Bope’s Ben Lawrence on finding the story in PR

You can throw a turd. You can pick it up, and you can throw it. And yes, it leaves stains.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but the smell of it still lingers – it’s the PR script for Duke Nukem Forever, a game in which, yes, you could actually throw around turds.

I’ll get to the undigested sweetcorn of my argument in a second, but whatever your opinion on 3D Realms/Triptych Games/Gearbox Software/Piranha Game’s 2011 ‘experiment’, it had meaty PR hooks, certainly enough for Radio One to spontaneously voxpop Oxford Street the weekend before launch.

I’m not sure what my feelings on the game are these days. There’s a fondness I guess. As daft and unaware of its own obsolescence as it was, all of that was tempered by the PR campaign 2K embarked on. The PR was daring but it never overstepped the mark, it was silly and crude, but just enough to be self-referential (the game perhaps, not so much). My point is, we found the sweetcorn in them thar’ hills.

It’s a lesson in PR that I’ve carried with me ever since and one I’d encourage everybody in gaming PR to carry with them too – whatever you’re tasked with, there’s always a story, there’s always the sweetcorn (enough of that now). However dry or corporate a campaign might be, dare yourself to have fun with it, and dare your client to have fun too.

Clients (and yes, I’m looking at you, devs, indies, publishers et al), you often don’t know how good your product actually is. It’s a PR’s job not only to show the world, but to show you as well. Wood? Trees? You lot? As if. And it all comes down to one simple rule…

If you want to get the most out of your PR team, be that in-house, an agency, or even if you’re doing it yourself, to quote Marcus Aurelius (or more accurately, Hannibal Lector, I’ve no idea who Marcus Aurelius is) “Of each particular thing, ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?” What is it your product/game/gadget/hoojamaflip does?

Once you can answer that, set your PR team the task of shouting that answer, and that answer alone, as loudly and as smartly as possible. Anyone in PR that would have you believe it’s a dark art, or anything wildly different from this principle doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

That’s not to say PR is an easy job, far from it some days (Bope is currently trying to organise the logistics of moving something like 10,000 hot burritos around Bristol), but ask yourself this when you’re considering the value of PR – when you’ve got a game to finish and a deadline to meet, when you need press exposure but you’re sleeping under your desk to hit a milestone – do you want to be the one sifting for the sweetcorn?

Ben Lawrence is co-founder of Bope PR, and was previously head of UK PR at 2K Games.

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