Founded by the trio of Anna Rozwandowicz, Nicola Piggott and Kalie Moore, The Story Mob brings together an enviable amount of talent.
Rozwandowicz came to The Story Mob from a role as ESL's VP of comms, Piggott from a role as Riot's esports communication lead and Moore the head of comms at esports venture fund BitKraft. They're based in different cities around the world too, Rozwandowicz in Amsterdam, Piggott in LA and Moore in Berlin. While they have office space in LA and the company is officially based there, the split means the team are near most western esports events. For the moment "no one is planning to move anywhere" and the team is making the most of their global reach.
I spoke to the trio at IEM Katowice in February, the day after Piggott and Moore delivered a presentation on why esports communication matters in a fan-driven economy and it immediately showed that the outfit is passionate about the esports space. According to Piggott, this is The Story Mob's biggest strength.
"Primarily we're the only PR and comms consultancy dedicated to esports," Piggott says. "That's our entire portfolio. A lot of people dabble in esports as part of their overall offering but they don't have a tonne of people on staff who have worked in esports for as long as we have and also with the rep and depth that we have. Anna [Rozwandowicz] and I have worked really closely with the biggest gaming communities out there. Often literally on the front lines.
"Kalie has worked specifically in a lot of investment and business areas that other people don't normally get to touch. So we felt like there was a gap in the market for the experience and the focus that we bring."
Piggott worked for six years with Riot, while Rozwandowicz put in four years at ESL. Kalie describes herself as the newbie of the group with only three years at BitKraft, but three years in esports is a lifetime in an industry that changes and fluctuates as quickly as this. It's not just the time served, either. Kalie has communicated some big money deals in the esports sphere, Piggott worked closely on five League of Legends World Championship events, and was instrumental to working out the messaging on the North American LCS franchising system last year. Rozwandowicz was key to ESL's range of events around the world, and couldn't be on stage at the Global Esports Forum event as she was organising it, dashing around behind the scenes to make sure everything went without a hitch.
But why do you need to go to an esports specific PR outfit?
Rozwandowicz says that many people new in the esports space don't take the time to try and suss out esports and the community surrounding it. "People don't understand that esports is its own very specific beast that they have to tame or approach from just a completely different angle," she says. "Corporate tone of voice, corporate messaging, and boilerplate press releases just do not work here.
"Esports fans are outspoken, and they really don't care about your logo placement. This creates a challenge, because if fans smell your bullshit they'll call you out. You can't say you're the most player-friendly esport outfit and then not pay players their salaries on time. You can't say you're the most diverse company in esports and not have well publicised diversity initiatives."
"I think as with any industry that grows up super fast, because this has grown up super fast, you see two sets of people," says Piggott, "and this is true in communications as well, people that are huge fans and very authentic within the space but don't have some of the core skills of somebody who's worked their entire life elsewhere and then people who have all the core skills but just don't get it, aren't fans, trying to sort of force this authenticity."
The Story Mob's goal is to bridge these two gaps.
"It's tricky because you can't fake passion, no matter how much a lot of people try," Piggott says. "Esports feels like a gold rush, with a lot of people trying to take advantage of those opportunities, often with the best intention, and their execution falls down because they don't take the time to learn the space well enough.
Piggott hopes that The Story Mob can help people achieve what they want in esports by doing the heavy lifting when it comes to messaging. "We are fans, we love the games, we love the players and have been following them for years. We want this industry to be growing and get investment."
Moore adds that many companies are already doing some tremendous things in the esports sphere that are getting lost in the noise. "I think a lot of the teams that we've spoken to are doing so many amazing things but they're scaling so fast that they don't always communicate what they are doing within their audience and their investors, so I think it's really important to have people who can craft a whole strategy around telling your story. And I think that's a little bit new to the industry just because of the scaling potential and the fact that it used to be so tight-knit that everyone knew what everyone was upto."
In the future, The Story Mob is looking to focus on growing its portfolio of clients, and then to add to the company. "At the moment when you sign us you sign us," Rozwandowicz says. "This is a strength but also there's only so much time in the day and we do like to sleep and eat."
"We're really focusing on growing organically and also taking time to find the absolute right people," says Moore. "Even if this means it will take a couple of extra months we will always be the account managers, at least for the next year or two, on every project we have. We want to support people, and mentor them as the next generation of dedicated esports comms professionals.
Talking of mentoring, it's worth mentioning that all founder partners are female, in a space that's typically been male dominated. This is something that the trio admit they hadn't really considered when they came together. "On reflection, it's pretty cool that people are getting inspired by it," Piggott says. "I think we'd like to figure out ways that we can support the development of women in esports and hopefully to be good role models."
"I don't think we're here because of anything about us other than our skills but at the same time you need to have people to look up to if you're gonna grow and I know that that was important to me when I was starting my career in esports. So I don't think it's the most interesting thing about us but I do think it is a thing that we're conscious of."
Moore adds "At the same time, I'm not even coming from a women in esports perspective, but if you look at the stats only 2% of companies that raise venture capital have a female founder. This isn't just esports, it's important to continue to help women grow into what they do and get them a seat at the table. I personally was very lucky because of the managing partner at Bitkraft, he brought me here, he brought me to the executive dinner, he gave me a seat at the table in a literal sense and gave me a chance to absolutely prove myself. I want to work that into the fold as we hire."