Aug 17, 2012
Meet the PR: Stephanie Schopp of Tinsley PR
Since starting Saving Content, I have made several relationships with Public Relations to promote their games as well as write Previews and Reviews of the games. I’d like to highlight them as they do outstanding work but many people really don’t know who they are, until now.
What is your title at Tinsley PR? And when did you start?
Head Honcho in Charge, Director of All Things and Top Boss, all of which are ironic titles because when you are service-based you are not the boss of anything ever. I have been in PR for about 15 years and have been a consultant for about 8.
What was your first job?
Right out of college I started as an Account Executive at a boutique PR firm specializing in high tech. It was just before the dot com crash, and all of my accounts were startups in Silicon Valley. It was a hell of a way to be introduced to the tech world and I spent the next two years navigating very rough waters.
What should people know what PR does, that may not be common knowledge?
First off, some bragging rights: it’s the second most stressful job you can have outside of being a commercial airline pilot, according to Monster.com. When done well, it can change the course of a business for the better. There’s about a metric ton of meticulous planning that should go into a PR campaign, and that planning should be aligned with the overall strategies and objectives and directives set from a company’s CEO – if it’s not, then you have your various departments not talking to each other and a lot can go wrong. PR’s main job is to inform, and I think that’s not widely known because most of the time when PR is referenced, it’s in the context of PR folks being “spinmasters” or something equally nefarious. So much of what we do impacts how and what people learn about a new product or service, but the main function of the job is communicating.
What influenced how you would speak in your emails? Meaning, being personal, funny, often silly in delivering news to my email?
Ha. Coming from the ultra-corporate high tech industry, there’s not a lot of personality in the communication process and when I was involved it was very, very boring. It’s really straight forward stuff, filled with all kinds of products I did not understand (storage area network routers?) So when I landed in the video games industry (quite by accident, but a good accident) I found the media outlets were way more personable – and I’ve made a lot of really good friends with most of these guys, so it just made more sense to communicate like a human being vs. a PR bot. There’s a huge difference in doing product (games) PR for video games vs. directing the communications of a company as a whole (which I also do, but those guys happen to be more on the indie side than publicly traded global enterprises.) Shareholders, as it turns out, don’t often have a well-developed sense of humor, so those PR folks have tighter parameters of what is and is not acceptable.
There’s a time when we can deliver fun news updates to the games media (such as video and trailer drops where I can fit in the occasional “pew-pew!” in my emails) but there’s also times where it’s far more appropriate to be strictly professional in the traditional sense (e.g. – communicating layoffs, discussing anything financial, etc.) It just depends who and what I’m addressing at the time. I love product PR because chatting with the games media is a lot of fun and I’m reminded that hey, these are GAMES! But video games also bring in a lot of money, and companies that make a lot of money become a bit more powerful in the sense that they have more resources at hand to innovate: bigger, better, or more games. And taking a cue from Abraham Lincoln, with great power comes great responsibility. Oh wait, that was Peter Parker’s uncle. Great advice, either way. So there’s definitely a serious side to video games – and a time and place where I can have fun and be silly (PEW PEW!) but I also take my job extremely seriously. Word.
Coincidentally, as I was answering this very question I received an email from a media representative of a hardcore gaming site who’s angry with me for jokingly mentioning him via one of my emails. Turns out he didn’t think it was funny.
And now I’m wondering: if a joke falls in the forest and no one is there to laugh, is it still funny?
What are some annoyances regarding interactions or perceptions of PR?
Oh god how much time do I have to answer this question? It’s a terribly hard job – the hardest thing (or one of the hardest things) in the world is communicating efficiently and accurately to several different groups of people at the same time. It’s not an easy job to do well and I have failed as many times as I’ve succeeded. I think the worst part for me is that we’re generally considered liars through and through, and that’s simply just not true. OR IS IT? Maybe I’m lying right now.
How often do you travel for your job?
Fairly often, though not as often as say, someone in sales. I am based in LA but head to SF on a regular basis (at least once or twice a month) and then of course, the major tradeshows of the year. In-house PR people travel a bit more than agency based PR folks (or at least, in my case.)
So, is it true that PR are people with feelings?
We have tiny, tiny feelings.
To people reading that are interested in a career in video game or other PR, what advice do you have for them?
For this question I actually pinged a few of my PR brethren to help out: Learn to write, and learn to write well. Know the AP Style Guide, and love it so much you cuddle with it. Know your product. Know your media. Know who you are talking to (personally I am the worst with faces and names, and this has presented embarrassing situations on more than one occasion.) Learn to manage your time and prioritize as efficiently as possible. Be friendly, or at least fake it well. Also, drink a lot of coffee, maybe start smoking, invest in Xanax, and do a lot of yoga. Additionally, don’t be afraid to be drunk often. Other advice: learn to be persistent without coming off like an asshole. And grow a thick skin, you’ll get yelled at a lot. Also, don’t be afraid to fail, you’ll fail a lot too. The flip side to that is that you’ll learn from your mistakes and start to succeed more than you fail. Experience is essential. Word up.
How often do you play the titles you represent?
I don’t have a debug unit or usually will not have access to alpha builds or early betas. Because of that I will generally play similar games in the same genre. That way I can see how the game I am representing fits in with the genre, or helps it evolve. I should also note that I don’t play often enough and also that I am terrible at video games. (Name dropping incoming!) I have been known to have both Abbie Heppe, former X-Play editorial manager (now at Respawn) and Jeremy Hoffmann, producer at Gametrailers TV come over to help me pass hard levels on certain games in the past. The beautiful thing about being based in LA is that I have the very best and most experienced folks in games that can come help me out of these situations when they arise and in that sense I’m spoiled. The bad side to calling in such high caliber assistance when playing a game is the public mocking that goes with it when they make fun of my mad skillz on Twitter.
I usually don’t play the games I’ve worked on post-launch with a few exceptions here and there. When I game for fun, my favorite games to play are open world RPGs and action games. I basically can’t wait for GTAV to launch.
If you or Tinsley PR had the opportunity to do work with any game, what would your choice be and why?
The projects I’m on currently. I feel like everything I’ve done in my career thus far and all of the games I’ve worked on have put me in a position where I have been able to choose the ones that are the most interesting to me. The teams I’m working with now, from the bootstrapped start-up to the well-funded mega publisher, run the gamut of casual indie games all the way up to massive open world AAA online titles. I’m super into all of my projects right now and wouldn’t trade any of them in for another project, which on the flip side also means I’ve had to turn some pretty cool projects down that have come my way over the past year or so but I feel very, very blessed to be working with such talented developers and publishers.
Thank you Stephanie for your time.