Friday, September 21, 2007

The Value of Engagement: Appendix

Brother None made a really good comment challenging something I said in my third post (and the Fallout 3 blog gave me a nice shout out too.) He raises an exceptionally good point, one I'd like to talk about here. Money quote:

    The example of how to do modern community management and PR "right" is BioShock, and going strong at 1.5 million sales, it's shown to have worked...

    And there's there real puzzling bit. How is Bethesda doing it "right"? They're doing exactly, and I do mean exactly, what you advice PR people not to do in your first posts. They made their press packets, they sent them out, and they're getting their hyped-up posts, on over a 100 sites and magazines that I've seen.

    It's all cut and jib stuff. In the meantime, the community FAQ is the only bit of real interaction given, and it was indirect and slowed down, and failed to create any significant buzz anywhere (it had only about 400 posts on their forum, compared to, say, the 800+ posts on NMA's preview).
The bolded bit is the important one, and upon further reflection I think he's right, or very nearly so.

2K did do some of same kinds of things with BioShock, at least in the very beginning. It had a showing at E32006, which kind of kickstarted the campaign, and there were articles in magazines. But otherwise, I think Brother None's point stands. Through a function of writing a post at three separate times and trying to reign in thoughts that are evolving, I didn't articulate exactly what I wanted to say in the third post, so let me make an addendum.

Bethesda is doing some things right. They still have a year or more develop their program, and the "20 community questions" is a step in the right direction, but thusfar their interest has been in engaging traditional media rather than engaging the community on an individual level. And, as BN notes, that could end up being an Achilles' heel as the chatter in the community becomes more negative.

I'd rather not dwell on what they're doing wrong, but instead make some (free - my agency might kill me for this) suggestions about what they can do to improve.
  • Engage transparently on their forums. A lot. A community manager should spend 60% - 80% of his time engaging with the community. Even if he isn't answering questions about Fallout 3, he can be talking to fans about things. Post-nuke books and movies. Wasteland. Shared experiences. Favorite beers. These are the kinds of things that show you're not a PR stooge, you're a person.
  • Engage on other sites. Yes this is hard because you won't be in your own playground anymore, but make accounts on Duck and Cover and NMA. Roll up your sleeves and get into the discussion. Be ready to be called names - this takes a thick skin - but get in there and do eet.
  • Here's a novel one and Brother None will no doubt enjoy this. Offer to do some guest posts on the Fallout 3 blog. It can't hurt.
  • Set up a Fallout 3 Twitter. Twitter is now so popular that the White House has a Twitter you can follow. Whether you'd want to is up to you, but you can do it. It's easy, and it's a good way to stay in touch.
That's not a comprehensive list, but this isn't a new business pitch either so I can't give away too much for free.

It's going to be very interesting to see how this develops over the next few months. I'm definitely going to revisit it from time to time, not only because it's a topic of personal interest but it's a very interesting test case.

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