I've always said that toy and game inventors should be celebrated just like authors, musicians and chefs. Our industry’s inventors are a special breed – they’re fun, creative, and maybe even a little bit quirky. It takes an entertaining person to create an entertaining product. So how does one become a celebrity inventor? Think of it as if you were inventing a new product or brand. But this time you are the brand. It takes hard work, dedication and patience. To kick start yourself to celebrity status, game inventor Joyce Johnson and Marketing/PR expert Mary Kay Russell joined forces to give us their top 10 tips on how to promote YOU and your product:
1. Go Local
Local groups invest in their community. Contact your local elementary schools, library, YMCA, or Community Centers to see if they offer a Game/Toy Day. If not, ask if they would they like to start one with you as a special guest, or offer to do a one-time event where you are a featured speaker. Prepare a presentation about how to invent a toy or game, keeping in mind that your talk should be less about promoting your product and more about inspiring others and giving back. If you try to “sell” you’ll be black-listed. But if you present well, the word will spread quickly. If you’re not comfortable speaking in front of a group, consider hiring a speaking coach.
2. Get Your Blog On
It’s time to break out of the retail box and share your fun and inventive voice with your fans. A blog is an excellent way to build a loyal fan base, connect with your target market, and let your personality shine through. Blog about the ups and downs of being an inventor. Share tips and ideas that might inspire others and get their creative juices flowing. Provide engaging content that others will want to share through their social media circles, thereby amplifying your voice to the masses. Interact with your readers and fans as they comment on your blog. Be authentic, be real, be yourself.
3. Start Your Own Internet Radio Show or Podcast
It’s a great way to position yourself as a subject-matter expert, and also gives you a chance to spotlight other toy and game inventors as special guests. But be prepared for a considerable time commitment. Internet radio shows require advance preparation including booking guests and scheduling recordings at specific times each week. Podcasts are a little easier to do because they’re typically shorter in length and can be recorded at your convenience. Either way, in order to build you fan base, be sure to establish a regular schedule to distribute or post your podcasts. Don’t want to do your own? Research existing internet radio or podcasts to find the right match for you and your product, then pitch them to see if they’d be interested in doing an interview and product giveaways.
4. Hit the Road with Inventor Events
Many specialty retailers would love to host Game/Toy Days or Inventor Events, featuring your product, and perhaps in combination with other new products. Why not set up your own Game/Toy Tour? These appearances are great for gaining exposure and building your profile in local communities, while helping retailers drive sales and offer an exciting event to their customers. Work with the retailers to determine the best shopping days and times when they have the highest amount of traffic. Be sure to take an active role in promoting your appearance through social media, e-mail blasts, and reaching out to local news media. Offer to create flyers or posters for the event, working with the host on content and giving them the opportunity to make final edits before you go to print.
5. Get Online
Start local by researching online resources in your city where you can promote your Game/Toy Day or Inventor Event. Sometimes parenting websites will allow the public to post calendar events. Use social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to further build your following, talk about your upcoming events, and promote new product launches. Connect with your audience, your retailers and members of the media. Let people know what you are doing, and take an active interest in what they are doing. Social media marketing is all about a two-way conversation. It’s about the pull, and not about the push. A little promotion is okay, but push too much and you’ll push everyone away.
6. Create a Media One-Sheet
Whether you’re pitching the media or they come calling, be prepared by having a Media Sheet ready to go. This document doesn’t have to be fancy, but it must look professional. Including a few graphic elements will help it stand out. Be sure to include your long and short (100 words or less) well-written bio, a headshot image, and list your best- selling products with website URL’s. If you can’t afford to hire a professional photographer for your headshot, tap into the photography department at your local community college. They will often take your picture at little or no charge as part of a school project. You can create the Media Sheet in a word document, but make sure to save it as PDF before sending out.
7. Hit the Airwaves
Contact local radio or TV stations and tell them about your cool job as a toy/game inventor. See if they’d be interested in having you on the air for an interview and to do some fun giveaways. Improve your odds even more by offering to bring in one or two of your inventor friends so the producer has a meatier segment to offer his viewers. Why not plan your outreach around any Inventor Events you have scheduled, and wrap the PR you’ll get on the air around your events.
8. People Still Read the Newspaper
Whether home delivery or on-line, people still read the local news. You have a unique, inspiring story that reporters will love bringing to their readers. to tell. Contact your local newspaper(s) with your pitch, especially when you have new products released.
9. Be a Media Source
Reporters and journalists are always looking for subject matter experts, and they often turn to Help a Reporter Out (HARO) – a free service that you can sign up for to find otherwise unattainable media opportunities. Register online and you’ll get three daily emails with queries from journalists, reporters and writers from all media outlets – TV, radio, print and online. Respond to queries with a brief, concise email pitch, with a maximum of four one- to two-sentence paragraphs.
10. Your Product Needs You!
Be creative and think of new ways and to promote yourself and your products. May is National Inventors Month. Now is the time to pitch yourself and your inventions to your local newspaper, TV or radio station. Think ahead and wrap your story around a bigger media story. Do you have a fun party game that can be played outdoors? Wrap your story around fun ways to blow out the backyard family barbeque. Great sleepover game? Sleepaway camp season is right around the corner. You get the idea. As inventors, it’s a very rewarding to get our products into the hands of the public. But sometimes we need to push outside our comfort zone! Go for it!