4 Steps to Creating a Communication Calendar
Knowing what to say about your game and when to say it.
You’ve poured your heart, soul, and life savings into making the next great indie game. You have awesome features, a compelling story, gorgeous art and thrilling sound design. People are going to love it. But have you ever thought about what you’re going to tell them about it? Or when? Or more importantly, why?
They’re important questions to ask yourself – and any potential publisher. Once you’ve answered them, you’ll have what we like to call a communication calendar for your game. If you want to know how to answer these questions and create a communication calendar, read on!
The Communication Calendar
The core concept of a communication calendar is pretty simple: it lays out what your public-facing messages will be, and when and where you’ll be delivering them. Think of it as a cheat sheet for you and your team that outlines what you should be talking about at any given moment in your marketing campaign.
You could just list out all the cool features of your game and plop them on a calendar, but if you want to do things right, and excite your audience, build a fan base, and have a successful title, then there’s some thought that needs to go into creating your communication calendar.
Here are 4 steps that you’ll want to take to develop your calendar.
1. Know Your Objectives
Your “marketing strategy” is called such for a reason. It should be the overarching document that defines your game’s positioning and that you return to for guidance with your marketing campaigns and your communication calendar. A few of the things that we discuss below should already be included in your marketing strategy in some shape or form, and your marketing objectives comprise one of them. Knowing your objectives is important, as it will help you to decide how to shape each message within your calendar.
Ahead of your game launch, you’ll probably want to grow your brand recognition, differentiate your game from the thousands already available, and engage potential customers. Around launch, you’ll be looking to convert customers, or maybe encourage them to review your game to help set it apart. After launch, you’ll be looking to retain existing players, acquire new ones, or develop lasting relationships with your new players with tools like Discord.
Knowing what you’re trying to accomplish at any point in your game’s lifecycle will help you narrow down what to talk about, when, and what channels you’ll want to use to do so.
2. Know Your Game’s Production Timeline
It’s all well and good to know that your finished MOBA Brawler is going to have 55 amazing characters, each with their own special moves and awesome, bizarre art and animations (Voldo, anyone?), but it won’t do you any good to spew out the full list, with a description of each, a year before launch if you can’t actually show any of them. The cool characters that gamers could have fallen in love with will be in one ear and out the other if your fans can’t see or experience them in some way.
Sure, you could ask your character “team” (or more likely, “person”) to stop working on all the actual combat animations and level designs for the game so that you can make one massive, kickass character trailer early in the game’s campaign, but then your whole production schedule will be thrown out of whack, and your QA team won’t have any idea what they’re supposed to be doing!
A proper producer would smack you over the head. So know your production schedule, and consider what kinds of assets or information will be suitable and available to talk about and share. Perhaps most germanely, this will help you know when your game will be done and when you can plan for a release, so you know when to really start talking about your game.
3. Know Your Audience
Remember above, when we said that key things like positioning would be in your marketing plan? Your target audience should be one of them. You should make sure that you know with whom you will be talking when you plan out your communication calendar. Does your intended audience care about the things that you plan to share? Are they paying attention to the channels that you’re planning to use? Do they generally decide to buy a game because they like the characters, or the story, or the mechanics? You’ll need to speak to whatever motivates your audience to do the things that you’ve outlined in your objectives, and plan for that in your communication calendar.
Your game might have the coolest level lighting and procedurally generated content around, but if your game’s audience is comprised of a bunch of parents buying games for their kids, then the technical details probably won’t matter as much to them. Conversely, the fact that there are endless, beautiful levels in a wholesome and engaging world probably will matter quite a bit.
Similarly, you might have a really great connection with the hottest new YouTube influencer group that has 5 million followers, but if their audience only follows them because they do in-depth automotive engine and muffler sound reviews, then it might not be worth your time, energy, and money to have them play and talk about your indie visual novel.
As you look at building your communication calendar, consider who is going to be paying attention and what they want to hear – whether you’re building an audience on Twitter, or pitching press on cool game features.
One other thought: have you provided enough context around what you’re planning to share, and do you have the proper image and video assets to support your messages? Providing context to your intended audience, and letting them know why they should care about what you’re showing them, is paramount to your communication calendar’s success.
4. Use Your Other Calendars
It may seem obvious, but seriously, check out what else is going on throughout the timeline of your marketing campaign. Make sure that you’re not overlapping your big new announcements with the start of the most popular shopping day of the year, or a holiday when nobody you’re trying to talk to will be online. Or, conversely, look out for opportunities when everyone will be paying attention. E3 starts tomorrow, but you’re not able to attend? Maybe drop a new trailer so you’re still part of the news cycle when everyone is looking for gaming news.
Knowing what else is going on will help you take advantage of new opportunities, too! Final Fantasy XIV’s #StormBloodDrive campaign, for example, dovetailed with world blood donor day in the lead up to the StormBlood expansion launch. They aligned themselves with social good and whipped up a storm of press around the blood drive. If you’re not checking other calendars, you’ll miss cool opportunities to connect in meaningful ways or grow your audience!
The Final Word – Freeeeedomm!
Having a plan is great, but it has to be executed (as in, put into practice, not executed like the poor piñata) for it to have any meaning and effect. However, our last bit of advice is simple: remember to give yourself the freedom and flexibility while executing your plan to take advantage of new opportunities that may come up. Just because something isn’t in your plan, it doesn’t mean you can’t – or shouldn’t – do it.
Burger King’s “Whopper Neutrality,” which occurred around the repeal of Net Neutrality, garnered them a ton of online coverage and helped to educate the internet about the meaning behind Net Neutrality. Burger King probably didn’t plan out that campaign in their five-year brand strategy, but they took advantage of what was happening, and today’s fast-pace digital landscape makes that flexibility ever more important.
There is a lot to consider when you’re building a communication calendar. We hope this article has empowered you with ideas for your next marketing campaign, and if you’d like some help with promoting your next great indie game, let us know.
Jordan is a Brand Manager at Modus Games with over eight years of game industry experience. He’s worked on award-winning campaigns for Digital Extremes and spent time honing his skills at Nexon and NIS America.
Photos courtesy of gratisography.com.