Getting Noticed: Crafting a Press Release

Continuing the theme of increasing your application’s user base, here’s another article from Sean Casto, the CEO of PreApps, a Microsoft App Builder partner and the leading platform introducing new apps to users and the marketplace prior to release.

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The Importance of a Powerful App Press Release By: Sean Casto

You’ve created a great app, and it’s ready for release. Now what? As most developers know, gaining users and promoting your app is just as important as the development process. One of the most highly-regarded tools employed by developers to announce the launch of their app is the press release. A press release has a longstanding history as being a powerful and effective way to gain the attention of everyone from news outlets to bloggers, and spread the word that a new app is being released into the competitive marketplace.

The Importance of a Powerful PR

Writing and distributing a press release isn’t a step in the process that should be skipped. You’ve likely been working to market your product from the start, but you need to let the influential people in your industry know that your product exists. With that being said, if you’re an app developer, you may feel you lack the necessary skills and expertise to make a great press release. It’s important to follow a particular formula, and stick to the information, because writers and reviewers are constantly bombarded with information. You need to create a press release that’s going to quickly and effectively capture their attention.

Top Tips for Successful PR Creation

1. Create a Timetable

Before you begin writing a press release, you should determine whether you’ll be releasing it prior to the launch of your app, or to coincide with your app’s launch. The timetable will determine the angle of your press release.

2. Include Your Icon

Include your app icon or your logo in the body of your press release. This is an important identifying feature, and it should be prominently displayed within the actual written work. If it’s simply included as a link, it’s likely that it won’t be seen by the reader.

3. Don’t Overlook the Importance of Your Header

Take the time to craft a concise, yet attention-grabbing subject line. Many times, people hastily create a subject line, but in actuality, it’s one of the most important components of the press release. If you can get your reader to continue beyond the subject line, you’re doing well. If your reader glances at your subject line and isn’t compelled to continue reading, your press release hasn’t been successful. It needs to be brief, but interesting. A press release must be newsworthy, and the subject line is your opportunity to create that sense of newsworthiness. It can’t simply be an advertisement of your product, but rather needs to be something that’s time-sensitive, for example, “New app launches amidst much anticipation.”

4. Keep Your Reader Interested with the Summary

The next step, beyond the subject line, is to create a summary that will further compel the reader to keep going. Use the summary line as an opportunity to delve a little bit more into what your app offers, and what makes it unique, without providing too many details. Use your summary to make your reader want to know more.

5. Simplify it for Your Reader

Bloggers and journalists are programmed to quickly sift through press releases and find the ones that are the most relevant and interesting, so make reading your release easy for them. Put the most important information in the first paragraph. As the press release progresses, you can include more details, but make the first paragraph targeted to your reader. Imagine they’re only reading the first paragraph and include the information you’d most like them to know about your app.

6. Skip the Fluff—Get to the Point

Use the body of the press release to give a description of your app, including what it does and the important features. Skip the fluff—remember, this isn’t an advertisement. Stick to the facts, and keep the wording simple and concise. You need to be able to tell your reader why people should care about your app. It’s also a good idea to include a quote from a member of the development team. Your quote can be a bit more on the advertorial side, and you can really be creative in piquing the interest of readers.

7. Interest Your Reader in Your Company

Include a brief paragraph about your company at the end of your press release. Include any awards or previously released apps that have done well. If you have an interesting background, perhaps include one or two sentences about that, in order to drive interest in what you’re offering.

8. Give the Reader a Clear Point of Contact

Always include contact information, including your app or company’s website, screenshots, links to demo videos, and your personal information. If a blogger or journalist wants to follow-up with you about your app, you need to make it easy for them to contact you.

Gaining Maximum Exposure

The press release, if done correctly, can be an effective tool for developers. PreApps has designed options to take the guesswork out of the creation and distribution of press releases. In fact, they have a team of professional writers who craft custom press releases, utilizing the company’s press kit, and then distribute it to more than 250,000 news subscribers and more than 30,000 bloggers in order to generate the highest possible level of exposure. The company offers affordable pricing, simplifying the process of marketing an app in order to help the developer obtain worldwide attention.

About The Author:

Sean Casto, a Boston-based entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of PreApps.com, the leading platform introducing new apps to users and the marketplace prior to release. He has been a guest speaker at industry conventions for Microsoft and Samsung and lectured at Universities such as Northeastern and Harvard. He as also appeared on and been mentioned by The Washington Post, USA Today, The Boston Globe, Boston News Network, and The Associated Press. Through his work and industry experience, Casto has acquired a deep understanding of the struggles developers face and a passion to serve the growing mobile app community. He is now the Chairman & Founder of App Demo & Drinks (a mobile non-profit) and holds an advisory position for numerous start-ups.

Getting Noticed: Creating an App Demo Video

Continuing on the theme of my last post, I’m pleased to be able to publish an article from Sean Casto, the CEO of PreApps, a Microsoft App Builder partner and the leading platform introducing new apps to users and the marketplace prior to release.

How To Create An Effective App Demo Video To Attract Users
By: Sean Casto

Most people rely heavily on visual elements during the decision-making process. For app developers who have undertaken a great marketing campaign and been able to successfully drive traffic to their app, the next step is to ensure users are actually downloading the app and the download is going to rely heavily on the demo video. A demo video is the first glimpse users will have of an app, and it isn’t something that should be created hastily; it goes beyond an app store description, and gives users a visual representation of what the app has to offer. An app demo video (such as the one from MANIC Apps below) gives users the opportunity to experience an app before they decide to buy it, and it’s a make-or-break component for successful apps.

 

Making the Most of a Demo Video: The Top Tips

There are a few ways developers can optimize their demo video, and make it a sure-fire success by generating not only interest, but also downloads.

1. Choose Your Tools Carefully

Use the right recording programs. For example, when creating a video for a Windows Phone app, consider options like Jing in conjunction with the Windows Phone Emulator. Great caliber recording programs improve the overall quality and delivery of a video.

2. Don’t Shy Away From Creativity

Using creativity to set an app apart means the demo video can’t be basic. Infuse a bit of personality into it, and make it unique from the other countless videos users will see. Whether it’s through music, or the development of a storyline, compelling users to download an app because it’s fresh and different will make an app memorable and noteworthy.

3. Harness the Power with a Strong Voice

Finding a voice is integral for an app. Even paying for a voiceover may be worth it to improve the overall quality of a demo. For simple apps, it isn’t entirely necessarily to include a voiceover; background music will suffice as long as it gives off the mood and feeling the app portrays.

4. Keep it To-the-Point

With only a short window to convince the user an app is worthwhile, focus on utilizing a small amount of time, rather than making a long video. Focus on grabbing the user’s attention in the first few seconds of the video, because that may be all the time a user will give before moving on.

5. Hook Your Viewers

A demo video doesn’t simply have to demonstrate functionality, it can also include a few benefits and features that will entice users. Include these as part of the voiceover, or added as captions during the editing process if only music is being used. A demo video is a unique selling tool, so take advantage of the opportunity.

A Professional and Polished Final Product

Creating an app demo video can be an overwhelming process for many developers, and creating a finished product that is polished and effective can present a challenge. To overcome this obstacle and create a dynamic and impactful demo, developers can use the services of PreApps to provide a complete, professional level demo video, at budget-friendly prices.

About The Author:

Sean Casto, a Boston-based entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of PreApps.com, the leading platform introducing new apps to users and the marketplace prior to release. He has been a guest speaker at industry conventions for Microsoft and Samsung and lectured at Universities such as Northeastern and Harvard. He as also appeared on and been mentioned by The Washington Post, USA Today, The Boston Globe, Boston News Network, and The Associated Press. Through his work and industry experience, Casto has acquired a deep understanding of the struggles developers face and a passion to serve the growing mobile app community. He is now the Chairman & Founder of App Demo & Drinks (a mobile non-profit) and holds an advisory position for numerous start-ups.

Getting Noticed

If you’ve recently published an app to the Windows 8 or Windows Phone stores, CONGRATULATIONS!

It’s a great accomplishment, but in a way, that was the easy part! Well, it was the part that you had the most control over, and now that your app is one of over at least 100,000 in the market, it’s time to make some noise, draw in users, and increase your downloads and visibility!

Get your Windows Developer Success Kit!

To help support you in that endeavor, we’re making available* the Windows Developer Success Kit – personalized for your application. The kit includes

  • 100 customized business cards with your app tile and download instructions
  • 100 customized stickers
  • promotion on MSDN East’s Facebook page
  • A $5 Starbucks card
  • 1600 Microsoft Points

To get your kit*, just send an e-mail to msdneast@microsoft.com providing your name, app name, application deep link, and your physical mailing address.

* THE FINE PRINT

Valid for Windows or Windows Phone apps published in the Store between July 1 and December 31, 2013 in these states only: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida. No purchase necessary. Limit 5 kits per Developer; one kit per published app. Please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery.

If you’re not eligible for the Windows Developer Success Kit, consider joining App Builder, and take advantage of its app promotions resources including a free e-book and  App Promotion Kit with business card, e-mail, and banner ad templates and more!

Who’s on 8: PixelRunner

This fall I conducted a short course on Windows 8 game programming (using Construct 2) at Concord-Carlisle Community Education. There were about 15 participants, a vast majority from the middle school in town, and I’m psyched to announce the first app published from that group – PixelRunner

PixelRunner on Windows 8The work of a 7th grader, PixelRunner is a temple runner platform game that supports both touch and keyboard input. It’s a great first app, and as I was helping him submit it to the Windows Store, I discovered he’s got three others underway!

Now go download the app and help encourage the next generation of application developers!

Build-A-Game Workshops, Oct. 26th

Both Josh and I are hosting hands-on Windows 8 workshops this weekend – he in Farmington and I in Cambridge; each runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Microsoft offices at those locations. We’ll both be covering Scirra Construct 2, a fantastic tool to build HTML5 games that you can deploy to Windows 8 (and Windows Phone) whether you’ve been a developer for years or are just getting started.

Build a Game with Construct 2

To make the most of the workshop, be sure to have your laptop set up before hand (see below), and if you need some help doing so, note that there are Studio Time opportunities in both Farmington and Cambridge before Saturday’s events.

  1. Mac users only: Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, VirtualBox or VMWare Fusion
  2. Windows 8 (a 90-day evaluation version available here)
  3. Visual Studio 2012 Professional (free for DreamSpark or MSDN subscribers) or Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8 (free for anyone)
  4. Scirra Construct 2 (free version)

Make $75 on Your App Makeover

This past spring, my colleagues and I spent a lot of time on college campuses introducing students to the Windows 8 platform and teaching them how to build casual games with Construct 2 as well as apps with both C#/XAML and HTML5/JavaScript. If you’re a student who published an app between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013, now’s your chance to create a new, updated app based on your existing one – and perhaps get an extra $75 (or more) for your efforts.

Windows 8 App Makeover Challenge

The Windows 8 App Makeover Challenge runs through January 1, 2014, and the rules are straightforward:

  1. Be a US resident (at least 18 years old) and a student in an accredited US educational institution,
  2. Have published a Windows 8 application between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013,
  3. Update your application per the criteria in the Terms and Conditions of the challenge,
  4. Submit your modified app as a NEW application to the Windows Store,
  5. Once your “make-over” app has been approved, visit http://aka.ms/AppMakeoverSubmission and submit the online entry form.

There’s no limit to the number of applications you can make over, but only the first 1500 apps that meet the criteria will be eligible for the $75 Amazon Gift Cards.

Who’s on 8: Save Recipes

Being on vacation for a couple of weeks has given me some extra time to check out new apps in the store, and I thought I’d share a recent find by one of our more prolific developers, Matt Ruffell of MDR Applications in upstate New York.

Save Recipes by MDR ApplicationsSave Recipes does exactly what it says – allows you to store your favorite recipes from friends, grandma, and all those cooking reality shows right on your Windows 8 “sous chef” slate in the kitchen! This app also comes with a backup and restore feature to SkyDrive so you’re not at risk of losing your culinary collection.

Matt has published the app with a free (30-day) trial – a best practice for any paid application. In fact, around a year ago, the Windows Phone team published some statistics indicating that paid apps with a trial were downloaded 70 more times than paid apps without a trial and came with around a 10% conversion rate to the full version, a majority within a day after downloading the trial.

I’ve yet to meet Matt in person, but have conversed with him numerous times over the past year or two beginning when his Windows Phone app, Cool Tools, first caught my attention.  That was one of his first Windows 8 apps and as I’m writing this, Cool Tools for Windows 8 also appears as the highlighted app for the Tools category on the Windows Store. So I guess double congratulations are due – nice job, Matt!

Who’s on 8: Tablet Letter Pro and Tablet Invoice Pro

Steve Hall of Lucky 8 Solutions is no stranger to Windows 8. He has published 10 Windows Store apps focused on mobile data collection and digital forms, including the recently launched Table Letter Pro, and in September 2012 founded and continues to run the Boston Windows 8 App Developers and IT Group in Cambridge. 

Table Letter Pro   Tablet Invoice Pro

Recently I asked Steve to share his thoughts on the latest apps he’s developed (pictured above):

Most recently I launched ‘Tablet Invoice Pro’ (Windows 8/RT App). This app is optimized for Windows tablets and touch-screen usability. You can choose from professional templates or customize yourself by adding images, receipt photos, and a touch-screen signature. Stay organized with easy filter options and automatically attach invoice to emails (Word, XLS or PDF format). Taxes and totals are calculated for you.

I started Tablet Invoice Pro in July 2013 because I wanted to create a digital forms app for mobile business users that would showcase the capabilities of Windows store apps when optimized for Windows tablets. I set out with three primary objectives.

  1. Make it faster to fill out touch screen forms using a Windows tablet;
  2. Use the tablet to include photos and to get a customer signature using the touch screen;
  3. Be able to easily save, edit and email the invoices in Word, Excel or PDF formats right from the tablet. I wanted knew Microsoft was focused on tablets and I wanted to show other app developers what is possible.

To save time custom developing key functionality we took advantage of Syncfusion Essential Studio for WinRT/XAML. By using this tool set, we were able to save over 100 hours developing the technology that turns forms into formatted Word, Excel and PDF documents (plus functionality to include photos and digital signature).

The process of developing mobile business apps optimized for Windows 8/RT tablets has been exciting. I am not a developer, but I hired a developer in India thru Elance, which was recommended to me from Microsoft BizSpark. I understood workflows and picked up the concept of the metro design and XAML fairly quickly. The developer understood WPF, MVVM and XAML, so the coding was pretty straightforward.

We developed the entire app in C#/XAML. The hardest part was just figuring out the best way to do something new since there weren’t really many good digital forms apps in the Windows Store to look at. My local Boston Windows App Tech evangelist, Jim O’Neil gave me advice along the way and great feedback on improvements I could make based on Microsoft suggested best practices.

Over the past year my experience with Microsoft has been great. They have helped me every step of the way and as a result I have 10 apps in the store. Building Windows Store Apps is fun and easy and I would recommend it to anyone. I have created apps focused on photos, videos, drawings, Bing Maps, voice notes, text notes and SkyDrive – all with the help of Microsoft and the tools and resources they offer for app developers.

Next I plan to develop more mobile business apps showcasing digital forms and mobile data collection capabilities for Windows Tablets to help Boston Windows 8 App Developers & IT Group members understand what’s possible. Windows 8 tablet apps are better for mobile business users than iPad apps and I can prove it.

Publish Your Own "LetterMan" in the Windows Store

Ok, I admit it: LetterMan holds a special place in my heart. It was the first app I published in the Windows Store, and it’s how I cut my teeth on Scirra’s Construct 2.

LetterMan was also the basis of four additional apps I published, each leveraging the same game logic but offering bilingual play in English and each of Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, and German (all with the help of volunteer translators).  Together, I’ve had more than 4000 downloads and 22 ratings with an average of about 3.75. Alas these are free apps, so I haven’t yet quit my day job!

Screenshot from German version of LetterMan

I had grand plans for a Latin version and even a “geek” version, but also realized there are a host of other apps that could arise – fueled by all of you multi-linguists out there.

So rather that hoard all the fun myself, I’ve open“open-sourced” the template I used for each of these applications and provided detailed instructions for you to create your own localized versions of the game and likewise get published in the Windows Store.

You’ll need to do a bit of work translating some text and, of course, finding images of objects starting with the various letters of your target language’s alphabet, but there are lot of public domain and Creative Commons repositories that can help (assuming you’re as graphically challenged as I).

For my apps, I made heavy use of the following sites for the graphics and background music:

  • clker.com – for vector-based, public domain clip art (there’s even an in-browser SVG editor you can use to make modifications to existing assets)
  • soundbible.com – sound effects (public domain and Creative Commons)
  • incompetech.com – royalty-free background music requiring only attribution within the application (something already accounted for in the template)

I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with, so be sure to add a comment to this blog post if you’re planning to undertake a new language version. And definitely let me know when your app is live in the store!

Lastly, don’t hesitate to drop me a note if something about the template or the instructions isn’t clear.

Who’s on 8: Word Guesser

Word Guesser in the Windows Store

Here’s a shout out to Kyle Mitofsky for getting Word Guesser published in the Windows Store. I’m a big fan of word games, and although this one has a simple concept – essentially a binary search – it’s really tough to put it down!

What’s additionally great about Kyle’s work here is that he’s put all of his code out there on GitHub so you can see and learn exactly how he built the app and leverage that to achieve your own successes in the Windows Store.

But he didn’t stop there, he was one of the presenters at the recent Vermont Code Camp where he covered Introduction to Windows 8 Apps for Windows Form Developers (and also posted his slides). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend code camp, but from his description he certainly got a lot done in that hour!

This talk will focus on the differences between traditional desktop applications and new Windows Store apps. We’ll build a couple small metro applications using VB/XAML while leveraging new controls to build an immersive application that meets Windows 8 Design Guidelines, by supporting app bars, settings panels, snapped layouts, and asynchronous calls. We’ll even get to debug code on the SurfaceRT tablet provided by Microsoft to the .NET user group.

For those of you that see Windows 8 app development as a huge learning curve or requiring super-human design abilities, Kyle’s code and slides are a fantastic way to jump in and begin leveraging the skills you already have.

Congrats, Kyle, and thank you for sharing your own experiences with the greater development community!