Gaming the PR Job Game

When newly minted college grads inquire how to break into the PR biz, I usually respond by asking them “what’s your passion” or “what really turns you on?” Answers almost always include: “I’m a people person” or “I like to run parties and events.” Groan.

My question is designed to elicit something along the lines of “classical music,” “helping the homeless,” “city politics,” “college sports,” “global climate change,” “mobile technology,” and even “video gaming” — all of which need and use PR (as these links show).

Most PR industry aspirants lack in-house or agency internships, so an ability to showcase a demonstrable passion or expertise can go a long way to opening doors. “Should I work for an agency or in-house?” tends to be the second most popular question from PR hopefuls.

In his post this weekend to the influential tech blog Ars Technica, Ben Kuchera visits the subject of PR in the video game realm. His opening observation hardly inspires:

“Working in the PR business is a thankless, grinding thing.”

He then explored the “in-house versus agency” question:

“When looking for sources for this story, the thing that stuck out was that of the public relations professionals that gaming writers enjoyed working with, almost all were internal, not simply a contractor with an outside firm.”

The internal PR reps with whom he chose to speak echoed his lack of enthusiasm for agency types. Aram Jabbari, the manager of Public Relations and Sales for Atlus USA, spoke strongly about the merits of game developers’ internal PR resources.

“With an internal PR team, knowledge exchange is more rapid, and the folks tasked with communicating to the gaming public and press end up being in a much better position in terms of having an intimate understanding of the games.”

Kuchera solicited a second in-house opinion from Garth Chouteau, the senior director of Public Relations with PopCap Games, who had even stronger words for internal PR:

‘I’d go so far as to say that in-house PR is virtually always better than outside support via contractor or agency,’ he told Ars. ‘The opportunity to completely immerse oneself in the product or service in question is always more possible from within the company proper. Sure, an agency or contractor can be a valuable source of fresh ideas and perspective from time to time, but in general, in-house is the way to go. This is probably even more true in the video games industry, where really being familiar with the products/services you represent is critical.'”

So where does passion play in the mix?

“If you’re not in love with gaming as an industry, this is probably not the job for you. Enthusiasm goes a long way. ‘I’ve been in love with games as long as I can remember. I started on the PC, with classic Sierra and Lucasarts adventure games, later owning and adoring just about every home console from the NES onward,’ Jabbari said.”

Kuchera’s conclusion probably won’t hearten the legions of agencies and consultancies where the opportunities for landing gainful employment typically exceed those on the client side.

“…Dealing with many people in the PR business is a painful affair…By cultivating your own PR team, hiring gamers who honestly love the product and know it well, and staying up to date on the industry as a whole, you’re guaranteed to have a PR team that more effectively talks to gaming writers, the mainstream media, and the gamers themselves.”

If you land at an agency, don’t be disheartened. You will no doubt derive much satisfaction through exposure to a wider range of industries, techniques and, of course, people. In the interim, here are some non-conventional online resources that might help stir your passions.

Happy hunting.

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