Keeping Promises: How to Have a Successful E3

E3 2013 was arguably the biggest gaming event in the last five years. The dawn of a new generation of consoles brought with it a bevy of games to every publisher’s booth. With big competition for media attention, you need to be seizing every opportunity you can to stand out and get your game the attention it deserves. Here are a few tips I’ve found useful to help make every moment your finest at E3, based on working at the show the last few years and on the successes of working with the indie horror game Outlast this year.

Have faith. Make promises. When you truly believe in the game you’re representing, you exude confidence. When you’re confident, you start making promises — promises you can keep — such as, “Outlast will scare the s*** out of you.” A lofty statement like that will almost always lead to skepticism, and the natural reaction will be for a journalist to find out for themselves if you’re spewing PR rainbows or the de facto truth. Promises, when kept, have a domino effect. After someone has a positive experience with your demo, your claim can be amplified as they discuss their experience with friends and coworkers, driving more traffic and attention to your booth. By the end of the week, some publications had sent their entire staff to experience the Outlast demo!

Come armed with different stories. A good game will shine on its own – but that doesn’t matter unless the right people see it. Help this happen by painting a bigger picture around the game. Come prepared to suggest and discuss larger stories that will amplify the experience. Consider having discussions about the background of the development team, media or pop culture that influenced the developers, interesting research conducted by the team to offer a realistic or factually accurate experience, etc — many attendees have very little insight into the research that goes into creating a game. Sharing these stories offers an interesting perspective about the developer’s creative process. Some examples of stories we helped to tell this year include:

**The fainting actually happened! An attendee fainted while playing Outlast, and after making sure they were okay, we told one person who told another, who told another, until the story began to spread all throughout the show.

Be aware. Capture reactions as they happen… And share them! If you’re not speaking with someone in any given second, there’s probably someone you should be speaking to. During half-seconds, your eyes and ears should be peeled to what’s happening inside and outside of your booth. New opportunities may present themselves that you want your game to be a part of. For example, one of the bigger stories at this year’s E3 was the concentration of high-quality indie games appearing on next-gen consoles. Email editors you see talking about this or use Twitter to make sure your game is a part of the conversation!

What are people saying about your game after they play? How are people reacting? Capture these using tools like Vine for reactions or Tweet out quotes, tagging the appropriate person. Keeping promises is easy when you’re creating content to prove it.

Timely reminders and follow-ups. Did you speak to a journalist about a story idea that piqued their interest while at the show? No matter how interesting it is, words are easily lost in the hustle and bustle of this hectic show every year. Send a follow-up thanking people for coming by and playing if you haven’t already and rekindle the discussion of any story ideas shared during your E3 meeting the week following E3, or sooner, depending on deadlines.

Who is Your Email Wearing? A Guide to Fashionable Pitching.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from a former convicted felon, Neal Caffrey (on White Collar), it’s that you need to dress the part.

Neal is such a charming guy not just because of his smooth moves or his way with words – it’s the way he presents himself. I’m like Neal. I walk into the office almost every day with a tie and blazer. I consider myself a professional, and to play that role I want to look the part. The beauty of working in a metropolitan office (and not remotely in my PJ’s) is getting facetime with my colleagues, clients and journalists. Impromptu meetings and post-work meetups are pretty common, and with the right duds, can be a welcome surprise.

For me, presentation is key to a proper first impression, and in this day and age of PR, the right outfit is just as crucial as a solid email pitch.

The Subject Line: Stylish Outerwear Makes a Good First Impression

For starters, the subject line of your email matters just as much as the right outerwear. It’s the first thing a person notices, and you can’t really avoid someone making a snap judgment. Like a good subject, a well-fitted jacket or blazer will intrigue people. Of course, don’t over-do it; lead with something attractive, without screaming for attention, to pique their curiosity.

The Body: Everyone Appreciates a Hot “Bod”

It’s time to show off the main portion of your outfit, or in the case of an email, the content of your pitch. Similar to a purple striped shirt and dark jeans, or a maroon v-neck with checkered grey slacks, the core of your outfit should show you put in the effort, an indication you “took the time to care.” The right combination can do wonders, just like the newsy hook that will have a reporter curious to learn more.

The Details: Accessories Add Personality

Go further by accessorizing and personalizing your main attire. A perfectly knotted tie can bring your shirt to a whole new level; a pocket square for your blazer can make you feel classy. Accessories compliment an outfit and add a splash of detail (and confidence). In a pitch, that detail could be some facts to support your claim. However, don’t go on mixing and matching with just any accessory; too much fluff will make your outfit or pitch feel unnatural and forced.

The Call to Action: Wrap It Up With A Nice Pair Of Shoes

Last but not least, shoes. A good pair of shoes can bring your look to another level. If you haven’t acquired a nice pair of monk straps, wingtips, or leather boots, there’s no time like the present! In the wardrobe of your email, shoes are a call to action that gives a reporter a reason to take interest in your story. Find the right pair, and you might just strike gold.

Getting the right pieces can be tough, and assembling them properly is an even bigger challenge. Remember, it’s all about experimentation. I didn’t become a head-turning fashion guru overnight! (Kidding, kidding) But honestly, the same goes for assembling a persuasive email. As you come to understand each element of writing a pitch, you’ll see better results. Keep practicing – eventually you’ll find a sweet spot and build up your own personal style, a voice that’s uniquely “you.”

Photos from SuitSupply and VINSPI 

TPNY: Staying Connected Through Hurricane Sandy

In the tech and digital entertainment industries, late October and early November traditionally mark a particularly busy time, with product launches left and right, and a major scramble to finalize plans and promotions in advance of the looming holiday season. This year, busy East Coasters were slammed with an additional challenge – Hurricane Sandy, dubbed “Frankenstorm” for its agglomeration of several storms and pre-Halloween timing.

With major media coverage of the hurricane’s effects across the country, and especially New York City, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that TriplePoint NYC, with our Silicon Alley-located office (27 West 24th St) struggled to stay connected through the blackouts and other travails caused by the unexpectedly severe storm.

But the city that never sleeps earned that moniker through the dedication of its workers, and the thousands of downtown New Yorkers affected generally found ways to stay connected. Today, with fingers crossed that we won’t have to go through this again, we’d like to share a few of our own stories on Sandy and the blackout week after the storm.

Joe Ziemer, Account Director

“Surviving in Style”

Like my other colleagues living beneath 34th St., I was without power, Internet and cell service throughout Sandy and the week after. However, I wasn’t about to let that stop me from enjoying warm showers and warm meals. That meant long, but worthwhile, morning walks up to midtown to reach powered branches of the Health & Racquet Club and Smith & Wollensky, both of which featured Wi-Fi connections. Figuring that if I could only have one hot meal a day it better be a good one, I’d eat a steak and take a few conference calls before heading over to the gym’s locker room to grab a shower. I wasn’t the only New Yorker “working from bathrobe” that week, and met a number of other execs who were staying connected at the gym – it made for some interesting conversations, and great opportunities to blow off some steam with industry folks on the basketball court.

Samantha Qualls, Account Executive

“Panera Hopping”

I live on the fourth floor of an East Village walkup, avenues away from any water. While my building wasn’t damaged at all, like the rest of Downtown, we lost power Monday evening. With no timeframe for when the lights (and heat AND INTERNET) would be back, a close friend offered me her couch for as long as I needed – so I made my way up to Queens (getting there is a story in itself!). In comparison to Manhattan, Queens was warm, dry and bright. The restaurants were open and grocery stores stocked. The only problem was that my friend’s cable and Internet had been knocked out in the storm.

With client work on deadline and some essential international calls that needed to happen, I had to stay connected. So every morning in Queens I sought Wi-Fi (and LOTS of coffee) at a local Panera. Panera unfortunately limits Internet time (unlimited before 11, only half an hour between 11am 2pm, and unlimited again till 5pm), but, with many displaced workers all stuffed into the same shop, it wasn’t too hard to talk my way into sharing a rare hotspot.

It was amazing to see everyone band together – I will never understand the stereotype of the angry New Yorker because I only saw helping hands deliver warm food, volunteer groups cleaning up destruction and patrons flocking downtown to help bring needed money to business that were forced to close for days.

Zach Fuller, Account Executive

“Crammed Co-working”

Living in midtown there was no real sense of crisis prior to the storm – for example, even at the peak of the bad weather, my roommates and I made an ill-advised trip outside to watch the floodwaters rise over the East Side Highway, hanging on to the fence at the top of a retaining wall while 80 mph gusts threatened to send us tumbling backwards. We sat around with pizza, beer and power, watching football like it was any other Sunday night. It was only the next day that Sandy’s toll came into better focus.

My friends that live downtown frequently chide me for living in a place as “un-hip” as midtown, but such banter was unsurprisingly absent as Monday morning dawned and the first of them came knocking at the door looking for a warm shower and the exceedingly rare powered outlet. As the week progressed and power below midtown remained an exotic commodity, the population of our little apartment swelled from its usual three to six at night, and even more throughout the day.

Each morning the sleeping bags and air mattresses were put away for the day, replaced by a tangled web of power strips stretched in every direction as our living room transformed into an impromptu little co-working space. It was crowded and not terribly comfortable, but in between bemoaning the lack of dual monitor productivity, terse calls with IT as VPN servers crashed and chuckling as Chris Christie rescheduled Halloween, we all grew a little closer. While it’s a bit sad that it takes a disaster to remind us to slow down and appreciate the incredible people in our lives, I think we made the best of it.

Stephanie Palermo, Account Executive

“Library Living”

The Eye of the Beast had its sights set on every single part of New York – and living in a coastal town in Long Island, we were hit hard.  I had to be resourceful to keep up with the rest of my team and clients. With no power, I set out each day traveling a several-mile radius hunting for any open business, questing for the coveted Holy WiFi. Store entrances were sandbagged and some still have not reopened as I write this.

Spotty, intermittent cell phone service allowed me to send several updates and information about my projects to a teammate who had power and was covering my responsibilities until I could get settled. But to do even that I needed a powered cell phone and that meant charging at any outlet I could get to – at the police station and even my local favorite fried chicken joint.

Finally a week later, the cup runneth over with WiFi when the library was up and running and offering residents to charge all electronics and use their WiFi. I didn’t have access to my desktop computer, so I purchased a new, emergency laptop, headed to the library, and was back in business.  Commiserating with fellow neighbors at the library was certainly a highlight, as people also working hard there to catch up with work gathered ’round, chatted and were all more than willing to offer a helping hand (after business hours, of course!) by providing things for each other such as food, clothes or clean-up help to those that needed it.

TriplePoint Long Island stands strong!

Sam Dalsimer, Account Director


While many of us lost power or more in the storm, a few of us remained largely unaffected aside from the need to work from home while the office’s power was down. My neighborhood (East Harlem) sustained little damage, although the gas station near me continues to have long lines and a constant police presence sitting outside as gas rationing continues. I stocked up on canned goods, bought new flashlights, filled every pot in the house with fresh water just in case, but never needed any of it.

Those of us whose power and internet remained online hosted friends who were evacuated and helped ensure that other colleagues were able to get updates out to press and clients alike.

At the end of the storm we were left feeling somewhat guilty to be so fortunate while so many others in our city were in the dark or worse. It was a huge help to have a few of us operating from powered home bases to keep connected with our NY coworkers, West coast office, and clients around the world.


Imitation, Hoaxes, and Halo

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We don’t feel especially flattered, in this instance, though – you may have seen a hoax circulating recently, suggesting TriplePoint is a part of the Halo 4 review campaign, and making unprofessional demands of journalists.

We don’t represent Halo, nor do we represent Microsoft, and nobody named “Terry Graves” has ever worked at TriplePoint, either now or at any time in the past. The image of the letter, allegedly sent from our offices, demanding that reporters award Halo 4 a certain score, is a fabrication. It’s not even a very good one – reporters can only reach us between 9-5? C’mon.

Kudos and thanks to all of our friends in the industry who immediately spotted this hoax for what it was, and for having our backs. We’re looking forward to playing Halo 4 along with everyone else.

Surviving E3 2012

Whether or not E3 is still the games industry’s foremost gathering, or whether that honor has been usurped by shows like GDC or PAX, one thing about E3 remains true every year: It’s nuts. Whether you’re an exhibitor or a reporter, you can expect to run yourself ragged, staying on your feet for hours on end, scrambling to meet your various appointments while trying to wedge in just one more meeting in between the big presentations. Then, you’ll try to see just how much socializing you can do while trying to finish the rest of your workload that evening — assuming the Wi-Fi works in your hotel room — and convince yourself that 4 hours of sleep will be enough to let you get up and do it all again the next day.

This pattern of self-inflicted abuse is true for most conventions and expos, of course, but the brutal traffic of Los Angeles and the mainstream appeal of the biggest names in gaming makes E3 especially trying for even the most seasoned attendee. Thankfully, your friends at TriplePoint are here with another helpful set of tips and reminders to help ease the pain of next week’s quagmire. Continue reading Surviving E3 2012

PR Tips for App Developers

Which icon stands out in this sea of apps?

The secret to a successful app is a combination of factors, some of which you can control, others you can’t. In order to do well in the oversaturated app marketplace it’s essential to put yourself in the best possible position for success. App success starts with a great idea, it hinges on execution during development, and it is largely influenced by PR, marketing, timing, and luck.

Of those factors, PR is one that you can control. PR for apps is about how you present the product to the public, garner media coverage, and build users and awareness through proactive outreach. Here are 5 tips to help your PR effort.

Continue reading PR Tips for App Developers

Bourbon Cupcakes, BBQ, and a Sense of Community at the East Coast Game Conference

Two weeks ago, hundreds of game industry professionals and industry hopefuls gathered for the fourth installment of East Coast Game Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. While the southeast doesn’t quite have the bustling industry reputation of San Francisco or Los Angeles, attendees didn’t seem to mind in the least. That a show planned almost entirely by a board that has separate full-time jobs, competing with giant expos that bring in 30 to 70 thousand people, continues to thrive says a lot about the industry today.

The expo hall, much like the show’s attendees, featured a unique split of well-established companies (Insomniac, Funcom, Red Storm), growing independent developers (Spark Plug Games, Mighty Rabbit), and industry-focused businesses, all rubbing elbows as they showed off their work and wares. Panels and presentation topics ranged from business to mobile and social gaming, along with a standalone track led by the region’s most recognizable name: Epic Games.

Of these varied panels, one in particular provided some helpful insights into the continually evolving relationship between consumers, journalists, and public relations in the gaming industry. Within trappings of bourbon cupcakes and actual bourbon, covered to great effect by Kotaku’s esteemed Mike Fahey here, editors from Polygon, The Escapist, Kotaku, and IGN spent an hour going over some of the tougher ethical questions they face in their work.

At the end of the final day, as the expo hall closed and the last panels wrapped up, the unique spirit of the NC Triangle’s gaming industry became a bit more apparent. Attendees lingered and chatted as they broke down their booths, some helping others as they packed up to head home and very few seeming in a huge rush to leave.

While it’s true that hubs like SF and LA lead the industry in size, there’s a lesson to be learned in the continued success of the ECGC. No matter how competitive the space gets, or how much worry goes into predicting the future landscape, we’re all in this together in the end.

Oh, and one more extremely important takeaway from the show: bourbon before noon can be dangerous. Drink responsibly, and preferably a bit later in the day. Cupcakes optional.

Why Isn’t Instagram at Least as Evil as Zynga?

Instagram selling for $1 billion dollars generated surprise, and envy.

Perhaps people can understand a strategic rationale for Facebook buying it, or competitive impulse, but the befuddlement remains.  You can hear the suppressed snicker coming from the mainstream business prairie: they weren’t making money, but hey, for the team itself, hooray!  Everyone agrees they’re really nice young men, who network and took risks.  They are poster boys for the Stanford-Silicon Valley axis.

Would people feel the same way about Instagram as a company if they did make money from their users?

They could insert an ad, spam your friends, or give you a premium upgrade only if you filled out a survey. They would share in Zynga’s original sin. There are other reasons Zynga may or may not be evil — options cancellations, labor practices and the like — but it is unlikely these are abnormal and surely the case that they are examined intensely only in the wake of their basic game philosophy of, and success from, compulsion loop design.  “Copying” is the other charge, but widespread in the industry, and goes back to the dawn of video game time.

Imagine an alternate history where Zynga relied on the capital markets instead of their user base to monetize. Imagine they sold for $1 billion just on the promise of how a user base could be monetized rather than how they actually did monetize. Zynga monetizes now, Instagram monetizes later, and by a different corporate entity.  Anyone that believes “Zynga is evil” must also hold that the corporate shower of riches on Instagram is even more nefarious. Their user base was “hooked” on beauty instead of compulsion loops, only to be revealed ultimately as corporate assets, passively awaiting their harvesting by Facebook.

When Shay Pierce of OMGPOP turned down the offer to join Zynga, he went out in a blaze of Gamasutra glory.  He warned:

When an entity exists in an ecosystem, and acts within that ecosystem in a way that is short-sighted, behaving in a way that is actively destructive to the healthy functioning of that ecosystem and the other entities in it (including, in the long term, themselves) — yes, I believe that that is evil. And I believe that Zynga does exactly that.

A “good” company is one which provides goods or services of real value in exchange for a fair price. A good game company recognizes that its developers are the ones who create that value, and treats them as valuable, especially if they are good at what they do. It follows practices that are sustainable. And it ensures that, at the end of the day, the world is a little better for having their goods and services.

An evil company is trying to get rich quick, and has no regard for the harm they’re doing along the way. It’s not making things of value, it’s chasing a gold rush.

This evil company moving fast on an acquisition was taking very normal preventative steps for their intellectual property. But the game Shay made and “loves,” Connectrode, was in jeopardy, or so he thought.  A game whose video is self-described as an “Addictive” “evolution” of Bejewelled, Mario, and so forth.  In other words, Zynga, just not as successful.  Even the art form of the haughty public resignation letter was an iteration on something that had been just been done two weeks before.

What are the PR lessons from the respective public responses to the startling ascendancy of these two different companies?  The strategy for public positioning of companies needs to take two powerful psychological biases into effect: anchoring and confirmation. One creator of addictive iterative games calls Zynga evil and it is uncritically accepted and propagated. NimbleBit’s Tiny Tower rips off Corporation Inc. only to have Zynga do the same to them, but is lauded for their sarcastic lob.

While a private company, Zynga was transparent to the point of being cavalier about their culture, aims, and monetization.  That could have originated out of Silicon Valley philosophy, carelessness, or speed.  Whatever the reason, no effective or persistent defense was made about the value that they were bringing to bear.  The fact of the matter is, Zynga games are fun too: objectively so.  Fun in the very elemental sense.  They are friendly, brightly colored, and not too taxing.

Is this worse than any other form of consumer entertainment product that isn’t a labored indie film?  “Gamerz” protest too much and play these games in bespoke fashion. Yup we’re just doing it for research. For our kids. To see what’s happening in the industry.  Let me see just how stupid…level 10 is.

Cow Clicker is a nice shot at Farmville — it’s also a shot at Skyrim?

Skyrim is so much higher quality but, quick, what is the literary quality of these place names: Eastmarch, White Run, Dragon Bridge, Winterhold.  Quality is a difference of degree rather than type. In each game you customize, click, and level up, with a different number of dimensions and more bloodshed than in Castleville.  Obsessed with communicating their corporate growth, Zynga never made it OK to like or admire their games as a product.  The financial prospects Zynga demonstrated saved the game industry from a normal console transition downturn.  There is no Kabam, Kixeye, Funzio, Crowdstar, and so on without Zynga.

Don’t flash your headlights in urban areas.  Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet.  Zynga is evil.  People look uncritically for confirmation of their beliefs.

Take two casual photographs: Mark Pincus is photographed in Vanity Fair, lord of all he surveys, from his condo.  He’s already rich.

The most smug photo I can find of the Instagram guys is still that they’re jus’ brogrammers, in some class B office space, maybe fresh from hacking:

We can not help but interpret these photos with information we already know.  Imagine the positions were reversed: the above photograph was of a photo filter CEO.  Beautiful city, shaded to orange.  Below, the punk manipulators of lonely middle America.  Don’t the smiles look a bit more cocky, the office more ominously clinical?

The lessons between Instagram and Zynga, both dazzling and great companies with different public perceptions:

1) Companies should zealousy discuss the value they are bringing to the world.  Discuss the vision that inspires the product line, not just the anecdote behind the corporate name (though that humanization is probably Zynga’s most effective consumer media message.)  Failure to do so opens interpretation to lowest common denominator possibilities – you’re just in it for the money.

2) Companies — but more particularly, the people creating them — should not talk about the financial benefits they have subsequently reaped or were going to reap.  Descriptions that someone is now “rich” are hard to latch onto, be envious of and tear apart.  Specific dollar figures are easy to.  (See any public executive officer compensation report.)  Rare is the response of a Paul Graham to any quantification of income inequality.  This works in reverse too. Simply saying one is charitable has minimal effect.  Giving away half of your income is tangible: even if you’re not giving it to old Skype employees.

3) Transparency is only effective if complete, and properly segmented. There is no such thing as complete information. If your transparency is simply “shocking revelation” (or even tongue-in-cheek revelation, or whimsical attention-getting revelation) it will be pulled out of context.  Zynga was transparent, Instagram was not but Zynga didn’t win any points from the blogosphere or the professional community for it.  When in conversations you need to know the motivations of the reporter (/analyst/blogger/customer.)

4) When monetizing something that had previously been free (or uncluttered), you have perilous waters ahead.  Success with many customers will mean failure with others.  You may risk backlash.  Proper messaging about the changes need to be done in advance, not in response.

Communications plans should incorporate strategies for success as well as failure. Aim for transparency but support it with a clear narrative.  Journalists start out wanting to like you. They want to see a company succeed; to talk about the transformations made possible by technology, and see the local kid do good.  Zynga was once that kid, just like David Morin’s might be today – and at a crossroads. Are they a visionary networker or cynical monetizer?

 “A few weeks before f8, Morin had coffee with Mark Pincus, the erstwhile founder of, co-owner of the sixdegrees social networking patent, and early investor in Facebook.  Pincus told Morin excitedly that he intended to build a poker application for the new platform.  “It won’t work,” Morin asserted dourly.  “Games aren’t viral.” Pincus went ahead and launched Texas HoldEm Poker on Facebook, starting a company called Zynga, which was headed for huge success.” –David Kirkpatrick, The Facebook Effect

When pushed, most entrepreneurs will confess their jealousy for this early insight. It is easier to discount the visionary as evil, that they are somehow winning through unfair play. “Zynga is evil” might be the Phiten necklace of the videogame industry: Something objectively not especially true but a (consoling) motivator, at least until the Zynga buyout offer comes around.



Should Gaming News Report on Anders Behring Breivik?

On July 22, 2011, Anders Behrig Breivik killed 77 people in a horrific tragedy in Norway.  Within a day, game-centric journalism sites and blogs began covering stories about the killer because Breivik wrote a 1500 page manifesto that included recommendations on using Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as training for an inevitable war with Islam.  He also discussed using an obsession with World of Warcraft as a cover – saying you couldn’t answer your phone because “you were busy raiding” isn’t likely to invite any questions.  “If you’re planning requires you to travel, say that you are visiting one of your WoW friends,” Breivik writes, “or better yet, a girl from your ‘guild’ (who lives in another country). No further questions will be raised if you present these arguments.”

Violent events have been linked to videogames countless times in the mainstream media, usually to the dismay of gaming journalists.  While some have strong connections, such as Breivik explicitly saying he used Modern Warfare 2 to train, others have much more tenuous connections, like when the Denver Post claimed the Columbine school shooting was caused by parents revoking the shooters’ videogame rights.

Continue reading Should Gaming News Report on Anders Behring Breivik?

Social Media in 2012: You’d Better Start Swimming

In the past few years, so much has changed for social media that little of our quaint old landscape remains at all anymore – at least, not as it once was.

Now it’s spread to encompass much, MUCH more than a few social networks. Social media affects every corner of the media landscape – traditional press outlets just as much as blogs.

Spilling Over

And that’s only a small piece of the social explosion – tech companies, web, mobile and app developers, be forewarned. The new generation of consumers is not nearly as interested in new technologies as the last. Forget confusing, varied user interfaces – there is no learning curve for platforms and programs today’s consumer already knows. Free social services with unlimited content, like for a case-in-point example, YouTube…

Teens today would rather use YouTube for music discovery than apps like Pandora or Spotify – even more than the almighty iTunes itself.

It’s all traced straight back to social media and the implications go on for days… If you don’t understand how teens (and other mainstream consumer demographics) are using social media, then you will have a hard time succeeding in web-based business at all anymore. Why? Because it’s no longer just a matter of reaching – or even engaging – fans in social media.

The whole social industry has forced its way to the top of a virtual landscape that once didn’t exist.

Now What?

Now, not using social media to its full potential is a silly missed opportunity. Not realizing you need help is a leading cause of brand drama. (Okay, that was a made up fact, but probably still true.)

Social media is about reaching your most important audiences with messages that SCREAM genuine, relatable thought leadership.

For some, “doing” social media is obvious. But for others – the ones balancing budgets and doling out dollars – the question is all about measuring results. What metrics and analytics are representative of a successful, data-driven social strategy? Answering that is a mountainous task. There is no one right answer. Social media isn’t just about what you do, it’s about how you do it.

Numbers Game

From the PR agency perspective, we’re entering an exciting (and somewhat scary) new era of measurement. Ours is an esoteric craft with typically intangible – though highly influential – results.

Until now, advertisers had their CPPs and CPMs… Web marketers had their affiliate links and traffic analytics… And then we PR folk came in and guaranteed little to nothing numerical… Awkward.

TriplePoint long ago realized the need for SEO driven websites and blogs. We’ve built a system with more measurability than ever for press release distribution, website referrals, measuring influence and sharing information internally. If you’re wondering what any of that has to do with social media – it’s everything.

Now, we can implement these same strategies for social media – marketing and promoting our clients more effectively, and finally having hard, measurable data and results – proof of pass or fail.

Double Trouble

If the next (ahem, current) generation of online consumers gets their news and multimedia through social networks instead of through traditional media… Well then welcome to comboville, because now (and for the foreseeable future), you have no choice but to “do social” and PR. “Old school” generations aren’t going to stop reading USA Today anytime soon, you know.

For more info on TriplePoint‘s social media and content creation services, please contact pr (at) triplepointpr (dot) com.

Come for the food, stay for the games—an interview with Joystiq Editor-in-Chief Ludwig Kietzmann

While the concept of “media relations” is just one of many key aspects within the world of PR, it is undoubtedly a more crucial component. However, in all our time speaking with journalists and setting up interviews, we seldom get the chance to really question those editors back in a formal Q & A of our own. After agreeing to an interview because he’d “love to inflict transcription on someone,” I had the chance to catch up with Joystiq Editor-in-Chief Ludwig Kietzmann over a San Franciscan brunch where, between delicious cinnamon French toast bites, we discussed his views on where the games industry is going and how PR pros can get his attention. And one more thing, journalists, this transcription thing you all do—I tip my hat off to you.

David: Thank you for taking the time to chat, I’m sure you’re very busy. You are busy, right?
Ludwig: Umm…I don’t think I have anything to do today. I was going to do my laundry; I probably wanted to clean my apartment.

D: Were you going to do anything with the website at all?
L: What website? Oh crap, that thing… I better go.

D: Well first off, you’re brand new to San Francisco in a sense. You’ve been here how long now?
L: Well I’ve been here multiple times through 6 or 7 years, I usually cover GDC, so I’m familiar with the city but this is my first time living in it. I’ve been living here for about two months and, in one of those months, in the apartment that I’m going to stay in forever.

D: Forever? Sounds like you’ve staked out your district, very cool. Why San Francisco? You came all the way from South Africa, you could have went to New York.
L: I could have. I could have gone to any place in the middle of U.S—Chicago. I could have gone to Las Vegas or Miami. San Francisco seems like the obvious choice because it’s really the industry hot bed. I mean I think there’s a lot of contacts here, a lot of events, a lot of coworkers… oh yeah Dave Hinkle – he works here, it’s nice to have some back up for him rather than have him cover everything.

D: Dave Hinkle… I don’t know about that guy sometimes [laughs].
L: I don’t know, I’m getting to know him for the first time now [laughs], and in close proximity. But like I said, it makes sense to me. We needed someone to cover the news cycle in this time zone because we try to have this side updated throughout most of the day. It slows down obviously when everyone goes to sleep, that’s really convenient. And the city, it’s one of my favorite cities in the U.S. Of all the major cities I’ve visited, I really like this one. I like the weather. I like the architecture, the very nature of the neighborhoods.

D: You’ve been in this… game, as it were, for quite a long time. What are some of the favorite types of games you like to review? What are your favorite genres, if you had to pick a few?
L: I like a lot of genres. I wouldn’t specifically lock myself down to specific stuff because, usually, I’ll be interested in certain aspects of all kinds of games. I find it that the games that are most fun to review are the ones that are sort of middle-of-the-road. We could sit down and write a dashing review like, “Oh my God this game is amazing. It blew my mind, it blew all parts of my body, I can’t believe that the amazing stuff of this game is almost perfect.” Or the game was like, you slam it because you hated it, you hated everything about the game. Those kinds of reviews come out really easily but the ones that are, you know, a little bit more mixed, you really have to think about what you’re going to say. How are you going to convey what’s good and what’s bad about it, sort of give the game a fair chance to be judged whether or not it was successful or what it wanted to do. Those games are the most interesting to review, and those are usually my favorite games—ones that are bold but imperfect.D: What is it that you would want to see more of from developers and publishers, from a journalistic standpoint? What can they do to help you guys do your job? And also from the development side, is there anything that you would like to see that hasn’t been done yet or something that you don’t see enough of?
L: If they want to make my job easier, they would let down some of the barriers. There are many channels you need to go through, which are very regulated and strict and slow. Giving us the access to games and inviting us to studios, showing us how the game is made—we don’t necessarily have to write about everything, we aren’t looking for every single little detail to throw on our front page—we want context and see how a game is shaping up; it increases our understanding of the game. That’s how Hollywood works; Hollywood doesn’t keep quiet about certain aspects of the movie. Like “we can’t tell you who is the actor, we know who it is, but we aren’t going to announce it until two weeks before the movie comes out.” That never happens with Hollywood. They are excited to talk about their movie. I want game development to be like that, more open so that we can see stories that are interesting, have some more transparency so that we can spot those things and write about them and aid the profile of the game; I think that’s a win-win scenario.

As for development, I think the biggest danger facing popular big-budget games right now is that it’s sort of designed by a committee. I feel like there are so many factors that need to be considered in terms of budget, and reach, and satisfying the audience. Studios are almost too terrified to try things that might rub ten percent of the players the wrong way. What may have been an interesting idea gets watered down because there is a need to placate everyone. That pipeline of game design which goes through a bunch of people who test the game and make sure that everyone will be happy with it—that makes a good game, it makes for a good game design, it’s important but you could really stomp some of your passionate ideas flat though. You lose out on spikes, and I think games with spikes that maybe rub you the wrong way sometimes will make you feel some kind of emotions whether it’s frustration or elation. That’s something that you lose when you smooth it all out and put it on a nice curve. Those games are valuable, but I think that the expensive crazy ideas are something that will eventually lose. We’ll see [crazy ideas] in indie games…

D: Definitely. There’s been a huge surge of those in the last couple of years. We’ve seen Limbo, Braid, we have Fez coming out, there’s a lot of creativity out there from a lot of developers that aren’t afraid to try things because they don’t have that high budget. They also don’t have those fans.
L: Exactly. The only studios that maybe don’t get enough credit for making crazy big budget games are some of the Sony studios, like The Last Guardian and Shadow of the Colossus. Those are unusual ideas to be spending a ton of money on. Mass Effect, I think, deserves more credit because they are spending a lot of money…

D: Are you saying they don’t get enough already [laughs]?
L: They are spending a lot of money on things that players might have not even seen. That is the most impractical kind of game design that there is. I would be very surprised if we kept seeing games like Mass Effect, like especially to that scale. Ubisoft Montreal, honestly, they do a lot of sequels but one of their games is a historical action game with multiplayer. You know, Assassin’s Creed. Yes, it’s a popular franchise but, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a very unusual concept and they went with it and that is something to be celebrated.D: Tell me, what is the most outrageous pitch you’ve ever received? There’s got to be one out there.
L: You know, there was one recently where someone pitched us interviewing Vern Troyer because he’s a gamer, he can totally talk about games—he has opinions about games, “wouldn’t that be fun to talk about on Joystiq dot com?”

D: So does Ice-T!
L: Right, so does everyone who’s played a game. But because they’re a celebrity now it becomes a pitchable thing.

D: But he is probably the shortest person you might have interviewed.
L: Oh, you know, I should have gotten him because I definitely want to interview someone who is shorter than I am. For once.

D: Where is the game industry headed right now? There’s been a lot of news lately, what are some of the trends that you’re seeing? How do you think gaming will evolve as an industry within the next 5 years?
L: Umm, I think better graphics—I’m kidding. Better algorithms, cooler AI… no, kidding. What’s going to happen I think is that we’ll see a lot more established franchises transition into venues that you don’t normally associate them with, like iPhone—which is a super wide platform—free-to-play stuff, casual-oriented stuff… you’ll see that happening because I think the elephant in the room of the game industry, as it were, is that there are way too many games and you run into the point where there’s a limited pool of resources from your customers that only have X number of hours and X number of dollars in their bank account. Whenever someone buys a sixty dollar game it means they’re not buying the four other games that came out on the same day, and that just isn’t sustainable. And that’s why you’re seeing studios going under, like Bizarre and Black Rock Studio, because that sort of system is rejecting them even though they still have good products and the critical acclaim is there, and even sometimes the marketing is there yet it doesn’t work because you’re just dealing with limited resources.

D: And too many choices.
L: And that’s the problem, the industry is sort of almost over-delivering for the needs of the players and if they could just scale back—not necessarily the ideas—but just scale back in terms of the quantity of games they put out and that some executive approves, because they think it’s a hole that needs to be filled in the market… that’s the problem, that’s why platforms like iPhone are ultra-wide and easily accessible to many people who are more supportive of more games. I don’t think you’ll ever lose hardcore games because the people who make them want to make those kinds of games, you know, just as a creative impulse.

D: So for the PR pros out there, what kinds of subject lines get your attention? Is my “all caps and lots of exclamation points” system not working out for you?
L: [laughs] So, here’s an important thing—and you’ll be surprised that this does not always happen—having a game title in the subject line. I need to know that I’m reading about a game, I need to know that immediately. I think subject lines that are tailored to me, and by people who understand what Joystiq usually covers, that’s how you’ll get our attention. We get a lot of headlines and stuff, or emails and pitches, of things that if someone had read [Joystiq] they would know that we would never write about it.

D: Any examples that you can think of off the top of your head?
L: Like movies, I get stuff about movie stars being in town and if I’d like to interview them and I’m like “well no,” obviously, because we don’t do that. We have a hardcore focus on Joystiq so I think that should guide pitches coming in. Having a prior connection with a public relations person also helps a lot, don’t just kick down my door with a pitch immediately, introduce yourself and tell me who you are and what kinds of games your company is dealing with…

D: You mean, have manners and be proper?
L: Right! And set some sort of context before you blast some email at me, if I know people I’m looking out for emails from them and I know what they represent and what they’re interested in; that’s really valuable. And if you’re wacky, just make sure that you’re not so wacky to the point where it becomes hard to decipher any information from your email.

D: Well that’s about it, thanks for your time! Anything else you’d like to add?
L: Be optimistic! Exclamation point!

Marketing at SXSW: Go Big Or… Don’t?

This was my second year attending Austin’s SXSW Interactive and I’m surprised to say that I was quite blown away with the growth in attendees and content, even from just one-year prior. There was something for everyone: Nike+ court to get your slam-dunk on? Done. Free BBQ Tacos with wet wipes and antacid accompaniments? Easy. A chance to smash guitars with The Office’s Rainn Wilson? Of course!

The “I’m impressed!” neurotransmitters are stimulated to exhaustion and you still keep coming back for more- wanting bigger, better, shinier, free-er things (meanwhile causing increased use of neolexia). No doubt these big flashy exhibits and parties may momentarily grab your attention, but, to be honest, it was the low-budget marketing, random acts of kindness, and the truly personal touches that left the lasting mark for me. Here are a few of the companies that left a positive impression on me without having to throw down lavishly.

  • AT&T: You’re short one important email, or Foursquare badge to be earned, when you notice a blinking red battery…<gasp> and it’s only noon! We’ve all been in this terrifying 21st century situation. Thanks to AT&T this year, you didn’t have to be – the company offered free cell phone charging stations in guarded lockers. Now that’s some bang for your (marketing dollar) buck!
  • Uber: While they already have a rapidly growing and loyal fan club, it wasn’t Uber’s clever SXSW on demand BBQ that got my attention, it was the team’s generosity. As the happening house party came to an end, our TriplePoint group had a realization – we are far away from anything, it’s raining cats and dogs, and the place is overflowing with people (aka cab-hunting competition). Just as we were about to lose hope, our newly befriended crew from Uber swooped in like a team of Robin Hoods, giving us a ride back to civilization… and winning my business.
  • ToutApp: Tout pulled the best marketing move of all: a product that is actually useful. While SXSW was the beta-testing ground for all manner of apps focused on sales and networking, Tout’s iPhone app shone because it’s as powerful and ubiquitous as email itself. The company recently did a blog post on how Tout can replace business cards (go green!), but it doesn’t have to. Even with traditional business cards, using Tout can dramatically speed up sending and following up on emails. The service is much more than an iPhone app – even if you don’t have an iOS device, Tout offers tight integration with Gmail, SalesForce, and other email clients and CRMs.
  • Netbase: Ice cream cart and t-shirts proclaiming, “We know what women want” (which apparently is ice cream)… in order to promote their product and panel session the following day. Now they have grabbed the attention of both men and women. For a Ben & Jerry’s sampling, of course I’ll tell you what I want. Good move, Netbase.
  • (Honorable mention, but disqualified due to large Google budget) Schemer: (Which I didn’t realize WAS Google until after-the-fact…very clever), had me remembering their name by giving me a mustache. Computer program connected to a small Polaroid printer and voila! – Shockingly realistic image of me with a ‘stache (probably not unlike what my dad looked like in the 70s). Potentially regretfully attaching below.

All in all, no matter the size of your budget you don’t need to feel overshadowed by the Fortune 100 throwing down the (thousands of) Benjamins… Hire well and be creative and you’ll still come out on top.



5 Productivity Tools for PR Pros

It’s no secret that today’s PR pro faces substantial challenges. The advent of social networking and the continued proliferation of blogging have proven highly (warning, buzzword!) disruptive to the field, creating countless new influencers in virtually every industry. What’s more, influence is increasingly determined not by the publication one writes for but the ability to share and promote content through social media… thus influencers may “live” on any number of different platforms.

In essence, while an article in the New York Times is almost always valuable, true awareness is more likely to be driven by a critical mass of buzz from specialized, focused blogs (enthusiasts) and linking and discussion via social media.

Tasked with generating this buzz, the onus is on PR to filter through immense amounts of information and decide who to talk to and how. But with new influencers and ways to communicate popping up daily, as well as an unforgiving 24/7 news cycle, this is no simple task. The effective flack must be a lightning bolt of efficiency.

Luckily we no longer have to rely solely on cavernous cups of coffee to give us the edge we need. An ever-expanding internet may bring new challenges, sure, but also tools that allow us to be quicker and smarter than ever. Below are 5 of those tools I love for their ability to help me do more with less time:

Continue reading 5 Productivity Tools for PR Pros

Being Intentional About Your Message

I’m reading through the Hunger Games series right now because, at this point, how could you not? In the ninth chapter of the first book, main character Katniss has just been chosen as a tribute, or contestant, in the annual Hunger Games where members from each district fight to the death. The Games are held each year by the Capitol, the presiding ruling class of Panem, to keep the lower-class citizens in check and assert their power. Wait a minute: is this a metaphor for Corporate America? Is every company competing in their own twisted version of the Hunger Games?

In the book, tributes go through a beauty pageant-like contest before entering the battlefield to win the favor of Capitol sponsors, who can send gifts during the Games to assist in the competition. But as she prepares for her first public speaking appearance, it becomes wildly clear: Katniss Everdeen has a PR problem.

“I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to present you. Are you going to be charming? Aloof? Fierce? So far, you’re shining like a star. You volunteered to save your sister. Cinna made you look unforgettable. You’ve got the top training score. People are intrigued, but no one knows who you are. The impression you make tomorrow will decide exactly what I can get you in terms of sponsors,” says [advisor] Haymitch.

How Katniss positions herself at the beginning will affect how much sponsors will give her throughout the competition. Though she might be technically skilled, people still want an image they can easily connect with. For startups, the same advice applies.

Even though your startup’s product might be amazing, how you position your company can greatly impact the attention you receive from investors, especially if you’re eyeing that grand prize: an exit. To go even further, imagine how much more of an impact you make when your position is pre-meditated and intentional. It means that much more to your company in shaping its identity, and it means a whole lot more to your audience. Are you the “fastest growing startup with a quirky personality” or “the brand that sells a lifestyle of thinking differently?” You might be tempted to go with the flow, figure out messaging when you’ve perfected the product and solidified your business model. Chances are you’ll be so busy you won’t have time to think about it.

It’s best to have the defining characteristics of your company set from the beginning. Instead of allowing the press, users, and influencers to form your corporate identity, create it yourself. Be intentional about creating it and letting people know about it. Remember to be consistent, bring it up in every interview, place it on your website, and make sure it’s included in your elevator pitch. Performing this exercise at an early stage of your startup can help you go a long way when it comes to public perception and identity.

Right before the start of the Hunger Games, Katniss solidifies a strategy with her prep staff: her fighting spirit is her shining feature and sets her apart. Every story she tells in an interview and how she acts in the Games speaks to that particular feature. How do you think she fares in the Games where only one survives? I don’t want to give away the ending but let’s just say… there’s a second book.

South By Super Sad True Love Story By Southwest

In Gary Shteyngart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story (Random House, 2010), the schlubby protagonist clings to his old-world ways, doing his best to resist the overabundance of technology and information that barrages him in a not-too-distant-future version of New York City. He is starkly contrasted by his love interest, a younger woman who has grown up with these perpetual streams of stimulus and embraces them without question. The book tells a cautionary tale of personal connections and human relationships gone awry, replaced almost entirely by digital communication and instant, unlimited access to data. While I’m tempted to shrug off this dystopian future, a startling amount of this tech exists already and is gaining popularity. In this way, Shteyngart’s novel feels uncomfortably akin to nonfiction.

Highlight & Glancee were recently deemed the kings of South By Southwest (SXSW 2012), while peripheral nods were given to their competitors like Banjo & Sonar. These apps show you information about those around you. More specifically, they display location-based Facebook interests and Facebook friends-of-friends of people who are physically near you, in the same bar or on the same street. The impetus to browse search results, judge potential connections and act upon them is up to each individual user, but these apps provide opportunity. For more information, Robert Scoble gives a stellar rundown on The Next Web.

Info and images, social networks and video chat, newsfeeds and live-streaming, and above all the shopping, Shopping, SHOPPING – all of this is beamed to äppärät users in real-time, a userbase that includes basically everyone on Earth, minus the destitute and the elderly. While specifics are never given, the äppärät is described as a futuristic iPhone where a haze of holograms replaces the touchscreen and display real-time information on and around the user. The latest äppärät is a small pebble-like device worn like a trendy necklace, a cell phone immune to the battery woes of today. Nothing in the book is so futuristic that I can’t imagine it becoming commonplace in the next year or two.

With these new apps, the data used for comparing and ranking your nearby peers is pretty mundane: movies and bands you like, your favorite cuisine, perhaps the schools you attended. These are things that any Facebook friend could learn about you, but when this info is automatically sent to strangers in text-message-like pings, it changes from passive to active data. You are broadcasting information about yourself to anyone who has downloaded a free app – I can wait while you go update your Facebook “likes.”

The data being sent around by apps like Highlight is rather innocuous – it’s strictly qualitative stuff. But Super Sad True Love Story takes data-sharing to the extreme, where anyone with an äppärät can see quantitative data like your credit rating, your cholesterol level and even your annual salary. In this novel, not only is privacy dead, it’s been long-forgotten.

Before apps like Highlight can gain widespread adoption, they’ll need a filter system (such as a minimum number of friends in common) to weed out the surge of false-positives. For instance, you’d be more inclined to chat up someone with 6 common Facebook friends than someone with only one third-degree connection. Similarly, you might not shy away from approaching a stranger if you had a very specific interest in common; millions of people like Radiohead, but as a New York City resident, I’d happily chat with another fan of Portland, Oregon’s DJ Copy.

In the not-too-distant-future, speaking to another person… out loud… face to face will be so uncommon that it gives rise to the term “verbal-ing.” In the novel, everyone is surrounded by three-dimensional clouds of information, images, advertisements and videos. Even today, it’s too easy to get sucked in by the distractions of a smartphone and miss the real world around you. But apps like Highlight are not as ominous as they may initially sound.  By encouraging people to socialize and meet new friends, these apps turn a few common interests into the potential for a friendship, as it was in the pre-smartphone era.

For more info, check out a video interview with Shteyngart on the äppärät via TechCrunch.