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It’s time to boost PR and buzz around your app! What? How? Who? It’s all inside…

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Many people believe that without an agency and a significant budget, they can’t really work with the media, reach bloggers and journalists and create significant buzz for their newly launched app (or following a major upgrade). This training will prove these people wrong… 

In addition to a list of free and paid newswire services, a list of app review sites as well as app awards programs, and several free web optimization tools, we recommend that you look at the PR templates pack that will give you some tools for your PR execution. The pack includes the following templates:

  • PR/campaign brief template (when using an agency)
  • Target audience worksheet
  • Target media list template
  • Press Release template
  • PR and buzz creation checklist

Yes, indeed, it’s possible! It will require some creativity, a lot of patience, and some leg work, but you can bring your app to the attention of the media without spending tons of money.

The reason this piece is taking the budget angle is because we know many of our readers are stressed for budget and are looking to achieve great results without spending a lot. But, note that this training will talk generally about leveraging PR and media relations for creating buzz for your app, so it is still relevant for people working with agencies as well. By reading this training you will be better equipped to know how your agency is working and what you can expect them to do for you. Generally speaking, if you have an agency, you will need to give them a really good brief about your app, your messages, benefits to users, your target audience, etc. and they will do most of the work for you. In our PR template pack we’ve included a brief template that you can use for press release, and generally for your app campaigns. But still, the quality of the work you will get, and the quality of the results will depend on your level of monitoring and understanding of the agency work.

One last important note: this piece will NOT talk about social media. Although it’s an important media and cannot be ignored, in this training, I specifically decided to focus on the more “official”, “traditional” media, or whatever you want to call it. Of course, all efforts here can be magnified by being leveraged on social media in parallel. But the social world is a full one and it won’t do it justice if we try to cover it here as well. Basically, it’s a whole different training, that’s what I am saying.

So let’s start..

What exactly are you trying to achieve in your app PR efforts?

Yes, you launched a new app, or a major update to an existing app, but assuming all you want to achieve are more users is often a misconception. Maybe you are indeed trying to acquire more users, but here are just some thoughts of other goals you might be interested in achieving:

  • Looking to sell the company? Maybe your current focus is selling the company, and the buzz creation efforts are really aiming at attracting the attention of potential buyers?
  • Looking for additional funding? Maybe it’s time to get some additional funding, as resources are draining out and you want to leverage this new release to attract the attention of some potential investors?

Starting with defining the goals of your PR campaign is very important. All activities, type of media that you will try to reach, etc., are derived from this overall, high-level goal. For example, you may or may not try to reach influencers from your industry, analysts who cover your field and tech blogs who are read by potential investors. These are just examples of how your overall goals affect what you do in the area of PR and buzz creation.

Alright, let’s define our target audience once again!

Of course, defining what you are trying to achieve, will be followed by defining your target audience. Different people read different blogs, publications, watch different TV shows, different videos on YouTube.. you get the gist of it.. Be as specific as possible. You can use our worksheet for defining target audience to help you focus your thinking process. The worksheet is part of the PR templates pack.

The list can be endless and is of course depending on what you know about your audience. The more specific you get, the more targeted your list of potential media, journalists and bloggers will be. It’s so much better to work with a list that’s razor-sharp targeted. It also makes you much more appealing to the media as you and they are going after the same audiences. This means that your content/message is really relevant to their readers and they are much more likely to tell your story.

Building your media target list – who is on your radar?

By now you have defined your overall goal and your target audience. By looking at your target audience and their behaviors you should start putting together a list of relevant publications as you now have an idea of what your potential users read and watch and where. If you don’t feel like you have a comprehensive list of publications, here are some suggestions:

  • Spying works – Do a simple web search for competing apps/companies, or apps/companies that you know are after the same goals as you (sale, investment, users, etc.). You can see where they got coverage and expand your list accordingly.
  • LinkedIn works – You can also look at LinkedIn group discussions in your field, as many times people share articles there as a basis for many discussions. Look at where these articles were originally published.
  • RSS/ Google Alerts work – define the relevant keywords and you will soon see where the news are coming from.
  • Make them come to you – There are what’s called “sources repositories” that are used by many journalists and members of the media. You can register there as an expert in your topic of interest (which ever environment lives in) and the journalists writing on this topic, looking for commentary from experts will come to you. You will of course help them in whatever they need, but you will also add them to your target list and work on developing an ongoing relationship. Don’t let the relationship end with that one commentary!

Gather and gather till you feel like you have a nice target list of publications. By the way, when I say publications, I don’t necessarily mean online publications only. Here some more examples:

  • TV shows
  • Radio shows
  •  Newspapers
  •  Trade magazines

Once you have a comprehensive list of publications, it’s time to identify the personas behind the desired publications. Meaning, the people within those publications who are writing on your subject of interest (tech reporters of course, but it may be travel, lifestyle, fashion or any other type of reporter as well).

If it’s a specialized publication in your field, then this may be very easy, but even in more diverse publications, looking at who covered your competitors, or doing a quick Google search, or a search within the publication website for your keywords will help you reveal quite easily who are the people you should target.

So, by now you should have put together a list of publications and the relevant people within those publications. You can use our target media list template (part of the PR templates pack) to centralize all the information you collected. Many times, the email addresses will be public and easy to get. Some may require some additional research like writing to the general email of the publication asking for help in reaching out a specific person or some LinkedIn and other social channels leg work of getting an introduction and/or making the initial contact.

Remember that developing a list is an ongoing effort that’s continuous over time. Keep expanding your list every time you meet a new reporter/blogger at an industry event, trade-show, etc. Follow them on social channels, keep in touch.. do the leg work over time and when the time to reach out for coverage will come, you won’t be a stranger no more.

Some examples of how to keep in touch over time with people on your target media list:

  • Connect via social channels
  • Comment on their items (in their own publication, in social channels, wherever they appear)
  • Make sure they are in your CRM database, so you can reach them easily and include them in relevant mailings.
  • Schedule F2F meeting/briefing whenever possible (for example when you are at the same industry event, when you are visiting their city for another work meeting, etc.) – This doesn’t have to be for just when there are major news to share. It can be a short update meeting as well, more of the networking type.. give an update of what you guys are up to, short term plans for the app, and chat..

Making the right pitch for your app

It’s a known fact that media professionals are extremely busy. There is tons of information out there, news stream in all the time and there aren’t enough resources to cover everything. That’s why your initial pitch email is so important. These people see hundreds of these emails every day. This is the email where you basically need to peak their interest so they will get back to you with: “Yes, I am interested in telling your story/covering your news, tell me more”.

WIFM – what’s in it for me?  

The overall guideline here, is to write your message in a way that will make them understand, very quickly what’s in it for them. And what are THEY looking for? Rating of course.. loyal readers who want to get their news from them, and from them only.  So telling your story from the angle of their readers, will immediately make them understand there is something unique about this story. This means that you may need to tweak your story and give it a slightly different angle for each publication, to make it more relevant for them. It’s a lot of work, especially if you do it on your own with no agency help, but it’s worth it. Otherwise you risk getting into the deleted items folder in less than a second.

Nurturing and some more nurturing

It always works if by the time you outreach a journalist, he/she had already seen your name / logo / messages. This why I had suggested before to try and connect with them in all available channels. If you met the journalist/blogger before, be sure to mention it. People are much more responsive to people they have met before.

Demo! Demo!

If you can provide a demo version of your app, so they can play with it before it’s released, they would love it. It reduces their fear of covering a mobile app which is not yet mature, plus it provokes natural curiosity and by that increases the chances of getting covered.

Pitch email headline – The elevator pitch of the elevator pitch …

As getting media pros to open the email is the first roadblock, I cannot stress enough the importance of the email subject line. You need to get creative here. Here are some pointers:

  • You want them to know what’s inside (a story about a utility app, game, travel, whatever it may be) – “school boys find reading boring? A new education app changes the lives of millions”…
  • But you also want them to get in a heartbeat that there is something special here, and not just another app – “First time on the app-stores: an app that helps ADULTS fall asleep”…
  • Numbers are really good attention getters – “5M drivers are using”…
  • Of course if you know something personal about them that can be “solved/addressed” by the app, that’s the place to mention it – “following our recent meeting and your great feedback [app name] now includes”…

If you met them in person and they know you, a good old: “Hello from XXX, long time…” may do the trick.  Mentioning the key benefit for their readers may work (remember, they are looking to attract and retain their reader base).There are many ways to get them to open the email, but the important takeaway for me here, is that you don’t overlook the subject line and understand its importance. Once they open the email, you are 80% there.

Exclusivity – embargo and in between

For really important publication or an influential blogger, you may want to consider offering him/her exclusivity on the story. I personally think there are very few cases and people who justify exclusivity – who can give you such exposure that’s making working with the rest redundant, but it may be relevant in your case.

Another thing that you can offer is the full story under embargo. Reporters respond well to this, as they get a chance to prepare the story with less pressure. They get all the information before the release. That way, they can get a detailed review ready and add their own opinion rather than just quote your original materials (which could happen in case of time constrains).  The embargo concept might be specifically relevant for app publishers who are pitching their app before an initial launch of the app:

  • Upon lunch you want the press to cover your app when it’s already launched and published, otherwise you are losing potential downloads. Think about how frustrating it can be for potential users. Reading about this cool app and not being able to download it now!
  • On the other hand, the first 48 hours you are live on app stores are extremely important as both iTunes and Google play help new publishers’ ranking by extra-weighting each install. So you want to leverage these 48 hours, creating a serious media boost. You get a 48 hours corridor to climb up the ranks relatively easy, considering you have a significant volume of installs. That’s a one-time benefit worth leveraging! PR can significantly contribute to installs volume through creating awareness and buzz. So consider timing carefully!
  • Making long story short- you don’t want the media coverage to be too early, but you can’t afford it being late. You need to plan well and make sure they are tuned in and aligned with your desired timing – embargo is your answer.

Press Kit: Getting your press materials ready

You now (hopefully) have a bunch of highly targeted and relevant journalists and bloggers who have expressed interest in writing about and sharing your story. It’s time to provide them with some great materials. Remember, the better the materials you provide the easier it is for them to make you (and themselves of course) look great. It makes their coverage richer, more colorful and more interesting. Make it easy and quick for them to compile the story. It will increase your chances of being covered next time as well. Here are some materials you should include:

  • Press Release detailing the full story (we will soon talk about specific guidelines for writing a press release)
  • Your logo files (if it’s a printed media than you need to provide hires image) in PNG, JPEG, EPS and AI. The more the merrier.  They usually have diverse graphical requirements.
  • Video of the app 
  • App screenshots – with specific folder for each OS. Name each file so it’s easy for them to understand what they are looking at (“iphone_main screen_level 1_multiple players) 
  • If you have any cool materials (pictures, videos) from a promotional activity you did (for example street promotion) that would be very helpful to include as it adds some pizazz to the story
  • This is not a must but if you have links to previous coverage of the app, share them. They can help the journalist see what angles have already been covered and also may give them some ideas
  • Download links to the app – you may want to provide a unique link to include in media activities or maybe even a unique link for each publication. This is useful for measurement purposes and may help you determine ROI of the whole campaign or of a specific publication.
  • Your story – this is also optional but can be very helpful. Create some sort of PDF or simple PPT telling your story from a more personal angle. Something that’s not available through your official press release. The media loves the juicy stuff, so share anything gossipy in style. The story of the team behind the app, how you got the idea of the app, some numbers. Nothing too risky of course, but the fact of the matter is that gossip works. I found this to be valuable in adding some color to my app launches.  Be aware however – everything you put in the PPT might find the way to be published as is (I had even got the “pleasure” to once see my whole presentation published, with my comments!!) 

As some of the press kit materials may weigh a lot, I always maintained a press kit section on my website and provided a link to it in my press release. That way I could always refer members of the media to that page. I also had the flexibility of updating materials there, and be sure that journalists have access to my latest materials.

Writing your official press release

Issuing an official press release is expected when an app is launched, when a major version update is released or upon reaching an important millstone. Such a milestone can be revenues, number of users, strategic partnership, etc.  A press release is considered an official announcement of the news from the company and many times journalists and bloggers quote from it (or even take it as is and position it as a news story). When working on a press release, you first need to decide if you want to write down just one piece or have several versions. For example, one that’s targeting the industry and one that’s targeting end users or specific segments. I had a case where I had separate versions of my press release for targeting industry players, and for end-users interested in travel, in motors, and in shopping. All same information but presented from different angles. Sometimes it makes sense to split your release but many times one version is enough. This debate goes back to your overall targets of the campaign. If you want to attract attention of industry players, you may want to have a press release that talks about the technology behind the app, collaboration potential, monetization options, what’s unique about it and the additional use cases it may serve. If you want to attract end-users, you may want to write the press release in a lighter tone, use more day to day examples of use cases for the app, talk about the values to end users, etc. For sure, there will be some overlapping (sometimes a lot) between the industry and the consumer PRs, but no worries, some messages are interesting to both audiences, and you can control what gets distributed where, by choosing relevant channels to each type of press release.

Download our PR templates package to enjoy a Press-release template specifically built for mobile app publishers! The template is valid for industry, as well as consumer PRs, just remember to give the messages a different angle/spin based on the target audience of the release.

Most of us are not professional writers, so I have included a free text optimization tool that you can use, in order to optimize your writing (avoiding long sentences, too much of a passive tense, frequent use of adverbs, etc.).

Distributing your official press release

There are many ways to distribute your press releases. Of course, if you have direct channels (as mentioned above), you can send them the PR directly. Press releases should be announced on your social channels as well of course, that’s a given. Just as a short side comment, I always prepared a version of my press releases for the social channels. It’s a shorter, lighter version of the press release, to adjust to people’s attention span when reading stuff on social media. Of course, you need to enable “share” mechanism in the social press release. In addition to this direct outreach, there are newswires.

Newswires

Newswires can distribute your press release to both consumers-end users and to journalists and bloggers. They also generate many external links to your press release which is an important contributor to SEO and ASO (see below). You can find some free newswires and some paid ones, so it really depends on your budget. The main difference is that the paid services usually get you in front of more publications. Plus they many times support upload of some richer materials than just the release text itself (logo, video, images, etc.). The sum you will be requested to pay varies and depends on your distribution goals (for example geography, language, etc.). It will usually range from a few 10s to a few hundreds of USD.

The link between PR, SEO and ASO (Search Engine Optimization and app store optimization)

Obviously, our PR work is centered around text. Even rich media materials that we produce are accompanied by descriptive text. The fact that most if not all of our PR work has a digital footprint means that it should include the right keywords, as it contributes greatly to our SEO and ASO, hence our organic search engine/app store rank (mainly Google of course, but not only). The search engines and app store crawlers are looking not only for keywords but for external links about you, links that increase your credibility and popularity according to the search algorithms, therefore uplifting your organic rank.  Hence, be sure to find ways to include relevant keywords in all your written materials. Include the keywords you decide to focus on, in the press release’s title, sub title and text body. When you include rich media as part of the press release (images, videos, etc.) use the keywords in their description as these are looked at by the crawlers as well.

When talking of apps, ASO becomes critical (in addition to SEO which is always important of course). Google play considers your online presence when defining your store rank at any given moment. The more external links pointing to your app download page, the higher your chances are to climb up the rankings. Therefore, make sure that relevant links are an inherent part of your PR composed materials.

Getting your app reviewed

Up to this point we have dealt with getting the right journalists and bloggers to tell your story. This is important and will contribute to brand perception, SEO, ASO, and will generate some downloads. But if you are really keen about generating some quality installs as well, getting your app reviewed by the media is a crucial step on the way.

There are many mobile-apps review sites out there. Some bigger than others. Many of them have direct impact on number of installs, store ranking and of course SEO and ASO (did we mention outside links already?). My personal approach is not to be picky and submit my app to be reviewed by as many of them as possible. They really can have a great impact so what do I have to lose?  So as long as they review apps for the right OS (cause you don’t want to submit an iOS app to an Android review site), I’m game. Still, with time, I identified those that work better for me, used all channels to get to know the people behind them, and worked on maintain relationships with them in order to get my apps reviewed in the right time for me. Note that some ask for money to post a review, or to specify timing for a review (get to the top of the queue).

How can you find such review sites?  Luckily, if you are reading this, you are a premium member of www.appgo2market.com. Therefore, as part of our commitment to save you time, we have done some search for you. And gold we found! Below you will find links to live lists for both iOS and Android review sites. Both owners keep the lists updated (add new sites, remove irrelevant sites, etc.) and include the contact information of each site, so it’s really useful, a big thank you to these guys!

Using awards for creating buzz around your app

Now your story is told by all the leading blogs and website, your app is reviewed all over and buzz is starting to amount… nice!

Another way to amplify this buzz is participating in industry award programs. There are many industry awards out there, and they usually have categories for mobile-apps in different areas. For example, I always used to look for a category of location-based services, and I usually found one, or something that was close enough that my app could still be relevant for. Participating in awards program is a cheap way to piggyback on someone else’s PR efforts. Some awards programs are free to enter, but others may require a small entrance fee. Usually, these awards programs invest heavily in promoting the program, aiming at creating a prestigious brand to the program by announcing the awards in fancy gala dinners, distributing an official PR, case studies and more and more. Why not be mentioned in all these activities? It’s great if you are a winner, but even if you are not, you still get a LOT of mentions just being a participant. Below is a list of 9 awards programs for apps (but there are a lot more as detailed in the mobithinking list in bullet #10). There may be some awards that are appropriate specifically for apps in your domain, so it’s worth looking for such programs as well.

Apps awards programs:

  1. http://www.bestmobileappawards.com/
  2. http://www.wsa-mobile.org/
  3. http://www.globalmobileawards.com/
  4.  http://mobilexawards.com/
  5. http://www.mobilepremierawards.com/
  6.  http://bestappever.com/
  7. http://www.mobilemeritawards.com/
  8. http://www.the-appsters.com/
  9. http://www.mediapost.com/appyawards/
  10. http://mobithinking.com/mobile-awards

Paying some attention to the tech industry

I personally think that no matter what your overall goal is, it’s always helpful to be known by the right industry players. Because it’s all about perception. That means that if there are analysts covering your area or industry gurus and influencers – you know, those who seem to know everyone, talk at all industry events and have tons of connections – you might want to get in touch with them, tell them about your app and get them to talk about it. It’s true, there may not be a direct impact on number of installs by end users, but there is a very good chance that being mentioned in TechCrunch (as an example) or in a well-read analyst report can still be very helpful. These are usually tough relationships to establish, so it’s good to start early and take into consideration that it may take time to see the fruits of your work. Don’t be discouraged. Some PR work is a long term investment (and some has immediate effect). Different tech blogs and publications have different focus. Using the TechCrunch example once again, they are really interested in the startup angle. So information on who invested in your app, how much, how many rounds, who are the co-founders, etc. can be something that will interest them and serve as an entry point. Once they covered you once, it’s easier to get covered again in the future and this time in a more of a product angle.. long term work, did I say that already?

Another place where MANY industry players are present is industry events. Deciding on the right industry events for you and the level of involvement that’s right for you is a whole different training, but I will mention briefly here that industry events can serve as great places to establish relationships with industry players, influencers, etc. They are also a great place to meet the media face to face (hence establishing the personal connection that will get the pitch email opened later on). And of course, you can always ride on the buzz of the event itself and use it for creating the right image for yourself (I participate meaning I am alive and kicking in this industry). This may prove as a smart investment, again, as part of the long-term nurturing of your relationships with industry players. It can also lead to fruitful collaborations and more.

Summary

If you made it this far in the reading, you now know that there is a full array of PR and buzz creation tools out there that you can leverage to push your app. Sure, using an agency can save you some time and you can build on their existing lists and relationships for your reach out programs. They will usually make the pitch on your behalf (which can be an advantage if you chose a good agency, but that’s not the case many times..). They will also  help you push content to the market on an ongoing basis, BUT, using an agency is usually costly. VERY. If you cannot afford an agency, don’t be discouraged. Yes, it will take some time and a lot of leg work, but everything an agency can do, you can do as well (and sometimes even better as no one can write and talk about your app like you can).

Be prepared to invest the time and effort, and I am sure with time you will work will bear fruits. Yes, it takes time, and it’s labor intensive, especially when there is little to no budget. Therefore, I suggest you start as early as possible – working on the list, meeting the media wherever possible, introducing yourself to industry players and influencers, etc. So when launch time comes, you already have a bunch of relevant connections in your arsenal.

Our PR templates pack also includes a quick PR and buzz creation checklist. Not all activities mentioned in this training may be right for you. You may choose to implement some or all of them, but you can use the checklist to make sure no potential activity falls through the cracks.

Good luck!

P.S. if you have any specific questions after reading this training, please feel free to reach out to me in our consulting zone where I am available to answer specific questions. I will also expand this training with additional relevant topics, if you let me know through the consulting zone if you are missing anything. Tsipi

 

Tsipi Joseph
Tsipi is one of AppGo2Market.com Co-Founders, a mobile expert and a mentor. Over 10 years of experience in the mobile and marketing industry: Director of Marketing at Telmap, Comverse and marketing professional development director at the American Association of National Advertisers.
Tsipi Joseph
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