chaos, a new look at Gamepires’ supermax survival sim SCUM, and the wildly frantic gun ballet My Friend Pedro.”

The community loves them and their fanciful updates are more than welcome.

How to Make Your Press Release Noticeable

If you want to be noticed by the media, be sure to present the press release in an appealing way. Being newsworthy is not enough.

The headline should contain at least two important markers indicating that it’s worth reading about. These markers can be a famous company’s name (EA, CDPR), a popular title from the past (System Shock), or some sort of announcements, such as a release, a postponement or system specs. A little-known studio with a niche product probably won’t generate much hype. Therefore, the “Indie Devs Announce Cow Milking Simulator” will be overshadowed by “Commandos 2 & Praetorians HD Remasters Out Now on PC”.

The press release is not the only thing you should be concerned with — the email you are sending it with needs to be well-written too. Be sure that the subject explains the purpose of your writing. If a journalist receives an email from an unknown person or company that looks obscure, they may send it to their spam folder.

Don’t use spammy phrases like “Read ASAP” or bombard them with emails if you don’t receive a reply. Stay polite and friendly. Say who you are and what you want from the recipient.

Be sure to work with the structure and make the text readable. If your text (either the email or the press release itself) looks messy and the reader has to struggle through it, they may just abandon it. High-quality assets are a must, especially a bright and intriguing trailer.

Keep in mind that the information you provide may be used differently from what you had in mind. Journalists may highlight completely different facts from your story and not the ones you think should be focused on.

When to Publish and Send Press Releases

Everything comes down to the development stage of your game. PR managers suggest not posting press releases more than once a week. Doing so more often may lead to feature fatigue.

On the other hand, as you approach the day for your launch, you will want your game to be everywhere. Therefore, there are usually more updates during the pre-release stage. You must do it with measure, though.

In the event there are several smaller updates during any given day, they can be combined into one post. Otherwise, this can be considered spamming.

Timing

As to when to schedule your press release, it’s best to avoid Mondays, Fridays, and weekends. As many agree, Monday is just a hard day in general. Plus, it’s the time for all major news outlets to catch up on over-the-weekend updates. So your piece might easily get overshadowed. Friday is the end of the week when PR managers and journalists — and everybody else — are looking forward to going home and getting some rest. Hence, they might skip your email or skim through it without the proper attention.

As for weekends, they are… well, the weekends. People tend to get some detox from the internet and news outlets during this time. However, it’s not always the case as everything depends on the news event. If the item is important, journalists are likely to start working on it right away. Or perhaps there is just nothing else to report on, so they may post your story to fill the gap.

Ideally, you should plan your press release for a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, sometimes during working hours, but what time exactly can vary. For some PR managers, the spot between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. works best. Others say that the time between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. is good for Tuesdays while it’s better to start a bit later — 10-11 a.m. — on Wednesdays. What you should remember, though, is that this should correlate with the local time of your target audience.

Services like Time and Date can help you keep track of time zones

Where to Send Your Press Release

The principle ‘the more, the better’ can be applied here. To reach the widest audience, send your press release to relevant aggregators, major gaming websites, and journalists. Social media and forums can also bring some traffic. Even non-profile or business-oriented websites could do some good if pitched properly.

GamesPress is one of the oldest platforms for publishing press releases. Gaming websites like Gamasutra find news there and distribute it over the web. There are three ways you can submit your press release to GamesPress: by simply emailing them, through joining GamesPress for about £120 a month, or via Games Press hosting services. To make sure your assets or press releases are published, be sure to follow the website’s guidelines.

As for gaming media, aim for giants such as IGN, Polygon, GamesRadar, PCGamer, Kotaku, or Eurogamer, as well as the smaller outlets, including DSOGaming, VG247, Gematsu, or SiliconEra. In fact, there are dozens, if not hundreds of these lesser-known websites. And don’t forget about your local media.

Don’t spam blindly though. If you are working on a PC-only game, it’s no use to contact Nintendo Life. Take into account the platforms and themes they cover. For instance, DSOGaming often publishes tech details.

Apart from hitting the big targets, you should also contact game journalists. Find the ones who write about games or stories similar to yours. Not only might they write news for an affiliate website, but they can also share it with their followers, causing a snowball effect. Getting their emails should be easy enough. Simply check the website they write for or look them up on Twitter. Should your news be worthy enough, they may have already noted it.

This strategy might also work for a notable developer.

Another group of people to reach out to is influencers. These include all kinds of content creators, as well as authoritative developers. Similar to journalists, find the ones who might be interested in your news. Since they tend to have a large number of followers, your press release will catch the eyes of many.

If you have a social media account, whether, on Facebook or Twitter, you can post a link to the press release on your newsfeed. This can then be easily shared by your followers.

Submitting a link to relevant gaming communities can work as well, but it’s more of a job for a community manager. They can drop links to your press releases on popular forums like NeoGAF or Reddit. Keep in mind, spamming can easily get you banned.

Non-gaming portals might not publish your news if it doesn’t fall within their sphere. For instance, sending a trailer of your sci-fi indie platformer to farmers.com would be a waste of time. However, a website can have an entertainment section that will welcome your story. A business-oriented resource may be interested in the business side of your company, such as revenue made or merging. For example, Forbes sometimes publishes video game industry news, but it’s more likely to be about the money that a game has earned as opposed to a cute platformer trailer.

How to Know if Your Press Release is Successful

As is the case with all digital content, you can measure the success of your message by the number of publications that run the story. The more sources that broadcast your message, the more people will be able to hear about you and your game.

Quantity is not the only measure of success since you should also consider the quality of publications. A story on the Polygon website will get you far more views than a post on someone’s blog. Targeted publications could be quite fruitful too. Take a sports game, for example. If it’s spotted by ESPN, with its tremendous 451.6 million MAU, the views would be colossal. Close-knit communities revolving around this specific sport could be a gold mine as well. Hence, one quality placement is worth way more than several mediocre ones.

If, however, your press release turns out to be non-relevant to media users, all the effort will have been in vain. You can smooth the effect by releasing a follow-up email series. In this second wave, try to point out the details that you believe are worthy.

To track your PR campaign success, you could use a spreadsheet, like the one we have compiled here. You can mark down where you distribute your press release and what the results were.

How to Tell a Good Press Release From a Bad One

First of all, we need to understand what a good press release is. A good press release will have all the essential information concerning the news, not leaving journalists’ follow up questions unanswered. 

  1. The news itself must be interesting and up-to-date.
  2. It should also be well-structured and clear, without any vague statements like “best game ever”. There also shouldn’t be any spelling or grammatical errors.
  3. The assets must be attached and be easy to access or open
  4. High-quality assets.

The press release might be quite good, but the missing video can be like a coffee stain on a white shirt.

Overselling your game, starting your email with “Read ASAP”, using vague phrases like “Check Out This Awesome News” or writing everything with your Caps Lock on is in bad taste and won’t do you any good. Remember, out-of-date news isn’t news. No one will read it and you will waste time and money.

Things to Keep in Mind

Here are some quick tips to keep in mind when working on your press release.

  •  Check the text for grammar, spelling, and other mistakes. This will leave the reader with a good impression of you and your company.
  • Find a native speaker to write or proofread the text if you don’t feel confident with your language skills.
  • Make sure the press release is readable.
  •  Use quotes where appropriate. It will make the text more personal and authoritative.
  • Include links and triple-check to make sure they work. 
  • Use URL shorteners to make them look neat.
  • Attach necessary files and make sure the reader won’t have any trouble accessing them.
  • Send different file formats of the document. Some prefer PDF, others DOC.
  • Don’t send emails that consist solely of “Check out our new press release” and an attachment. 
  • Explain why you are writing and what you want the recipient to do with this information.
  • Respect the journalist and give them space. Don’t bombard them with emails or phone calls enquiring about publications.

Conclusion

If you have done everything right, your press release will have a higher chance of success. Be respectful to your reader and share only important information. This will help you get placed in their publications. Remember, higher-quality placements, on big platforms, are much better than several on small-scale websites.

Be sure to follow these steps when working on a press release:

  •     Choose the theme you want to talk about.
  •     Sleep on it to make sure it’s the right fit.
  •     Write a first draft of the press release.
  •     Show it to an editor, if you have one. If not, ask a colleague or a friend. 
  •     Rewrite the press release since first drafts usually need some work.
  •     Make a distribution list and choose the tools you will use to send the press release.

If you don’t succeed this time work on the structure and style, pick themes that matter, and target the right audience.

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