How a top entertainment brand unified its PR and doubled response rates YoY
An interview with MY.GAMES' Maikel Van Dijk.
Running PR for a region has the benefit of personal connection: it's just about manageable to maintain close relationships with each and every one of your media contacts. But what happens when your remit expands to being global?
That was the challenge facing MY.GAMES' Head of PR, Maikel Van Dijk.
So how did Maikel coordinate PR for a business that operates across all parts of the gaming industry and spans ten regional offices, and in the process grow participation in MY.GAMES' Content Creator Program over 400% and double their response rates YoY?
Read on to find out...
🔑Why Maikel ditched Excel, Word and mail merge and started using Prezly
💁♂️How he uses campaign data to support his ideas when presenting to C-suite
🎯How he coordinates work across multiple freelancers while staying on brand
A gaming jack of all trades
MY.GAMES is a leading online entertainment brand operating across many different parts of the gaming industry, from developing titles to running its own media portals, a PC gaming platform, the MRGV gaming investment fund, gaming and esports services, the MY.GAMES Content Creator Program and much more.
MY.GAMES creates titles for the PC, consoles and mobile devices, operating 60+ projects with 150+ titles in its portfolio, including HAWK: Freedom Squadron, Hustle Castle, War Robots, Armored Warfare, Skyforge, Legend: Legacy of the Dragons and many, many more. Its Global Operations Department portfolio includes renowned titles like Conqueror's Blade, Warface, ArcheAge, Perfect World and others.
The business comprises ten regional offices in Russia, Europe and the US, more than 1,500 staff and 13 own developer studios. It is a subsidiary of Mail.Ru Group, MAIL.IL, listed since 5 November 2010 – one of the largest Internet businesses in Russia in terms of total daily audience and the owner of MY.GAMES brand.
This year's survey focused on the topic of Contact Management, tapping into the experience of 412 PR professionals from across the world, identifying their biggest pains and finding that most PRs can save hours each week by making one simple change
1. Building the database
The scale of your PR will hold a massive sway over how you handle contact management – something Maikel Van Dijk, MY.GAMES' Head of PR, is all too familiar with. With a background in brick & mortar and AAA publishers, moving to a free-to-play company meant Maikel had to start handling his media contacts in a different way.
"I came from a responsibility of just the Benelux – Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. We were very regional based, so it was definitely manageable to keep track of contact lists. But at some point, I scaled up my game, went into free-to-play games, started to do Europe and later global and international markets. And obviously, that meant more contacts to keep track of," says Maikel.
The first company that I introduced Prezly to was in dire need.
"When you’re a PR manager for one region alone, that’s perfect – people know you, especially when you have a product that they have an affinity with and really want to be part of. But as you grow, you need to start doing pitches, and then these increase and multiply. That was a very tough challenge to handle with no systems at all.
"I was picturing that I would have great 1-on-1 relationships with everyone in my database, but I was lacking a database."
I was picturing that I would have great 1-on-1 relationships with everyone in my database, but I was lacking a database.
"We kept our contact lists in Excel and we were doing mail merges," says Maikel. "So for me, the first company I introduced Prezly to was in dire need."
Maikel says "first" because he's actually introduced Prezly to 2 companies so far – something we can't help but feel immensely proud of, since it demonstrates the value Maikel gets from our software. Thanks Maikel!
Whether you’re running comms in-house or are part of a big agency, we have all the tools you need to ensure you deliver the right story to each contact, every time.
2. Maintaining brand consistency
So building a usable database and organising it is step one towards managing a growing audience. But as your contact list grows, so too must your comms strategy if you are to successfully scale your PR.
"We needed to make sure that when we had flights, they all looked consistent, that we could distinguish between the full press release and the pitch, to be able to get a concise version of that asset into their inbox with clear branding."
It was a tough challenge to be top in people's inboxes, to make sure that we didn’t end up in junk folders. Through mail merge, that would definitely happen and we wouldn’t even know.
In short? Maikel needed to revamp his whole workflow.
3. An outdated workflow
"The message would come from internal, and we would write it up in a Word document, and that then translated into something that we put to mail merge. Like, literally, from Excel, merging that with Outlook, sending that out with all the hiccups that are in there," says Maikel.
"People get 40 emails a day from various publishers. It was a tough challenge to be top in people's inboxes, to make sure that we didn’t end up in junk folders. Through mail merge, that would definitely happen and we wouldn’t even know."
So Maikel had what seemed like a tall order on his hands: a centralized database for his contacts, and an integrated PR workflow that would mitigate the shortcomings of Excel, Word and mail merge.
See what the most effective pitches are made of, based on 15,976,113 emails.
"Simple to use, but highly impactful," says Maikel when asked how he would describe Prezly. "Depending on what you already have in-house as a tool, it can be highly impactful and it’s definitely easy to use. Simple as that. It doesn’t take a very long time to get the ins and outs of the system.
"Implementing Prezly helped us grow participation in our content creator partnership over 400% and double our response rates YoY."
Simple to use, but highly impactful.
"Prezly really fit for me in the toolkit that I was really after because it consolidated all of my databases from the various regions, and it allowed me later on to integrate regional managers to work with one system as well."
By managing his contacts, campaigns and pitches within a single piece of software, Maikel was able to unite his team to build out his media database and unify the look and feel of the messages MY.GAMES was sending out.
The above gif shows the branded newsroom MY.GAMES set up for Skyforge, its free-to-play action MMO
"I started to shy away from exclusively using agencies to facilitate each country, because as lovely as their work is, they can’t share their contact database and their expertise directly with me. So I started to phase out some of the agencies and started working with regional freelance consultants that would function like in-house team members and could also integrate their contacts into the company, adding to the database itself. This also meant having less agency templates used for our outbound messages, unifying the look and feel of our outreach across the board."
Staying organized, having that structure – for me, this is how we work.
But the benefits of centralising your workflow aren't only visible in the comms you send out; vitally, structuring your PR within a holistic piece of software makes everything run smoother in-house.
"In our day-to-day work, just getting messages out there to people is still a big part of what we do," says Maikel. "So having this structure and this organization is the most beneficial part for us."
This feedback overlaps with Maikel's answer to our question...
Tell spellbinding multimedia stories and publish them in a fully on-brand website complete with all the assets your audience could want. Newsrooms, blogs, investor reports – whatever you need, build it beautiful with your free Prezly trial.
What is your favorite part of Prezly?
"The standardization of the press message," says Maikel. "By standardizing the template, there’s no way you’re going to forget to add any vital assets – its puts you back into the mind frame of, 'Okay, this is the full press release, but what is actually the pitch, headline and what is actually the secondary message?' In that regard, it helps craft a message as well. And that has been very helpful."
It's also something that helps thing run smoothly in-house when working for a global operation or with multiple external parties.
MY.GAMES has made their influencers newsroom available in multiple languages to help with localization
"I’m seated in the Amsterdam office so I get the information directly, but I have to relay that to a team. And even by sending them the Prezly version of the message, it sets the look and feel, it sets a clear pitch. And that helps the localization work too." Maikel pauses a moment. "Yes, I think that template... I shouldn’t undervalue that."
So centralising his workflow helped Maikel organize his team and freelancers into building a contact database they could all use and maintaining his brand's look and feel across all communications. But it also led to another massive benefit: data.
Send unlimited multimedia campaigns that simply deliver. Perfect for comms teams and anyone looking to build a fanbase.
"There's a self-taught logic to it – if you start using Prezly, you know already that you see a value in having shorter pitches. So you already have an understanding that just blasting whatever and throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks, it’s not a valid tactic. So from there develops the need to think about, 'What am I sending, to whom?' And that just increases efficiency, already, dramatically."
Experience breeds expertise. Having a hunch about what works and what doesn't is the sort of PR sixth sense you develop by working in the industry long enough and testing out different strategies.
And when your PR spidey-sense is not getting you the full way there, there's always metrics.
At-a-glance view of who opened, clicked on or replied to each campaign
"The pitch version of Prezly does help. Some of the metrics that came back from when we started with Prezly, for instance; we sent almost 2.5x more media alerts on average per month than we do now.
If you start using Prezly, you know already that you see a value in having shorter pitches. So you already have an understanding that just blasting whatever and throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks, it’s not a valid tactic.
Just consolidating on the message does help and it’s actually fairly standard logic for a PR manager, but normally, I would have to relay that information internally and convince a producer or a product manager or a marketing manager, show them some of the metrics of what happens if we have too many stacked up in a week and seeing the opening rates go down."
At a time when data has a near sacred status within business, it can prove really useful to have demonstrable metrics on your side, which you can pull out to support your decisions before those working in other parts of the business.
Backing that up with actual opening rates does help me to convince all the people of that fact, so this has been really helpful as well.
"Show that when you have three messages in one week, for instance, it’s not a message for specific title one, specific title two, specific title three – no, in the inbox it becomes three MY.GAMES pitches. And that really affects the pickup, the opening rates," says Maikel.
Find out how Prezly's all-in-one comms software helps bring your games news to life
"Backing that up with actual opening rates does help me to convince all the people of that fact, so this has been really helpful as well."
You see the bounce rate, you get information on where you’re pitching, especially as your list grows and grows. Before, we didn’t have that information – I’m really happy that situation is far in the past for me.
And speaking of open rates, you'll recall that one of Maikel's bugbears of using mail merge to send out comms was the lack of transparency over whether contacts would even receive the emails at all, whether they bounced or ended up in the spam folder. While it's near impossible to eradicate email bounces entirely, through using Prezly's integrated emailer and email verification process, Maikel and his team can now see exactly who is reading their emails and react accordingly.
"You see the bounce rate, you get information on where you’re pitching, especially as your list grows and grows. Before, we didn’t have that information – I’m really happy that situation is far in the past for me."
Blasting your audience
As well as segmenting his contact base by things like interest or geography, Maikel is also careful to tag those he knows get flooded with press releases on a daily basis: in short, he gets to know his audience and makes sure he sends them content that is specifically relevant to them.
"There are some people that I will definitely not use on a daily basis. We want to have contact, we want to have establishment, but we need to really think of what we’re sending to connect to our audience," says Maikel.
Tagging/untagging contacts individually or en masse is made simple in Prezly
This is something we at Prezly feel super passionate about: knowing your audience and curating your content specifically to them. Hence our stance against services that provide aggregated media databases thousands of contacts long – not only does it feel spammy to send news to dozens or more journalists when you don't have their buy-in or a good idea of whether they'll be interested, but imagine being on the receiving end of hundreds of press releases every day, some from comms people you know, others from those you've never heard of. Which would you be more likely to open?
It’s fairly simple in PR: you have a message but you also know what you request of the other person. You want reach for it, but you don’t just blast it to the outside world.
That's why we don't offer a readymade media database within Prezly. Instead, we arm you with the best possible tools to take the hard-earned contact lists you already have and work with them to build mutually beneficial relationships.
"It’s fairly simple in PR: you have a message but you also know what you request of the other person. You want reach for it, but you don’t just blast it to the outside world; you pitch it internally in the industry to amplify that message. And then they do that with their goals, they have their audience on their website.
"So sending them everything because, 'well, yes, why not try?' That results in people unsubscribing. So having the options to give it separate tags does help to segment the audience and create flights that are more successful based on the message."
Tags make it super simple to filter your contacts and create a niche target audience for your campaigns
Tags are the main method of organising and filtering contacts in Prezly. Using tags is a really simple way of segmenting your contact database in multiple ways, giving you the control to really hone your messaging to smaller target audiences.
As MY.GAMES' portfolio grows, Maikel is discovering more and more uses for tagging his contacts based on type, beat and interest.
So sending them everything because, 'well, yes, why not try?' That results in people unsubscribing.
"The tagging function started to become more interesting because we started to add mobile games to it, we started to add corporate press messages, we started to have a content creator program that is specifically for influencers that are not part of the paid campaigns.
"We started to use more of it because we see the opportunities of having tags and simple separations in the database, of contacts and all the information that we get once we do the flights. So that helped for us a lot."
How one of Europe's leading MMO publishers keeps people talking 10 years after launch
🔑 Key takeaways
Phew, so that was a long one! Let's have a little summary of our takeaways from this gaming PR case study...
Swapping out Excel, Word and mail merge and centralizing his contact database and PR comms within a single system created order out of chaos for Maikel and his team
This massively improved not only the PR they were sending out, but also their internal workflow
Made it possible to unify the look and feel of the brand's comms across audiences and geographies
Using tagging and segmentation within his contact database allows Maikel to target key audiences rather than blasting journalists with spaghetti (I think that's how we put it?)
Having oversight over campaign engagement metrics not only helps Maikel to tailor campaigns to be more effective, but also provides concrete data to back up his decisions when reporting to C-suite
Episode 1: What can we learn from gaming PR?
When running PR for a small business, tools like Excel, Word, G Suite, mail merges and so on can work well, but all that changes when your contact list grows and you start working with a bigger team, multiple agencies or external parties. This is precisely what Maikel found when he transitioned from regional to global PR.
Having a centralized piece of software within which you can review campaign engagement, manage contact details, control the look and feel of all your releases, publish news in branded, product-specific newsrooms and more, gives you the structure you need to be able to work with larger data sets and multiple other people, whether they're members of your direct team or freelancers half a world away.
This is what technology is for. The point at which the tools you use become more of a hassle than a help is the point you know something needs to change. You can get a headstart by grabbing your free trial now :)
Thank you so much to Maikel for taking the time to share his expertise and experience! If you'd like to follow MY.GAMES' journey, follow them on LinkedIn or visit a few of their Prezly newsrooms.
For more information on how Prezly can help you, check out our gaming page 👾