A Beginner’s Guide to Crowdfunding Public Relations
by Marcus Estrada
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]rowdfunding is a wonderful thing as it gives anyone the ability to fund their creations. Whether someone wants to make books, feature films, or video games they can utilize Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Patreon, and many other avenues to turn their concepts into reality. While it’s true that some crowdfunders are already well versed in business, most are fresh new creatives looking to share their passion with others. Unfortunately, when it comes to public relations (PR), many people simply don’t know the first thing about it. Effectively, PR relates to how companies handle interacting with the public. It’s how they manage to “advertise” new information about products, services, and events without ruffling feathers. Here are just a few pointers for folks out there who are currently, intending to, or have previously funded a project.
You Have An Audience Now – They’re Listening!
For the most part, people are accustomed to interacting with a fairly small amount of people. Even if we say something weird to our 400 Facebook “friends,” there’s not usually much repercussion from it. When you run a Kickstarter campaign you suddenly have 20 to 20,000 people reading your updates and even following your Twitter account. Some of these people will be completely passive in their listening, while others will interact and respond.
While before you might have felt fine to rant on Twitter about any little thing, you will suddenly find yourself needing to reign it in. We now live in a society where people may be fired from jobs because of hot-headed comments posted to social media. Whether you think that’s a good thing or not does not stop it from applying to you. Sure, you likely won’t fire yourself if you’re a sole developer, but these words will stick around. They will not go away even if you delete them thanks to NeoGAF, Reddit, and the like. Intent is very difficult to gauge online. Sometimes even jokes may be misinterpreted.
Beyond igniting the ire of your audience, the word may also extend into news media. Most large gaming sites now utilize Twitter as a viable news source and are more than willing to plaster a Twitter controversy into headlines. Without ever meaning to, a simple moment of frustration could turn into something that appears whenever your project or name is Google searched. We’ve heard these scary stories for years now but it finally seems to be a reality, particularly within the games industry.
If you feel yourself getting angry, depressed, frustrated, or something along these lines your first instinct should not be to type up a storm of social media updates. You are a part of a company and your comments will reflect on it even when you don’t intend for them to. Instead of Tweeting out the stress, step back and assess your emotions on a personal level. If there is someone in your life who lends a willing ear then seek them out. Utilize healthy coping methods if you already have developed them. There are many resources to help with feelings of intense anger, depression, and stress, and you can seek them out online or in person.
Update Your Backers – But Not Too Much!
You’re probably following at least one crowdfunding campaign right now that updates on a near-constant basis. Do you like it? Unless you’re 150% hyped up for the title, chances are you wish they’d cut it out. Press releases are regularly used by PR people to provide updates on products and businesses, but they only do so when there’s something notable to report. Obviously, backers need to be kept in the loop, but don’t force them to be a party to your daily posts.
Although it may be overkill, you might also consider looking into the structure of press releases. No, you don’t suddenly need to start using their professional presentation. It honestly would seem pretty weird and out of place on most campaigns! However, their concepts are very useful for those of us who aren’t sure how to share important updates. A press release often comes in three paragraph parts. The first section is where your most important information goes, followed by secondary or supplemental information. Finally, you close with a more general statement. Again, this structure is a bit much for a Kickstarter but sharing your most important information first is a good idea! Many people lose interest and quit reading updates before getting to the big news!
One final word of caution: Backers are not (inherently) your friends even though they gave you large sums of money. They deserve updates on your game and related topics, but not unrelated happenings. They don’t need to hear about the amazing enchilada you ate for lunch (unless it inspired a new creature design). Keep posts focused, fun, and on a regular schedule for the best result.
Consider creating a blog outside of Kickstarter/etc updates. This way you can update as constantly as you want without blowing up backer e-mail boxes. The most devoted fans will read your blog information. From that you can create a monthly summary to share with backers of all the goings on in one message instead of five. The same holds true for social media accounts. Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are best for bite sized updates and images. Tumblr and Facebook are both good for development notes and even official updates. Finally, all big news must be conveyed with official backer updates.
When Things Go Wrong…
Not every crowdfunding campaign works as planned after you receive full funding. There are many, many stories of developers improperly estimating the cost of a game, rewards, and other expenses. Sometimes life simply throws us in an entirely different direction. No matter what the case may be, some campaigns simply must be cancelled and decide on a way to compensate backers.
The first instinct for most people is to blame an inability to perform on outside factors. “The game cannot be finished because of X, Y, and Z, but certainly not me.” Backers are obviously aware of your passion (or else they wouldn’t have funded the project!). However, they also appreciate honesty. Backers may honestly realize that the blame is being shifted, particularly if this is a recurring theme. If you “mislead” backers during one failed campaign they will likely be far more reserved with any future attempts on your part.
Do NOT point the blame toward other people, especially if you name these individuals. Whether you want this or not, some highly devoted backers may search them online and attempt some degree of online harassment in your name. Yes, this has occurred with Kickstarter campaigns in the past and will probably happen again. Don’t be that guy or gal who inadvertently mucks up someone else’s online life!
State the facts clearly. No matter who or what is to blame, try your best to explain it, while maintaining a positive tone (in case you want to retry the campaign later). Refer back to the first point to make sure you aren’t writing while in an emotionally-charged state. No matter what events life has thrown at you, in the end you and your company accepted money in exchange for the promise of a product. Be sure to offer proper compensation for backers, especially now that crowdfunding sites are allowing backers to file lawsuits. It will not be easy but you must do right by all of them.
If all of this sounds like common sense to you then you’ve already got some PR skills! I personally have seen all these rules broken by various project leaders so these things must not all be obvious. Hopefully this post helps you (or your friends) conduct more PR-friendly campaigns in the future!
This is part of an ongoing series for developers on how to run a successful Kickstarter, or other crowdfunding, campaign. You can find other reads in this series right here.
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg” ] Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]