At a PR For Games Conference 2006
panel last week titled “Working with Business/Financial Media,” moderator Corey Bridges from The Multiverse Network led a group of business-related journalists in a discussion on improving the relationship between PR representatives and the business media.
The panel of experts included Chris Morris from CNN Money, Ryan Olson of Red Herring, Dean Takahashi of the San Jose Mercury News, and N. Evan Van Zelfden of The Economist.
How To Pitch Stories
In discussing proper pitching methods, Takahashi – who runs a games-related blog on top of his duties at the San Jose Mercury News newspaper proper – detailed the difference between traditional and blog-based media, a popular topic of discussion throughout the entire conference.
"We'll consider a lot of things for the blog that won't go into the newspaper,” he said. “When you pitch for the newspaper, you recognize you're going through a traditional filter.”
He continued: "We're getting more and more of [blog-aimed] pitches; people don't mind if we don't write about it at all in the newspaper as long as we get it in the blog.”
"Try to respect us, because we try to respect you,” added Ryan Olson. “Read the publication. Take a look at the publication and send me a note, and like everyone else here, I'm sure we've all established our relationships with people we trust. Be honest and be open.”
"Our magazine [Red Herring] tries to spend a lot of time focusing on start-ups,” said Olson, discussing which kind of media access he craves, “because it's easy to get access to people in top positions and build a relationship going forward.” Like many on the panel, Olson would prefer to go past marketing ranks and speak to executives.
Reaching Beyond The Hardcore
Another big challenge of more traditional media outlets covering games industry news is the accessibility to an audience that is not primarily games-centric. “When I send stories in, my bosses generally don't know what the hell I'm talking about,” continued Olson. “That's good because I'm forced to work hard and explain, for example, what an MMO is, but at the same time I have to walk the fine line between making it relevant and explaining it for my bosses, and that inherently drags the coverage down a little bit.”
"I have a similar problem,” said CNN's Morris. “One of the frustrating things for me is that I find myself having to be the watchdog for CNN sometimes. When Doom 3
came out, they had someone at Wall Street reporting, and the video roll they showed was Doom
1!" Seguing on from this, the panelists all felt that writing about the games industry requires close affiliation with it, and that traditional journalists are, perhaps, ill-equipped to report on a world that they don't necessarily live in.
"Close-knit relationships are how you get stories,” said Morris. “If you do take a view from sitting high up on your loft, you're not going to get the industry. You're not going to completely understand how it works.” "I think that clearly you have to participate in the industry in order to write about it well,” added Van Zelfden.
Bridging The PR/Journalist Divide
When asked what each of the panelists would like to say to their public relations audience, the panelists responded candidly. "I got an email, two emails, from this company that shall remain nameless, regarding a story I wrote about back in March or April,” said Olson. “The person sent me an email and asked if I was interested in a topic, quoting the story I wrote about months before. Please, please look at the publication,” he repeated from earlier.
"If you see a story come out about something we've written about extensively, don't call us asking to add something in,” said Morris. “That ship has sailed.”
"Come down to San Jose once in a while,” joked Takahashi, “I'm getting tired of driving fifty miles to come to these events in San Francisco.”
"I think that if you want to get print magazine quotes, one of the shortcuts you can do is go for the online version,” said Van Zelfden. “The people you're trying to impress don't know the difference between Business Week and Business Week Online.”
"Remember that still, we're financial reporters, so numbers really help us,” said Morris. “I think EA does a really good job of telling us that, say, The Sims
has sold X millions of units. These are numbers that we can take to our bosses and say 'Look. Big. Good. Let us write.' It doesn't always work, but if we can show them hard numbers that proves the story's relevancy to our audience.”
An audience member concluded the panel by asking the participants for advice to give start-up companies. "I love talking to start-ups,” repeated Olson. “With that being said, there are certain segments of the gaming market that if I hear there's another mobile gaming company, I'm probably not going to give it the same level of attention. So obviously, be sensitive to what the market looks like.”
[Gamasutra will be running an in-depth write-up from the PR For Games Conference every day this week - check back every morning for a new panel write-up and links to the previous coverage.]