Kickstarter Lesson #5: Connecting with Bloggers

20 January 2013

hard proof boxDespite the fact that I’ve written a daily blog 5 days a week every week for the last 6 years, I almost made a huge mistake regarding bloggers during the Viticulture Kickstarter campaign.

The key word there is “during.” I waited until my Kickstarter campaign had begun to reach out to bloggers about our game. I’m really lucky that the vast majority of bloggers I contacted were very kind and accommodating, and many of them rearranged their schedules to write about Viticulture during the campaign. I really appreciate what they did, but it wasn’t fair of me to ask them to write about Viticulture with such short notice.

Why are bloggers important to your campaign? Our research indicated that people rarely discovered the Viticulture project through a blog–rather, they had found it on Kickstarter or through Board Game Geek. But not everyone backed it right away. Many waited until they read more about the game through the blogs before making a decision to support the game.

Here was my strategy for reaching out to bloggers, intermixed in bold for the other steps I should have done:

  1. I made a goal of having something–a review, a preview, a guest entry, an interview (podcast or written), a mention–on at least one blog every day during the campaign.
  2. I made a spreadsheet of every board game blog and local media outlet I could find that were still active and was applicable to Viticulture. Should Have Done: I should have tried to be much more active in the comments section of all of those blogs months before I started the campaign. Also, I focused mostly on written blogs instead of exploring video blogs or podcast. Cast a wide net during your research so you can focus on contacting the bloggers/content creators who you like the most and might be interested in your campaign.
  3. I contacted all of those bloggers one by one with individualized e-mails demonstrating what I liked about their blogs and suggesting a few ways that I could add value to their content. (This is key–don’t contact people asking them to promote you. It’s your job to promote you. If you reach out to people, think about what you can offer them.) You can prioritize the bloggers based on their Alexa rank, their Facebook Likes, or their RSS subscribers (Google Reader will show you that), but sometimes your biggest supporters are those with smaller, more intimate audiences. Should Have Done: I should have contacted these bloggers about a month before the campaign began, not during the campaign.
  4. As the interview questions and guest entry requests came in during the campaign, I typed them individually one by one even though many of the questions were the same. I tried to answer every question differently–this goes beyond not cutting and pasting answers. Rather, I catered my content based on what I thought each blogger’s readers would find the most interesting. Should Have Done: I really should have written the majority of this content before the campaign. You’re already going to be working a second job if you’re running a Kickstarter campaign, so you want to do as much work in advance as possible. You can ask the bloggers to wait until the campaign to post the content–if possible, stagger the content throughout the campaign.
  5. Send the bloggers a few images of your project (in my case, most of them included pictures of the game and a few of me with the game). Try to include at least one image that is exclusive content for that blogger.
  6. Post links to the content on your Kickstarter page and blog. You can see the media attention that Viticulture received here.

Overall, this is about much more than a Kickstarter campaign. It’s about forging relationships and connections with bloggers who share some of your passions. Perhaps you’ll get a few backers from that connection, and in addition to the temporary value you’ll offer their readers, perhaps in the future you’ll be able to reciprocate for that blogger. At the very least, you can promote their blog during the campaign–that’s another way you can offer them value.

Bloggers and blog readers, what do you think? If you have any suggestions or recommendations, feel free to comment below.

Other posts about this topic:

https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-74-help-them-first/
https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-43-press-releases/
https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-27-bloggers-podcasters-and-reviewers/

46 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #5: Connecting with Bloggers

  1. Jamey:

    I do agree that your approachable, personal style was much appreciated and I too am sorry we did not hook up much sooner in your campaign. It was great of you to meet with me in person to demo your game, which was an opportunity I know that few have, unless they live in or around St. Louis like you and I do.

    This is an invaluable tool of “lessons learned” for all the other aspiring folks out there. Thanks for what you are continuing to do to help the greater community of gamers and creators at large.

    Hope to see you again soon.

    Bill

  2. Jamey, I was wondering, as you’re beginning communications with bloggers and the press, I know you can let them see a preview of your Kickstarter campaign before launch, but is there a way to let people know what the direct URL to your campaign will be before you launch? Traditional press would need that if they’re going to go to print, but I can’t seem to see anything about that on the Kickstarter page. Do you just direct them to Kickstarter and have them search for the name of your product?

    1. Eric–Thanks for your question. You’re correct–as soon as you start a new Kickstarter campaign, you’re given a preview link that you can share with others. There’s no need (nor is there a way) for people to search on Kickstarter for a preview link.

  3. Jamey – I thought I’d posted a follow up here, but it looks like I didn’t. I know about the preview link, but is there a way to give to people a link to where the campaign can be found AFTER launch before you actually launch. In other words, can you give a press contact a direct link to what your campaign will be or do you have to say go to http://www.kickstarter.com and search for Lyla Tov Monsters?

  4. Hi Jamey and Eric,

    I’m sure you both know this already by now, but for those people (like me) that just stumbled in here from Google etc… “Your project preview link will automatically forward to your actual project URL after you’ve launched.” from your post “Kickstarter Lesson #15: Finishing Touches: FAQ and Preview”.

    Lastly… thanks for taking the time to post all this useful info!

  5. Jamie,

    First of all thanks so much for writing what I am treating as my Kickstarter Bible. It is of immense help and really clarified many facets of the Kickstarter experience for me.

    A question about this particular step – when you contact the bloggers do you ask to just write up a description based on your project page draft or did you send them a prototype of the game for preview? If it’s the latter – seeing how Viticulture is moderately component-rich – how did you create and distribute prototypes without breaking the bank?

    Much appreciated.

    1. Artem: Good question. For the most part, I contacted bloggers just to see if there’s any value I can add to their content. There are actually three other lessons that discuss this in detail:

      https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-74-help-them-first/
      https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-43-press-releases/
      https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-27-bloggers-podcasters-and-reviewers/

      As for the prototypes, you’re right that it can be expensive. You have to pick and choose your reviewers. There are two recent entries in which I (and a guest author) discuss prototyping for reviewers:

      https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-77-creating-card-prototypes-for-third-party-reviewers/
      https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-83-custom-meeples-and-review-prototypes/

  6. We’re still (at least, quite possibly more than) two months away from considering a Kickstarter launch for Copper Country. As first time designers / first time kickstarters, we know we need to continue to build our audience before that happens.

    If a blogger releases a preview of our game *before* we launch, it could dramatically raise awareness of our game, but releasing a preview *when* the Kickstarter launches could give us a nice boost out of the gate.

    There are certainly other things we can (and are) doing to build our audience before Kickstarter (Protospiel, Unpub, conventions, store demos, sending playtest kits across the country, sharing lots of information about the game on Twitter, Facebook, BGG, YouTube, and our website).

    Do you think releasing a preview is something we should save for the campaign? We were leaning toward releasing it earlier, but it’s been suggested that it might be more effective to wait.

    Thanks!
    David Lankton

    1. Hi David, thanks for your question. I think you’re wise to think ahead about this. If you’re putting your game out there for a blogger–especially an influential blogger–to play and review, I think you definitely want viewers/reader to be able to immediately buy the game. That’s when their interest in the game will be the highest. So while it’s a good idea to send review copies out at least a month in advance of your Kickstarter campaign, I would make sure the release of the review happens while the KS project is live.

  7. Hi Jamey,

    I’m absolutely loving every post on your blog! If only I had found this gold mine before launching The RooSport 2.0!

    Link is here:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/theroosport/roosport-20-wallet-worlds-first-magnetic-wallet-po/

    Anyway, despite that, I’ve done a decent job in the first 24 hours, so far.

    Regardless, I want to do even better and I feel we might be “stagnating/plateauing” a bit now.

    What would you suggest, based upon where I’m at now?

    I know you’re the expert at all things table top games, and this Kickstarter project is a running wallet/pocket in the “Fashion” category, nonetheless, I still would love any actionable tips, strategies, and feedback you’d provide!

    Care to share a few pointers?

    1. P.S. You can add me on Skype, too, if that is easier for quick back and forth. My Skype Handle/ID is: startdoingbusiness

      You should have my email as well from the comment I made above. Thanks again!

  8. Jamey:

    I’ve just about read all the “Pre-Launch” posts and now I’m trying to put it to use. But I’m having trouble finding specific blogs that would include my target market. What tools or research methods do you use to seek out new blogs or podcasts that closely relate to your project?

    Thanks.

    1. Jason: It depends on your target market, but Google can help you find pretty much anything. Also, if you use Feedly as your blog feed reader, it will recommend blogs to you that are similar in topic and theme to other blogs in your reader.

  9. I’m new to the whole blogging world. I tried to launch a blog a few months back, and found myself too swamped to keep up.

    In your #2, you made your active list of relevant blogs. How did you find them? Google searches? Just using references from other things you had already been active on?

    In your #3, what are ways you could help? Guest blog entries? Just trying to learn (and maybe the answers become clear as you become more active and actually get to know the people and community you are present in).

    I’m still 6-9 months away from the kickstarter, and I’d definitely like to build as much of a presence online as I can so that when do this step, it doesn’t come across as a cold call.

    Thanks – And by the way… Love your content. It has probably been the largest trove of knowledge I’ve found in a single place, and it has helped tremendously in helping me prepare the business side of things for my game.

    1. Hi, thanks for your questions, and I’m glad to hear you’ve found the blog to be a good resource.

      As for finding relevant blogs, part of it is Google searching, then looking at blogs those blogs shared (many blogs list other similar blogs in the sidebar), then branching out from there. It’s also really helpful to find aggregate blogs. For example, in the board game space, Cardboard Edison and Today in Board Games aggregate tons of interesting game-related blogs, and they’re much better at finding new content than I am. If you can find even just one aggregate blog (or Twitter feed) in your category, you’re set.

      Bloggers need two things: Content and participation. Those are the best ways to help. Start with participation. Comment on their entries every now and then. That will help to familiarize you with that content. Then at some point if you see a place where something you’re passionate about could fill a hole in the blog, contact the writer and propose a specific guest entry that would add value to their audience. They might say no or they might not respond at all, but many will at least respond and be nice about it if your offer comes across as a genuine way to help instead of a way to promote yourself.

      Good luck!

    1. Sheldon: You can never have too many relationships with the media. But in terms of interviews/guest posts/podcast chats, I’d say a minimum of 5 (ideally 10 for a new campaign).

  10. Currently reading through most (if not all) kickstarter lessons in preperation of my upcoming (first) kickstarter campaign.
    You do an amazing job teaching all these lessons. Not only at the time of writing, but even now, years later.
    The (kickstarter related) tasks that lie in wait for me are enormous, but these posts are helping me enormously.

  11. Jamey,

    I like your blog. One of the first I have ever subscribed to as one of the only ones that have ever seemed worthwhile…

    We are planning a kickstarter campaign in a few months… while I agree one must build a community first, before you have a finalized product (one you don’t have to apologize for as it is still in prototype form), isn’t one in kind of a chicken and egg dilemma? Saying “Hey we are coming out with something really cool, watch for it” is hardly the motivating call to action for bloggers/media to mention you. It seems that in our space (we will be making a tool, not a game) everyone wants to report on items that have had a lot of traction right out of the gate.

    How do you get attention prior to the launch?

  12. I’m starting to read all your KS lessons to learn how to run a proper KS Campaign, even if i have started with this idea a couple of weeks ago, and KS does not support Costa Rica hahaja.
    By now, what i find more difficult is to build a crowd when you have nothing much to offer. I’ve started with the blog (this one), even if i have 0 followers or readers, and maybe with time i’ll be gathering readers. I mean, I’m not planing to create games to earn money (that’s just a plus), but for making people enjoy the ideas that I’ve created. I think that is the most important part of the process. As i said some weeks ago: “The desire to create should not be for making money, but for making people enjoy your ideas. That way not only you would enjoy the idea you’re willing to create.”

    1. Sumerian Games: Thanks for your comment. Do you really think you have nothing to offer for a blog? Based on the objective you stated, I think you have a very customer-facing approach. That’s a great attitude to have for creating content, whether it’s a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, etc. The question to consider is: How can you create enjoyment for people on a weekly basis through the content you create?

      1. well, i didnt mean i dont have a thing to offer, but by now everything is just in paper… and i was thinking that people could enjoy seeing the progress of the project, what i hope it works xd

        1. If you take that approach, I would recommend that you seek out and subscribe to other “design diary” blogs to see what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve seen exceptionally few cases of interesting ongoing design diary blogs, even among some of my favorite creators and bloggers. It’s just really hard to be invested in something that is completely in flux. After it’s complete, people like to learn about the process that preceded it, but not while it’s actually happening.

  13. Jamey,

    I love how you spent so much time sharing your experiences with the community. I am starting a board game kickstarter campaign myself in a few week’s time. After reading this article, it got me thinking on how to get bloggers/reviewers to write a pre-production review. Since sending over a prototype is pretty expensive and I only have a few copies of them, it doesn’t seem very cost efficient. From your experience, how best is it to engage bloggers and reviewers? Would sending PNP be something advisable?

    1. @Randomskill: Thanks for your question. Beyond what I’ve written about forging relationships with bloggers/reviewers well in advance of a project, for board game projects I would recommend reaching out to reviewers who review unpublished games about 2 months before you launch. Then, invest in 3-5 prototypes and send them to those reviewers. There are very few reviewers who are going to spend their limited time piecing together a PnP.

  14. Dear Jamie!

    Many thanks for your help in the name of the board game fellowship! We are trying to reach the Bloggers and Reviewers now.
    We read your recommendations step by step on this topic and they are really very useful (honestly!). Could you please read our letter below and tell your opinion to help us make the perfect message for Bloggers?

    Thank you for your help!

    (first lesson: we have )

    TEST LETTER:

    „Dear Jamie!

    We are Lulla Games, a small new publisher of books and games in Hungary and we are going to launch a Kickstarter project 2018 Q1 with the English version of our latest boardgame for adults, called Crime Writers.
    We have Antler Games beside us as a supporter of our efforts, who already have several funded KS projects (Salt Lands and Critter’s Below) behind them.
    The Hungarian version has been published this year, and it’s a great success, that’s why we are trying to aim international markets now.

    This game is a special one because it requires „a little” writing (storytelling) skill from the players. That’s why this game can be a genre-creator.

    (Here we should write a short personal text for the Blogger: at the moment we are trying to catch Jamie’s interest to help us :))

    We would be very happy if you made a review on Crime Writers. It could be an exciting adventure for you to show something that is not a complex strategy game this time, but an intellectual communicative party game, so you can reach a different kind of audience and widen the horizons of the present viewers.

    (We didn’t ask Jamie to help us, but offered him something new and – hopefully – exciting! :) )

    (Here attached a photo of us with Crime Writers and Scythe in our hands, and we are smiling very friendly) – we own Scythe for real!

    About Crime Writers:

    Main concept
    Our goal has been to create a unique crime game that – besides providing the exciting atmosphere of solving a murder – also challenges the writing skills of the players.

    The visuals
    A number of 86 original black and white photos evoke the mood of classical crime fiction as well as the visuality of suspense and film noir movies. The crime element cards are really inspirational without exercising too much influence on the storytelling process.

    (Here should be a picture of the game box, and another one of the cards.)

    Game Features and skills
    – writing skill, creativity
    – communication, vocabulary
    – combination, creative mind

    Game mechanics
    Crime Writers is a card-based cooperative creative party game with semi-competitive elements.
    The game has two stages. The first is the writing stage, where everyone creates the story of a crime using the elements from the cards they have drawn.
    In the second stage, the player who’s turn it is becomes the writer and the others become guests who have to figure out all the five elements of the story and make all the connections so they can tell the whole story.
    The game only comes to an end once the story of every player has been found out.

    About us
    We are an artist couple: Adam is a graphic designer and photographer, Bori is a painter and visual art teacher. We founded Lulla Games in 2016. We are the creators of all our books and games with the help of many testers.

    Please take a look at our website to see the details of our game:
    crimewritersgame.com

    If you are interested, of course we can send you a review copy. (really:)
    Hoping to recieve a positive response from you,
    best regards:

    Ádám Vágó and Bori Mészáros
    Lulla Games
    http://www.facebook.com/Crime-Writers-Board-Game-155582865174156
    http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/235729/crime-writers

    So this is it. What do you think? :)

    1. Thanks for sharing. While this is a good start, I would focus a lot more on the blogger than yourself. Tell them why you enjoy their blog and mention some games they reviews that have some elements similar to your game. Be specific—show then you know their content.

  15. Thanks for this, its a great entry. I have a great project but I am not very good at the online thing. I am always worried about being too forward or something :D hahahahaha This has given me some more confidence in how to get moving with this. :D Thanks again :D

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