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Four Public Relations Lessons Learned From GDC 2013
by Ken Johnston on 04/01/13 08:00:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Another GDC has come and gone in San Francisco and, as the discarded free t-shirts and lanyards are swept into the gutters around Moscone, we’re left wondering what we learned from the epic gaming show. As a mobile gaming PR guy, I contemplate these lessons while running from Moscone to The W so I can get there early enough to elbow my way into a decent meeting spot. As such, here are a few public relations takeaways from GDC 2013.

1.)    Don’t announce any news during GDC

A few years ago, relatively unknown developers could announce some new platform or game during GDC and get some really quality coverage. Unfortunately, those days are probably coming to an end. GDC is awesome for a lot of things but getting press coverage isn’t one of them. When you consider the average writer has probably had every day of the show carved into 15 minute back-to-back chunks since February, you get an idea how awesome you have to be to get enough of their time to cover your news.  If you haven’t given a reporter a heads up to your announcement a week or two ahead of the show, you’re probably not going to be on their radar.

On top of packed journalist schedules, GDC is also drawing bigger companies with bigger budgets and better brands.  Last week, we saw big announcements from everyone from EA to OUYA. Even if there wasn’t a show going on, I’d never recommend trying to get your voice out there when you have so many companies competing for writers’ limited time.

Ironically, two of the biggest stories from last week weren’t even technically stories that companies wanted to push out for GDC. Supercell’s $100 million funding round didn’t really have anything to do with GDC and Brenda Romero’s controversial departure from IGDA was a GDC story, but not one that IGDA wanted.  Bottom line- GDC is too noisy so why fight for media attention?

2.)    Don’t spam the media 

If you’re a GDC sponsor or have a friend who’s a GDC sponsor, chances are you can get your hands on a list of media attending the show. If you get one, you’ll have to hold back on every PR instinct you may have to email everyone you see on that spreadsheet.

Writers have a miraculous sixth sense that tingles every time they sense they’re being spammed.  It annoys them and it makes you look bad. That’s not to say there won’t be some good contacts for you on there that likely want to meet with you. But, unless you’ve discovered a secret document showing that Apple is buying Microsoft to make a Google-Glass-competitor mobile Xbox, not everyone is the right fit for you.

You’ll fare ten times better if you take time to research all the contacts on the list and view it as a good starting point. Google the last three things they wrote about, take time to read what their title is (producer vs. editor vs. freelancer etc..) and contact them accordingly.

3.)     Know your audience at parties and promote yourself accordingly

There really isn’t a silver bullet to get everyone’s attention during GDC If there was, a lot of people like me would be out of a job. However, there are a few pitfalls that are easily avoidable.

If you’re having a party you should understand that, while giving everyone free drinks definitely entitles you to a few minutes of their attention, parties usually aren’t the best place for a pitch. I can’t count how many times I’ve been at GDC party where they cut the music to say a few words about the company. Probably 15 percent of attendees actually listen and about 5 percent retain what was said. If you have displays, signage and employees there-  let them do the talking for you. People who have been at panels all day are coming to your party to network and unwind, not hear more pitches.

On the subject of parties- you should go into planning them knowing exactly what you want out of them and who you want to be there.  If your goal is just to get as many people in the door as possible get a huge band and make it open invite. If your goal is to get a lot of good developers, find a partner with a strong foundation in that community and have them help with invites.  You should also definitely keep in mind what kind of entertainment you want and if that entertainment might offend anyone.

4.)    Choose your meeting spots wisely

This isn’t necessarily a PR-exclusive point but it’s very relevant for PR nonetheless. Say you’ve find a good reporter, you’ve contacted them, and they want to talk to you.  You’ve now got to consider where you’re going to talk to them. An old GDC idiom is try and meet at The W and if that’s too crowded go to St. Regis.

I’d recommend trying to think outside the box a little more when setting up a meeting. There’s plenty of places in downtown San Francisco where you can have a nice quiet interview and not risk running into someone else you’re supposed to meet later or having someone overhear your conversation.

For example, there’s a huge open park with plenty of open benches, tables, and pastures of grass right across the street at Yerba Buena Gardens. Not into the outdoors? Try a hotel lobby a little more off the beaten path like Four Seasons or The Marriot or a local coffee shop like The Grove.

 


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Comments


Matthew Burns
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Very informative article! I think us Indie designers/developers should apply this to all conferences and conventions.

Thanks!

Elisabeth Beinke-Schwartz
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"I canít count how many times Iíve been at GDC party where they cut the music to say a few words about the company. Probably 15 percent of attendees actually listen and about 5 percent retain what was said. If you have displays, signage and employees there- let them do the talking for you."

Environmental storytelling is much more effective than spamming a wall of dialogue at everyone.


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