7 App Launches Where You Should Avoid PR

Are you looking to get publicity for your app launch? Are you trying to decide whether you should run a CPI campaign versus using the money for PR?

Drawing from previous app launches through my app marketing agency, I will walk you through seven app launches where you should avoid PR  and what marketing campaign you should focus on.

In this post, I will define PR as trying to get coverage on a huge and broad site like Techcrunch, Venture Beat, NY Times, Wall Street Journal etc.

#1: Reskin

No matter how much you’ve improved an existing source code, trying to get publicity for a reskin is going to be extremely difficult (unless of course you’re a well-known brand).

From my experience, reporters see a ton of apps and they know of all the popular ones. If your pitch email starts with “it’s like Crossy Road, but…” then you will likely be ignored.

Try this instead: Focus on App Store Optimization and localizing your app. Pay attention to other countries where the original source code may not be as popular. A friend of mine is doing quite well with his Flappy Bird clone using this strategy.

#2: Only Available in Limited Cities/Regions

If your app is only available in limited cities, most big publications will likely pass on the announcement. Their audience is worldwide and covering an app that only affects a small percentage of their readers is not something reporters would call newsworthy.

Exceptions: There are exceptions to this rule. Bento was covered on Techcrunch during their launch, even though they are limited to San Francisco. The angle of the post was more about their funding than their launch, so if you have raised some money from notable VCs or angels then definitely PR would apply here.

Try this instead: Focus on local newspapers or outlets like Urban Daddy or Thrillist, where there is regional coverage. These are huge sites with targeted readers. You may even want to give one of them the exclusive on your launch or a special coupon code.

#3: Niche App

Niche apps have been some of the hardest apps to get publicity. We’ve launched a handful and a lot of the bigger publications tend to pass on them.

These are apps that serve a set of users such as parents, baseball players, hitchhikers, engaged couples, etc.

These types of apps also tend to be the first apps that most beginners create (me included). We tend to have a very specific problem and think to ourselves that this would be a great app.

However, the market size is tiny AND we don’t have any social proof (it’s our first app).

Try this instead: If this is your first app, try finding an influencer in your target market and build an app through a partnership. I interviewed Andreas Kambanis who talks about this strategy on the podcast. His past apps include 7 Day Sugar-Free Detox, 30 Day Green Smoothie Challenge, and more.

A few of his past apps have even been featured by Apple. The key is to leverage an influencer who has built an audience that is perfect for your app.

Remember, going 50/50 on tens of thousands of dollars is a lot better than 100% on hundreds of dollars.

#4: No Announcement (Update or Milestone)

Let me paint a picture for you. The app has been live in the app store for about a month and you are seeing very few downloads.

You think to yourself, “if only Techcrunch wrote about the app, then I’d have millions of downloads.” Let me do some press outreach and see if I can drive downloads. Here’s the brutal truth, NO ONE will write about you.

If your app has been live for 5 days it’s considered old news for most publications.

It’s hard enough getting press upon launch but now that your app has been released for a few days or months and is considered “dated,” well, that’s the kiss of death.

Try this instead: If PR is still an angle you want to explore, try to get as much user feedback as possible. Use a site like UserTesting.com to see what others think of your app.

Then update your app based on their feedback. Reporters will cover updates if it’s a significant update. Think more content, revamped design, or new features.

The other thing you can do is to kill the app entirely and re-launch it as a brand new app. Then try to get press for this “new app”.

#5: No Unique Angle

Be brutally honest with yourself about this. What really separates your app from all the other apps out there?

Is it significantly better than the next best alternative? If not, then go back to the drawing board.

I’ve seen plenty of apps that say there are just like Temple Run, but with a few small changes.

Eli Hodapp, in his AltConf presentation, says he dismisses all pitches that say “it’s like [popular app], but…”

He goes on to say that if it’s very similar to a popular game then your game is probably not better than the popular game.

Try this instead: Talk to random people on the street and tell them about your app idea.

Use the “eyebrow” test. If their eyebrows go up for anything you say, then you have a winner.

If they gaze out into space or look at their phone while you’re talking, then you probably need to go back to the drawing board.

Secondly, look at one- and two-star reviews of similar apps to see what features you can really improve up on. It’s a strategy that the ladies from Applause Apps used to build their hit apps.

#6: Small Update (aka Bug Fixes)

You need to either be a new app or have a big update to get press coverage. If your update only contains a few small bug fixes then focus your efforts on another traction channel.

The truth is that updates are already hard to get press coverage and most publications only want to cover the new releases, which makes your version 1.01 update a bad candidate for coverage.

Try this instead: Run some advertising to get your downloads and get as much feedback as you can. Then put together a bigger update and call it version 2.0 when you go out to the press.

Also, consider round-up posts as an opportunity to get coverage for an update. Mashable, iMore, Mac|Life, and TouchArcade all have weekly round-up posts that cover new and updated apps.

#7: Design Sucks

In this day and age, with sites like Dribbble and 99designs, there’s no excuse to have a poorly designed app.

Philipp Stollenmayer of kamibox, the developer behind Pancake and Okay?, had these two apps featured by Apple in back-to-back weeks.

He states that “design is everything” when trying to get featured by Apple.

Design is also important to get press coverage. Reporters will spend a few seconds on your app and if your design sucks then the immediate thought is that your app sucks too.

Really focus on the design of your app icon and App Store screenshots.

Try this instead: Go to 99designs.com and share what your app currently looks like and have designers create a new look and feel.

If you’re on a budget, scour Dribbble to find a designer that you really like. You can reach out to that person and ask for their fees or a revenue split.

Conclusion

Not all app launches are ready for press coverage. From our experience through our app pr agency, these are seven app launches that aren’t really worthy of PR.

If you have an app that falls within one of the categories and you used one of our suggestions, leave a comment below and let us know your results.

Steve Young
 

Steve P. Young is an indie app developer and founder of AppMasters.co where he interviews the top mobile app entrepreneurs from companies like Twitter, Facebook, Shazam, Tapbots and more. He is also the founder at Pixel Happy, a marketing agency focused on helping companies with their app promotion.

  • Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to your amazing blog!

  • Really good advice here. I like the 99designs suggestion. Very practical.