Work hard. Be nice.
These are the first words you see on Indigo Pearl’s website, and they’re scrawled in a small font across the top of the veteran PR company’s logo. If the company has values, it’s these, and they’re personified by the company’s co-founder and managing director, Caroline Miller.
We sit down to speak to Miller at EGX Rezzed, the three-day games convention at the Tobacco Dock that caps off the London Games Festival, with Indigo Pearl as the main press contact. The firm has a wide range of other clients, including Square Enix, Blizzard, Devolver and many more.
Our interview is interrupted three times by people with urgent questions that no one but Miller can handle, and she’s spent the entire weekend working, bouncing from place to place, in order to ensure everything runs smoothly. Here, with all the plates spinning, she’s in her element. But she hadn’t originally planned to get into the PR business.
Founding Indigo Pearl
“I got into the games industry when I started working at Virgin Interactive, back in the early 90s, in the days when [former international president] Tim Chaney and [former COO] Sean Brennan were in charge,” says Miller. “I basically started as somebody’s PA because I sort of lied about my typing skills and that was a really wonderful company to work in and it was a bit mad, but there was lots of very talented people there.”
Miller says that all of her peers who worked there went on to have successful jobs across the entertainment industry, describing the atmosphere as “something kind of magic.” She adds that the office being quite casual meant staff were allowed to think outside the box and experiment. Having made connections at the firm, she moved into export sales, where she took the lead a few years later. From there, she was headhunted by Crave. When the games firm later pulled out of Europe, Miller couldn’t help but wonder what was next.
“I was left looking at jobs and to be honest with you, I didn’t really fancy going to Wimbledon or Woking every day,” she explains. “So, the opportunity came up to start Indigo Pearl, and I went for it. I’d had a kid by then, so it was one of those lifestyle choices you have to make when you’ve got a family.”
Miller says that it was something born out of convenience rather than massive ambition, but describes this as a near constant problem for women in games: “A lot of times for women, we do have to make those decisions about what’s convenient, and what’s good for your family.
“That’s a really important thing that I think women always have to consider, and men not so much. Men just kind of take the job that’s good for them, women have a lot of other people to consider when they’re making those choices.
“International sales involved a lot of travel and could be quite hard, the bigger companies that were interested in me were all quite far away, all of those things. Plus the worry of if I could pick my kid up from nursery on time, they all compounded.”
Miller says that starting Indigo Pearl in 2000 was a “brilliant and amazing” decision, even though it was a product of “motherhood and convenience.”
The more things change…
Regardless of the reasons, Miller has been in the games industry a long time and she’s seen it diversify.
“The games PR world has changed massively in some ways, but in others, not at all,” she says.
“When we started, we were talking to magazines, we were talking about games that went on shelves, we were talking to a mainly male demographic. None of that is the case anymore.
“When we started out, even the lads mags were really hard to talk to about gaming, which was ridiculous. They would talk about FIFA and that was it, which felt crazy to those of us in PR at the time because it was like ‘this is what your readers are definitely doing in their spare time’.”
Now, Miller asserts, gaming is just another form of entertainment for people to keep themselves busy with.
“It’s weird to describe people as gamers even now, really,” she says. “What does that mean? If you like films, are you a filmer?”
While it’s all change in terms of who the team now reaches out to, the way the team works hasn’t changed at all.
“You still have to look at the game, think about what makes it special and take it to people who will be interested in it,” Miller explains. “Sure, they might be an influencer, someone on Instagram, a website or a magazine but the essence of communications is really important and has remained the same.”
At the core of Miller’s PR mindset is to be honest. Honest to clients, honest to the press and honest to the people that you have to work with every day in the world of video games, she continues:
“If you go in there and you’re very dishonest and bullshitty they will feel that. I know it’s unusual and I know people don’t think PR people are honest but actually you really do have to be very honest on all sides.”
Thinking to the future, Miller admits she’s not “a five-year-plan kinda gal,” but hopes she and her team at Indigo Pearl are still working hard and enjoying themselves.
“You’re at work for a long time, so it’s nice to be at work with people that you like working with, on projects that you like, with clients that you love. We’ve managed to do all that and while a lot of it has been by luck, I’m glad we’re here.”
The Diversity Factor
“As a woman who owns a business, I think a lot has changed and a lot hasn’t changed,” Miller says. “I think women are still very mindful. Especially if they are mums with a family and their time and their commitments and it’s a bit stressful. That sort of hasn’t gone away.”
She goes on to say that the 24-hour culture, longer days and the fact that people are expected to be constantly on top of their emails have contributed to a world where there’s more pressure to be ‘present’.
But primarily, the mindset both of women and towards women has totally changed regarding their role in the workplace.
“Things that five or ten years ago might have gone over my head or I might have laughed at, I think I’m a little bit more bristly about now,” says Miller.
“I think that’s changed for everybody and that’s a really good thing that behaviour like this is on our radar, and that we stop and think ‘you know that’s kind of offensive’ or ‘a little bit unnecessary’.”
Tackling diversity is “quite a hard question,” she adds.
“I don’t think we can just allow diversity to fix itself organically,” she says, suggesting that people need to come together and work hard to encourage women to get into the industry. “We need to be proactive at a university level to encourage women and people of colour to get into our industry, and make sure everyone knows that games is for them, but also for everyone else.”
This effort is important, because for those looking in, “the industry doesn’t look or feel welcoming,” Miller says. “As women, we need to put ourselves out there more. I notice in PR that the willingness of men to put themselves out there, and do interviews, is far greater than women – so I have to push my female clients a little bit harder.
“I get it, there are people out there who are probably quite sick of being interviewed about being a woman in the games industry. But you know what, you sort of have to do it and you just have to keep saying it, and saying it, and saying it, and trying to push these boundaries.
“As an industry we probably should be doing more to protect our women online. Because when I talk about myself in the games industry I’ve had a fairly cushy ride,” she continues. “But when I look at my journalistic contacts, people like Keza [MacDonald, games editor for The Guardian, interviewed on page 41] or Julia [Hardy, freelance presenter and writer] and Aoife [Wilson, a writer, presenter and video editor at Eurogamer] all of these women have come in for disgusting, relentless, atrocious abuse online and I think we have to do something about that.
“If you’re a girl looking at becoming a journalist you would look at that and think ‘why should I bother?’. I think, as an entire industry, we need to rise up and drown out those voices that try to take women down.”
Miller says the culture of online hate and abuse is a “serious” problem, and indeed many of us remember women writers leaving the industry after weeks of sustained abuse. She suggests most people in the industry could and should be doing a better job at looking after the women brave enough to put themselves forward in a hostile environment.
Miller adds there are a lot more women in the room now, which is a plus, but there needs to be “an awful lot more.” And as an industry, we need to stop striving just toward an equal gender balance, but to remember women of colour too.
“No matter how I might look at my lot in life, I have to remember that it’s a lot harder for other women, so we need to make sure that we take everybody with us,” says Miller. “If it’s not inclusive for everybody, there’s no point to it.”