I was reminded of this column I wrote months ago for my favourite poker magazine, trade paper Inside Poker Business. It was just before I left PokerNews. It never made it to the Inside Poker Business website, only the magazine itself, so I decided to repost it here.
If you have any interest in the inner workings of poker, bookmark Inside Poker Business as its superb.
The press release has always been the friend of the editorial team, particularly on slow news days when we are waiting around desperately for someone to meet us half way with some content. There was a time that poker news was sometimes hard to find, but as the industry has become much more saturated, complex, and controversial; so getting an editor to notice a press release is becoming much harder. There are more things to write about these days, and more press releases jockeying for space on our front pages.
I am an editor of a news site, and not a week goes by without someone asks me for advice about how to get their press release noticed. Lots of them are very frustrated that they sent their release out and got next to nothing in editorial back from it. Many assume that they simply cannot compete when the larger operators contribute so much in terms of advertising revenue.
It is true that many websites and magazines will have ‘super affiliate’ deals with one of the major operators which could stop you in your tracks. The chances are also that your budget won’t be able to give away Porches or six figure sums away as promotional prizes either. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a press release noticed by the poker media, as long as you can give us something to write about.
The biggest mistake that a new poker start-up can make is trying to compete with the big boys by playing them at their own game. The industry leaders have the luxury of boasting huge guarantees, massive freerolls, lavish events and professionally produced content. If one of your competitors is currently is promoting a $100,000 freeroll and the best one you can offer is $1,000, it’s time to pick another USP to put into that press release.
It’s not my place to tell you what sort of promotions you should be running, but I can say that if you want them picking up by editors, and your budget is not limitless, you need to do something different. The smaller operators who manage to capture the attention of players and media alike tend to focus on niches or localised promotions. For example, PKR recently introduced the PKR Social series, offering fun breaks away like golf weekends or tickets to watch Mixed Martial Arts. Likewise, some of the smaller skins like Poker Encore offer satellites to mid stakes regional events like the Dusk Till Dawn Deepstack. These promotions won’t appeal to everyone, but those they do appeal to will become converts, and in the case of a journalist, that could translate to some very enthusiastic editorial.
If you are going to inform the media of newsworthy human interest story then take a step back and ask is it really of interest? Consumers are very savvy these days and they know spam when they see it. There are so many press releases that really only appeal to the person sending them. Press releases saying a player has signed a deal with a poker agency, or a sponsored player came 8th in a tournament, are not the sort of things that most consumers want to read. Before you send out a release of this kind, ask yourself if it would stand up on its own if you were to remove every reference to your brand from it, if the answer is no then it’s probably not the human interest piece you think it is.
So many press releases are sent every day, and you stand a much better chance of getting one picked up if you adopt a personal approach. Sending a direct, personalised email to anyone on your targeted release list is certainly going to help it stand out from the crowd. A quick follow up email or a friendly phone call will also reap dividends, as most writers are very keen to network and establishing a personal relationship will satisfy this need for them (Especially if you can offer them your ‘exclusive’ earlier than their competitors).
Social media is playing an increasingly more significant part in the way poker is reported, so make sure you get into the habit of retweeting and liking your targeted editors Twitter & Facebook efforts. It can be surprising how powerful a rapport this can create. (And while we are on the subject, always put your press releases on twitter because it is fast becoming the first place we all check for news).
Sometimes it is not apparent to an editor where a press release may appeal to their target audience, so try and identify areas where there is mutual interest. For example, news of your new poker tour may not be immediately of interest to the editor in question, but point out their biggest affiliate partner is hosting qualifiers and you might make an inroad. The result of your tournament may not be big news to a webmaster, but pointing out a deep finish by a member of their online community might become a perfect human interest piece. The poker world can be surprisingly small at times, so look for that common ground.
By the same token, try and identify any major conflicts of interest to manage your own expectations. The recent batch of ‘grave dancing’ press releases by some operators in the wake of Black Friday is a great example of this, as many editors understandably are reluctant to take on press releases that take shots at some of their major partners. If your brand is a major rival to one of their biggest partners, don’t be surprised if it gets ignored (and think how you would respond if you were asked to plug something that promoted your biggest competitor).
Keep your content very simple, particularly when targeting affiliate sites. The ultimate goal for affiliates is to get customers off their page and signing up to their poker partners, so avoid any content that could be confusing, help them make that journey from A to B as linear as possible. Increasing rakeback percentages by 3%, or bonus redemption rates by 50%, or VIP tiers by 5000 points – are all way too convoluted for a writer to want to turn into something meaningful. Much better for a simple concrete ‘do this to get this’ type of message.
The timing of your press releases is going to play a key role in deciding whether it gets picked up. As a rule, try and avoid Fridays through till Mondays, as this is usually the time when tournament reporting takes centre stage. Tuesday to Thursdays are usually relatively baron periods, given that tournament reporting makes up a big part of poker news, so schedule your releases for then. Also avoid releasing anything around the time of major events like the WSOP, because there is only one place the audience and the media will be looking.
Frequency is another factor that is often overlooked; the biggest mistake you can make here is to send too many releases in quick succession. The more releases, the more diluted the overall brand message will get, and the less importance editors place on them. If poker room A sends three press releases a week and poker room B sends one a month, the likelihood is the second one is more likely to stop the press.
And finally, and I cannot stress the importance of this enough, always provide good quality pictures. As most journalists will tell you, getting appropriate images for features is one of the most frustrating parts of the job. 99% of editorial needs images and being forced to find them yourself because the press release didn’t have one is demotivating. Even more annoying, is having to do that because the image provided was way too small to use. Most magazines require dimensions of at least 2000x2000 , so use that as a bench mark for all your releases.