Even if public relations as a dedicated profession is said to have been born in the 20th century, people have been doing it for centuries and thousands of years, with different tools and methods. The appearance of the internet in the 20th century has certainly been one of the most important discoveries of our age, and lead us to a society where information is the most important commodity. The internet has changed everything, and more than anything it has changed the way people communicate. As PR people dedicate their life to communication, they are the first who need to evolve. Let's take a quick look at this evolution:
Paper has been the medium of choice for the games industry for decades now, and names like PC Gamer or Edge still carry a great deal of prestige with gamers. From magazines to websites, podcasts, blogs, TV shows, and many more, each medium operates in its own way, and before preparing your communication plan, two major questions come should be asked: which media should you focus your efforts on, and how should you work with them?
The obvious answer to the first question is: all of them. Unfortunately, only the largest publishers have the resources and the manpower to reach all media, and most companies have to choose where to focus their efforts. The choice here depends on many different factors. Don't trust the people who will tell you that magazines are the most important medium in our industry, but don't trust those who claim that internet killed all other media either.
The truth is that the choice of media for your communication should mainly depend on your business and audience. If you are selling an online game for a niche market, you should definitely communicate mainly online with very targeted websites. Not only will this strategy create visibility with a well-targeted audience, but having more and more features on various websites will help your site climb up the ladder on search engines, thus driving more and more traffic to your website, and pushing your sales.
On the contrary, if you're selling a broad-public Wii family game, don't expect too much feedback from gaming websites -- aim at TV shows, radios, general papers, etc. All types of media have an important value in their market share, and the evaluation of this value is the key to a successful communication.
Each type of media will operate in a different way, and even within the same category of media, two different publications will have different ways of working. As an example, some print press companies, in order to reduce their costs, have their magazines printed in foreign countries very far away and then shipped back to them, whereas some others, often smaller and more independent, choose to print their publication close to them, and therefore pay more for it but have fresher news to give to the readers.
If you wish to work with the print press, be prepared to plan your communications several months in advance, and know when each particular magazine comes out. If you have negotiated an exclusive cover for the announcement of a new project with a magazine, you'll only be able to communicate it online a couple of weeks following the date where the magazine goes on the shelves. Each PR person has to juggle constantly with deadlines and publishing dates in order to coordinate its own communication well through various media partners.
Although all media partners are different, I think the following rule could be applied to all of them: exclusivity means nothing. A long time ago, when the internet didn't exist, this word had a meaning: the media negotiated an exclusive interview or announcement with a source, in exchange for which they gave more coverage to your product than would normally occur.
Nowadays, if you have an exclusive in a magazine, just wait a couple of minutes before the content of the article is summarized in a blog post and the pages are scanned and posted. "Exclusive" videos are shared on YouTube within seconds, and articles are copied even faster. The only result of exclusives given to a media partner may be the strenghtening of your relations with this partner, at the cost of a reduced audience being able to get information about your game. Sometimes, it can be worth it, but always ask yourself the question: why would you make it harder for people to get information about your game?
The internet has changed everything -- notably, it has opened the doors of "journalism" to the broad public. A century ago, people had to study to be able to write something that would reach the public, whereas now, anybody who can type on a keyboard, is passionate about something, and can write comprehensibly, can be the editor of a blog or a website.
Professional publications feel this change as well: the French bi-monthly publication Canard PC released a special issue about jobs in the games industry in Summer 2006, and among nine editors of the magazine introduced in this issue, only one had a background in communication studies. "Journalism" has changed, has been transformed, and it's probably better this way.
Pierre "Myrdhin", Volunteer Editor at JeuxOnline.info.
Of course, this change sometimes causes trouble, the so-called "journalism ethic" has been forgotten for a long time; grammatical mistakes begin to appear in the pages of the best magazines; media covers games without verifying their sources. But the real change, in the end, is that editors are no longer elites with years of studies and codes to respect -- so much different from the people who read them that they stop being a link with the public.
People working in the media nowadays are passionate people, and their feelings about your game are much closer to what the public could feel than they used to be in the past. This change also allows gaming companies to communicate directly with their public through channels that are not biased by the power of a big media holding, and thus do it more naturally, and more freely.
This is an opinion that may not be accepted by PR people far more experienced than myself, but the fact is that the internet has transformed PR to allow companies to reach their public directly, and this is an amazing opportunity. Why disregard amateur websites on the sole basis that they simply are amateur, even if they can reach hundreds of thousands of people?
This new state of play has probably contributed to the growing importance of community management, a new kind of public relations usually used to work closely with blogs and fansites. As we will see later in this article, good cooperation between community managers and public relations people is now very important for the achievement of a communication operation.