VGPR #018: Just Blame PR
Celebrating a year of VGPR. Plus, my interview with Stephen Totilo of Axios Gaming
Hello! It’s been a while!
When I started this newsletter a year ago (!!), it was because I was inspired to share what I have learned over the years in PR in the games industry. I’ve been lucky enough to learn from many wonderful mentors (Kramer, Jen Chong, Steven Khoo, and Tara Bruno, to name a few), and I’ve learned a lot on my own. I’m still learning, and there is still a lot I want to share.
After my resolution to prioritize the elusive work/life balance, it’s been an uphill battle to make time for myself. “Me time” usually comes at the cost of projects like this newsletter (which I put together in my free time), so I’ve been doing some borderline cheugy self-reflection and trying to find a pace for this newsletter that balances my commitment to myself and still adds value to readers.
I’ve realized that with VGPR I want to stay on top of the industry, but not necessarily on top of the news. There are plenty of good ways to keep up with the news already, and half of what I talk about here is about how to defend your own brain from that kind of info overload. I want to continue talking with interesting people making moves that shape our work. I want to continue reflecting on what’s worked for me in my ongoing PR learning process, and I want to keep trying to help us all track each other across new jobs and opportunities.
In this issue: My interview with Stephen Totilo from Axios Gaming, a look into PR agency life, ways I avoid screens to stay sane, and a grip of media updates and PR jobs. Thanks for coming along on this ride!
Interview: Axios Gaming’s Stephen Totilo
Stephen Totilo is the co-author of the recently launched Axios Gaming newsletter. Prior to that, he was Editor-in-Chief at Kotaku and a reporter at MTV News. In my interview with Stephen, he discusses how reporting on games has changed, Axios’ approach to news coverage, and why it’s ok to pick up that phone.
“A pitch email with a good subject line is helpful, as is a pitch that conveys some sense of story. I don’t want to just know about a thing. I’d like to know about a narrative. Did something happen? Are you telling me about a thing that exists (okay) or an event that occurred (great!)? It helps when people can convey more of the latter, because most people—including reporters and our readers—are most interested in a story, a narrative, something with a verb.”
Read the full interview here.
Stepping Away from the Screen
When I’m staring at my computer all day - on video calls, emails, writing press releases, etc. - the last thing I want to do is stare at any more screens. I honestly don’t know how people do it.
Here are some of the most valuable ways I’ve learned to break up my screen time and restore some balance over the past year:
Morning yoga and meditation: It’s hard to be really present and in the moment when my brain is thinking about 10+ other deadlines. Practicing “being in the moment” helps me deal with one thing at a time and move forward without feeling overwhelmed. It’s been an important practice to manage some of the stress that comes with PR (just Google “public relations stress”).
Playing music: I’m trying to play guitar daily, and have started getting into more songwriting. Maybe the pandemic is affecting my brain, but I’ve started finding a lot of patterns with songwriting and writing press materials… more on that in a future issue (hint: wRiTiNg iS rEwRiTiNg…).
So many plants: Ok, so I may have gradually acquired more than 50 plants over the past year, and now it takes at least a half-hour a day just to tend to all of them.
Ahh, Agency Life
Is working at a PR agency right for you? Or are you an in-house PR kinda person? There are pros and cons to both.
Working in-house, you might be working on all aspects of one or two big projects per year. By contrast, you’re often juggling multiple clients at a time at an agency, each with multiple deadlines for multiple projects. You could be working with one client that has three projects cooking, and each of those projects has tasks and subtasks and dependencies… and then multiply that by three more clients (or four, or eight…) and baby, you’ve got a PR stew going.
It’s also worth noting that in-house PR at an indie studio or startup can be massively different from working in-house at a major AAA publisher (which can at times feel like its own agency). I’ve spent years working both agency and in-house, and realized I like being… somewhere in between.
For those who are wondering if agency life is for them, Evolve PR’s Tom Ohle offers a nice glimpse behind that curtain in this thread right here:
News You Can Use
Submissions for Forbes 30 Under 30 are now open
And so are submissions for the 2022 BAFTA Games Awards
In the Media
Michael Higham is leaving GameSpot
Ash Parrish is now Staff Writer at The Verge
Mike Mahardy is back at Polygon as Senior Editor
Natalie Jarvey is now Entertainment Business Correspondent at Business Insider
Nathan Grayson is now Video Game Reporter at The Washington Post
Jill Grodt is now Associate Editor at Game Informer
Graham Smith is no longer Editor-in-Chief at Rock Paper Shotgun…
…but Katharine Castle is
Alex Stedman is now Entertainment Reviews Editor at IGN
Joe Juba has left Game Informer, and is available for mock reviews
John Carson is now Associate Editor at Game Informer
Riley MacLeod has left Kotaku
Vinny Caravella, Brad Shoemaker, and Alex Navarro have left Giant Bomb to start Nextlander
Elise Favis is now at Fanbyte
Megan Farokhmanesh is now at Axios Gaming
505 Games - Global Communications Manager (Milton Keynes, United Kingdom)
Assembly Media - Senior Vice President, Xbox Brand PR (Seattle, WA)
Digital Extremes - Communications Director (London, ON, Canada)
Red Bull - Manager, Communications - Gaming (Santa Monica, CA)
Rockstar Games - Manager, Communications (Manhattan, NY)
Scopely - Director, Corporate Brand & Communications (Culver City, CA)
Skybound Entertainment - Communications Director (Los Angeles, CA)
Skybound Entertainment - Public Relations Manager (Los Angeles, CA)
Zebra Partners - Account Executive (Remote)