iPhone Life magazine

ROCKING THE APP STORE

How to Get media attention to Propel your app to the Top of the Charts

Rocking the App StoreApp developers will often spend months, even years perfecting their product. Often times, they are fine-tuning right up to the release date. Hundreds of new apps come out every single day and without proper exposure to the masses, even the best apps in the world are relegated to the bottom of the charts. In a nutshell, without exposure to push downloads at the right time, a mobile app won’t break away from the wasteland of novelty and less fortunate apps.

The public relations field for mobile apps is a fierce battleground, one that can make or break a developer. It can mean the difference between dozens of downloads and millions of downloads. It can be a developer’s greatest ally, or worst nemesis.

Most developers are more in tuned to the technology side of their product, knowing the ins and outs of every line of code that makes up their creation. It’s understandable then that many of those developers are in the dark about the basics of public relations—why it matters, how to do it, and what its overall return on investment means to them.

All eyes on You

Imagine you’re in the audience at a Broadway musical, and a cast of five takes the stage to sing a number. All of the other actors begin to sing incredibly, but you’re not sure which is the main character. Suddenly, a spotlight begins to shine on one of the actors, and your eyes are instantly drawn to him. You know he’s the star, the most important character because that spotlight elevates the importance of his character.

"The public relations field for mobile apps is a fierce battleground."

Public relations is a tool that puts a spotlight on your product. That spotlight is an important tool considering what your mobile app will be up against. To say the app stores and marketplaces are saturated is an understatement. Instead of separating your app from a pack of four in the cast, you’ll be trying to separate your app from a pack of millions.

Public relations gives you visibility in a forum that the audience actually cares about—the articles themselves. Readers and viewers trust reporters to create news about the coolest new products. They trust reporters because they are the authorities, the ones that spend their entire lives writing about a topic. Getting a reporter to write about your product is the ultimate third-party validation in the eyes of the reader because reporters are the independent party.

Playing your cards right, getting your apps in front of the right influencers at the right time, and knowing exactly what to say can mean the difference between being a “flash in the pan” or the “next killer brand.”

Creating a Battle plan

Capitalizing on the excitement of your app’s launch is one of the big keys to success. It’s the time when most eyes will be on your product and the time that people in the media will want to write about it. What most developers fail to realize is that in order to receive media attention around the launch of their app, they need to be laying the groundwork long before you they get their first download.

Step 1: Know Your Time Frame

The first step to grabbing the media spotlight for your app is knowing your time frame. Your app’s release date will dictate when you need to get started on all of your public relations activities. As a general rule, you should prepare for the launch about a month before an app is “live” in its marketplace.

Step 2: Identify Your Influencers

Once you set a start date for public relations activities, you should spend the first week finding the right people to cover your product. Doing this assumes that you already know the people who make up your target audience. These are the people that will most likely download your app, so knowing what they’re likely to read is important. For example, if your app is a new soccer game, video game publications would be your best bet. If your app is a tour guide to a foreign county, travel publications would be your best bet.

These people are only a part of your audience, however. The popularity of mobile apps has led many other websites to create dedicated coverage of the newest and greatest apps that hit the market, regardless of their category. These websites include popular consumer technology blogs and even websites exclusively dedicated to covering new apps. Odds are, since you’re in the technology business, you’re already reading many of these: iPhone Life magazine is one of them!

Once you decide which publications are the right fit for your audience, you will need to create a few lists:

  • A list of reporters at publications that cover new products. These should be at publications that your direct target audience reads. In the soccer game example, you would make a list of the reporters at video game publications that cover sports games specifically. In the tour guide example, you’ll need a list of the reporters at travel publications that cover new products and gadgets.
  • A list of the reporters at consumer technology websites that cover mobile apps. Try to find reporters who cover apps similar to yours. If your app is completely unique, just make a note of the reporter that most frequently covers apps in general.
  • A list of the reporters at app-themed websites that cover your category of apps.Public relations representatives often have fancy (and pricey) media databases with contact information for these reporters. However, you can often find their information in the “About Us” section of their website, or in the physical masthead of a print publication. If you’re still coming up empty, you can try emailing the general contact they have listed and specifically request the reporter’s contact information. You may also use my website, FameArcade.com: It’s a free resource for finding the top influencers in your industry.

Step 3: Prepare for the Pitch

You’ve spent the first week building your list of media targets for your big launch. The next step requires a little less grunt work and a lot more creativity.

A media pitch is simply an email, normally 2-3 paragraphs in length, sent to a reporter, letting them know that your app is going to be released. It sounds simple, but every day reporters receive thousands of pitches from people just like you, vying for the spotlight. If you don’t know how to create a good media pitch, you will never make that initial connection with a reporter, and the odds of grabbing the spotlight are slim.

"in some cases, a reporter may write about your products based solely on your initial pitch."

The goal of a media pitch is to get a reporter to cover your app. You can set up a future conversation with the reporter about your app, email them more product information, or set them up with a free copy of your app so they can test it out for themselves. It’s rare, but in some cases, a reporter may write about your product based solely on your initial pitch. That’s why it is important to know how to frame what you say.

A good pitch should be short, concise, and include the following:

  • Your name and company
  • The name of your product
  • When your app is going to be released
  • The category of your app
  • A brief description of what your app does and why it’s different
  • Pricing information
  • An action item on the reporter’s end.

Putting all of those items together, a typical media pitch looks like this:

"Hi Dave,My name is John Smith, and I work with a company called SportsGaming. On February 1st, we are going to be releasing Soccerpalooza, a new sports game for the iPhone and iPad.

Soccerpalooza ($4.99) is a multiplayer soccer game that features 50 of the top international soccer teams. It’s the first game to include a facial scanning feature, which lets you place your face onto a member of your team, using the iPhone or iPad camera.

I wanted to set up a time to talk to you about the upcoming release and show you a demo. Are you available sometime in the next 2 weeks?

Best, John Smith
SportsGaming"

Telephone: 212-555-5555 (view more examples at famearcade.com)

Step 4-Meet the Press

There is an obvious sign that you created an effective pitch: an email back from a reporter. It’s great news (and a step in the right direction), but you’ve only won part of the battle. If a reporter responds to your pitch, asking to hear more about your app during a phone interview, it’s time to put on your spokesperson hat.

After scheduling your media call, you will have to decide on the content of that interview. Will it be a Web demonstration of your product, a walkthrough of a PowerPoint presentation, or an informal chat? Regardless of the type of content you use for the call, you should plan to discuss your company, your background, your app, and why it would appeal to their audience. Since the reporter will likely be familiar with products similar to your own, he may ask how your app compares to the competition.

Some tips for talking to the media include:

  • Keep it simple and avoid technical jargon a reporter may not understand.
  • Be respectful of the reporter’s time, so let them ask the questions.
  • If you are doing a Web demo of your product, do a test run before the actual interview.
  • Research some of the reporter’s previous articles to see if there’s a particular aspect of your app he will be interested in hearing about.
  • If your goal is to get the reporter to try your app, discuss specifics on how he will be able to download a copy.

Step 5-Friendly Follow-up

You’re likely to encounter some unresponsiveness. It’s easy to think a reporter isn’t interested in your product if they don’t respond to you, but often it can mean your media pitch got lost in the shuffle.

As a general rule, if you don’t receive a response from a reporter after 2-3 days, it’s recommended that you send another email to them. It’s important not to get too pushy in that email, so try to keep it as friendly as possible. Try focusing on the fact that your app will appeal to their audience, and you want to tell the reporter about it before it is released.

If you’re trying to reach a reporter that you are absolutely sure is a perfect fit to cover your product, hitting the phone is also a good idea. It can be intimidating at first (some reporters loathe phone followups), but if you keep your call short and respectful, it can be effective.

Some good tips for phone follow-ups include:

  • At the beginning the call, ask if the reporter has time for your call.
  • Ask if they saw your original emails.
  • Mention that your product would be a perfect fit for them because...
  • Ask if you can set up another call to give them the full lowdown on your app.

Winning the Fame game

There is a lot more that goes into a product launch than just media relations. Having solid messaging, an interesting product, and other public relations resources can be extremely useful. If your budget allows, hiring a public relations consultant or firm can take some of the burden off of the work that goes into making your app famous.

If you are planning on going at it solo though, using public relations effectively can ultimately help you win the fame game.