What makes a perfect app press release?

What to include in an email pitch to bloggers

My email inbox continues to be great source of inspiration for post ideas. This time Ashley writes to ask what information should he include on a press package to pitch a new app to be released soon.

Hi! I am a new developer and I want to put together a package of info to send to you, and other app reviewers. What info would you like to have available to you, or don't want, that will help you best review it? I really would love the help to get my app reviewed and out there, but I don't want to be annoying and intrusive. As an app reviewer, what does a perfect app submission package have in it and in what format? Thank you so much!

Whenever I get this question I immediately recommend the book Pitch Perfect - Practical Advice from Professional Bloggers by Steven Sande and Erica Sadun from TUAW. Pitch Perfect is short, to the point and full of examples of good and bad press releases. If you are familiar with TUAW, you know the writing is going to be very entertaining and accessible. If you're in charge of marketing an app, you should at least spend the hour and a half it takes to download and read it before sending any email out.

If you have already started drafting your press release, let me stop you there. Bloggers and journalists are too busy to read a traditional press release. What you really want is to reach out to a group of writers who are likely to be interested in your product with a simple email pitch; something like an introduction to your app that can be read in 30 seconds.

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These are the basic parts of a great app pitch that you can send using contact forms or emailing directly:

1) Normal, universal, standard greeting

If you don't know the name of the person, please don't mess it up. To give you an idea, about 80% of the app pitches last week used a casual greeting without the blogger's name such as: Hey, Hi, Hi there or Hello, which are absolutely fine. Other alternatives are very odd — Greetings, Dear Sir/Madam — and already tell me what's coming afterwards might be equally awkward.

Apart from the unusual 'Greetings', everything else seems to make sense.

Apart from the unusual 'Greetings', everything else seems to make sense.

If you have the person's name and want to use it, that's also great. Just make sure you address the right blogger with their correct name. The Mac utility TextExpander has an automated form filler that avoids these embarrassing human errors. When I see my correct name in the greeting I know this person might have done some minimum research work; when I see an incorrect name, I stop reading.

2) Explain why you are writing

Sounds obvious but a lot of emails miss this essential part. Use the first sentence of your pitch to explain who you are and why you have contacted me very briefly.

Sir, I don't know who you are. I cannot tell if your feeling is right.

Sir, I don't know who you are. I cannot tell if your feeling is right.

3) Short plain app description

The next sentence should mention the name of the app, the type of app or game category it belongs to and what it does. This description must be concise, realistic, clear and without any fancy adjective with meaningless or generic meaning. Cliches like "insanely addictive and easy to play" are to be avoided.

Starts conservative to end up in a ninja adjective feast

Starts conservative to end up in a ninja adjective feast

How do you know you are doing it right? After reading this sentence, the blogger should be able to think of similar apps or games doing the same: "That sounds a lot like X app with a feature I know from Y app".

4) Why should I care

Now that I have an idea of what this app does, you need to tell me what is special about it. Ideally, you should be able to highlight what your app offers that others don't or how your app is superior to already existing solutions.

So this is basically a free-to-play shooter

So this is basically a free-to-play shooter

A good idea is to format this as a bullet point list with the absolute essential features that make it stand out. Again, avoid meaningless adjectives or too technical developer talk.

5) Pricing and availability

To complete your app description, a good last sentence should contain the pricing and availability. This is a good opportunity to include an iTunes link to the App Store, app website, YouTube video and some sort of FTP service like Dropbox or Box.net where any blogger can download screenshots and other documents without having to log in. No attachments, plain text will work.

6) Wrapping it up

To finish your email pitch you need to be honest and explain what are you trying to achieve by contacting me. If you want to get some press coverage, just say it. If you want me to test your app and provide some feedback, please let me know without beating around the bush.

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Now I know what you're expecting from me, I need to know what I can expect from you. How can I get in touch? Can I ask you to clarify something I don't understand or are you only a marketing rep? Are you available for a short chat that can lead to an interview? Are you providing a copy ahead of launch?

Proofread and final check list

For English non-native speakers, it might be a good idea to get someone else to proofread what you have written. Some borrowed expressions and unusual grammar are understandable; spelling and typos show lack of attention to detail. They suggest the app itself hasn't gone trough a proper English translator either.

A professional impression counts. Use a simple and tasteful website for your product with its own URL domain. Whether you're presenting yourself as an independent developer, a student or a friend, you should use an email with the same, paid-for, domain name. Don't use a Gmail or Yahoo account for this.

Professional public relations practitioners using their own consultancy email domain always mention they are representing a client. For both indies and PR executives, a good email signature with different methods to get in touch is essential.

  • Whatever you do, don't beg. Begging for a review on the subject line with a "Please review!" of the email only guarantees a no. Nobody is going to bother to read the contents — perhaps send you to the junk mail folder or the trash.

What if nobody replies? Bloggers are busy looking for the next great thing that has gone unnoticed to the rest and want to share it with their readers. We'll investigate, research and contact you to say we are interested. As Sande puts it in the book Pitch Perfect, we are as excited as you are about your product.

"Bloggers love championing small but overlooked, products. We're thrilled when an app or accessory we helped discover finds its audience and goes ballistic in sales. Finding and promoting deserving products is a big part of blogging appeal."