Quick Friday post for prospective (and current) Novy clients. I felt it was time to get back to the topic after a couple game development-centered posts.

In short, picking the right PR firm is CRITICAL for your launch. Of course, having a quality game in the first place is key… but skipping PR activities like targeted pitches, a press release, trailers and screenshots will derail ANY project — be it a strategy masterpiece or the latest “click cow to win” clone.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

(Deep) Understanding of Game Development

Most agencies are filled with casual gamers. It turns out it’s pretty hard to live in 2013 and NOT play games. They’re everywhere: in your Mac or PC, phone, tablet, consoles, portables, you name it. So the chances that someone actually plays games are pretty high. The problem is that they don’t understand development.

If your PR firm doesn’t “get” development, you’ll be in a world of trouble. Getting them to install and play your game will be a nightmare… Communicating with the enthusiast press, virtually ALL hardcore gamers, will be a non-starter. Finally, don’t count on the agency to spot bugs or interface issues – they might not even know what “interface” actually means.

Familiar with Reddit and YouTube Channels

It took me years to mostly understand Reddit. It paid off with a number of successful IAmAs, a better understanding of what’s newsworthy (most journalists look to Reddit for “hot” topics) and even new business/lead generation – a direct result of Novy’s own IAmA. Likewise, YouTube channels are what blogs used to be in 2002: sometimes chaotic, often brilliant, incredibly important in the long run. Nowadays, YouTube channels that focus on indie gaming are ESSENTIAL for PC games and a nice addition to any mobile launch. If a prospective PR firm has no active Reddit users and only visits YouTube to watch cat videos, stay away.

Accountable Human Beings

With Novy, you’ll be dealing with me and/or Jeannie Novak. We are Novy. No one is relegated to the interns… because we don’t have them. That’s not the case with other PR firms. They might sell you the “sizzle” but what you get is a cost-reduced burger instead. Make sure that’s not the case with the always-helpful question: “Who will be my main contact?” In other words “Who is accountable?”

When the person you email/talk to every day is also pitching journalists AND reporting/updating you on coverage, accountability is a very real thing. The opposite is true as well: if you’re dealing with an Account Executive who can blame an intern or his/her own boss, suddenly no one is accountable.

OS Agnostic

Once upon a time, BlackBerry was all the rage. Then touchscreens became cool with the iPhone, which was quickly followed by the testosterone-driven Motorola Droid. Four years later, now we have iPad Mini versus Nexus 7 FHD, iPhone 5 versus Moto X… a war without end.

Your PR firm needs to be able handle both Android and iOS. They can’t take sides. Maybe your game is iOS-only today, but what if you decide to add Android to the mix six months later? Likewise, they need to own both tablets and smartphones. Finally, an understanding of TestFlight is essential. If they don’t know how to install beta builds – or worse, don’t even have an account – go look somewhere else.

The Intangibles: Fun, Creative, Fearless

One phone call is enough. Half an hour on the phone and you’ll get a clear picture of the PR pros on the other end of the line. Are they funny? Up-to-date? Do they understand the idea of the game quickly, or do they need some “ELI5” (Explain Like I’m 5) lecture to get there?

Make sure to discuss both successes and failures. The way someone fails is often more illuminating than the way they succeed. Explore the client-agency relationship, good and bad experiences. Discuss long-term scenarios and “big picture” goals.

If the call is a success, you’ll be in a much better position than someone who requested (and received) a proposal via email. It will also save both of you from never-ending email back-and-forth.

In Closing

Of course we want you to become our client. But if the stars failed to align and you decided look elsewhere, keep these tips in mind. They just might save you a ton of cash – and time – in the long run.