So you’ve launched your Kickstarter campaign. Where do backers come from? How can you reach your community? Is it possible to get blogs and other press outlets to write about you? These are some of the most-asked questions creators have after launching, and the answers point to the most exciting work of running a campaign. The good news is that with dedication, planning, and creativity, you can make sure your campaign reaches the people who want to support it. Here’s how.
1. Start with your inner circle and work outward
“Whether your project is big or small, your first wave of support will come from your friends,” says game designer Kevin Cole. “Motivate them, involve them, lean on them, and be there for them too! You are not an island.” Kevin’s first campaign, for his game Project Maiden, helped launch his video game studio. The project raised $12,000 from 362 backers, and he says that more than half of them were people he knew personally.
Your friends and family are your biggest advocates—after yourself, of course—and you should be excited to keep them updated about your creative endeavors. The first thing you’ll do once you launch your campaign is to email everyone who cares about your work so you can celebrate the start of your project—and it’s a good idea to have these emails prewritten, so you can get them out into the world fast. These missives should be joyful and excited, inviting those closest to you to join you on the creative journey you’ve just begun. Encourage them to back your campaign as soon as they’re able; early momentum from your inner circle is essential. Not only will these folks help get you moving quickly toward your financial goal, their support will also show potential new fans that your project has momentum and enthusiasm behind it.
“Make sure you know exactly how you're going to bring in your inner circle as quickly as you can,” says five-time Kickstarter creator Peter Chiykowski, whose multidisciplinary projects include a comic collection, a music album, and storytelling tools. “In every campaign I've run, the entire 30-day forecast of success/failure rests in the hands of the people who show up on day one. [Those] supporters tend to be ride-or-die fans, family members, and friends who know how much the project means to me.”
Kickstarter’s pre-launch page is a great way to let your audience know about your upcoming campaign. In addition to helping you tease the project, this feature turns supporters into followers, allowing them to opt in to get notified the moment your project is live. Filmmaker Jenn Ravenna’s campaign for the short film “And Then” saw huge success—more than 1,400 backers supported her project, which eventually raised more than 700 percent of its original goal. This success didn’t come out of nowhere: Jenn and her team spent a long time building hype for the project on Instagram and Twitter before launching. They shared the campaign’s pre-launch page with friends and fans far and wide, getting more than 900 followers from their existing network before the campaign even launched.
Start building your audience well before your project is live by sharing your creative work, joining and participating in communities related to what you do, and supporting and collaborating with others in your field. It’s important to develop and maintain a mailing list to keep in touch with all the folks who are interested in your creations, so you’ll be ready to go with your campaign announcement.
If you can picture the members of your community who will back your campaign at each reward level, and what tactics you’ll use to reach them all, you’re probably ready to launch. And if your friends and fans help you start strong, by the time a stranger gets to your page, it will already have the shine of success.
2. Promote consistently and from multiple angles
Promoting your campaign to your audience—on social media, via email, with live events, through press contacts, and anything else you can do—should be a huge focus of your time while the campaign is live. You’ll need to repeat yourself to remind folks to back the project and to reach everyone who didn’t hear you the first few times. However, it can get a little exhausting for your followers to hear the same pitch over and over again, and it’s even more tiring for you to give it!
So spend some time before launch planning out many different ways to talk about your project. Tell behind-the-scenes stories, spotlight your contributors and collaborators, go into detail about your process, share videos, photos, audio, and interactive elements. Spread this out over backer updates, emails, and on all your social platforms.
Social media will be a crucial component of promotion, and you’ll need to be consistent in your use of it. Utilize the platform (or platforms) where you’ve already taken time to build your audience, and where your supporters already are. There’s no need to open brand new accounts on different platforms just to promote a Kickstarter campaign—in fact, that would likely be viewed as inauthentic.
Try to break your project down into five to ten different stories that you can tell throughout the weeks your campaign is live. Some of those could be: the origin of this idea, the mission of your work, some roadblocks you’ve encountered, the rewards you’re offering, how you built your team, component of your creative processes, and where you hope this work will take you in the future. Ration these stories throughout your campaign—you have a lot of time to fill, so don’t post all your best anecdotes and images on day one.
Kickstarter backers want to be part of your creative journey, so get them involved. Board game creators Cardboard Alchemy make playable puzzles to engage their fans before and during their campaigns. These puzzles are thematically linked to the games being funded, so there’s always lots to talk about with their community.
“I often try to think of fun ways to increase interaction and to get the community to chat with each other,” said Cardboard Alchemy's Peter Vaughan. “The puzzles we launched for Dwellings of Eldervale and Mission Catastrophe in particular were quite successful, because they gave [people] a pre-launch activity and a reason to meet other backers.”
Peter also says these ideas are great for bringing in repeat backers. “Sometimes these endeavors seem like more work than they’re worth, but they have a huge residual payback in support and community, and people still remember them as favorite campaigns.”
3. Build a great list of press contacts
Reporters and bloggers are always in search of new things to write about, so create a small targeted list of press contacts who are interested in your specific niche. Public-relations companies charge several thousand dollars for their connections and expertise in this area, but it can also be done in a DIY way with a bit of hustle.
To grow your list, become a detective. Do some sleuthing and make note of bloggers, podcasters, connectors, influencers, and reporters who cover your area by using a simple set of clues: the topics that they already write about!
It’s easy to look up other projects or creators on services like Google News and Kicktraq to see where they have been covered, and that’s a great place to start. For the graphic novel project Dragon by Saladin Ahmed, we began compiling our press list by doing a Google News search for Saladin and every other person on the creative team, then adding each writer and publication who had covered the team. Then we did a news search for the top comics projects from the previous year and found all the publications and writers who had covered those; we looked up those writers and confirmed that they were still covering this kind of story before we put them on our list.
The research required to build a good targeted list can be a big project, but it’s likely to pay off. In the case of Dragon, reaching out with polite messaging to a targeted group of journalists contributed to a great collection of articles in week one of the campaign! But what message do you send?
4. Write an excellent press message and include assets
Once you have a great press list, it’s important to use it well. Those busy press folks get a lot of emails, so make sure yours gets their attention by being short enough to quickly to understand, compelling enough to help them see the story they could write, and thorough enough that they have everything they need to put it all together.
A press release is a great way to collect all the information a reporter will need, but don’t just copy/paste one into a mass email. Personalize each note, starting with a short summary of why this person will care, based on what they’ve written about in the past. Then put in your press release with all the pertinent information, so they don't have to take a lot of time to follow up with you. Include all contributor names, a quote or two, the campaign’s timeline, a link to your project, and, most importantly, a link to an easily accessible folder of high-resolution images. Beautiful images bump a story to the front page of a newspaper or website, so don’t forget them. Check out a sample press email here, or read Kickstarter senior comms director Kate Bernyk’s press guide for additional tips.
You can also provide extra value to news outlets by offering exclusive content, like interviews, images, or news that no one else is getting. But an exclusive means you can only share it with one outlet, so think about and plan for who you want that to be.
Finally, When you receive press coverage, be sure to spread the word. Signal-boost those links through backer updates and social posts, which will also help the reporter or outlet’s traffic. It’s also great to tag the writer when you can. To really cement the press connections, send a thank-you message whenever you are mentioned, even in passing, in a blog or media outlet.
5. Create a video, piece of content, sample, or something else sharable and newsworthy
Don't just launch a campaign, launch some art with it. This can be helpful for both the press and your audience.
“Creator launches Kickstarter campaign” may not be a compelling story by itself, but there are still lots of ways you can get members of the press excited about covering your project. Can you release a music video or film trailer on day one? Is there a web version of your game people can play, or a chapter of your book folks can read? Can you share exclusive images of your project that didn’t make it onto your campaign page? Is there a unique story about your project that will grab people’s attention?
Sharing a piece of “newsworthy” content is not only a good hook for your press release, it can also give your audience something to get excited about. It’s more interesting for fans, friends, and even for you to share elements of your creative work—like videos, images, art, and stories—than to just plug a fundraising page. Kickstarter is not a store, but you are asking for money, and there is a lot of marketing research showing that you shouldn’t introduce yourself with a financial “ask.” Think about it—it’s much nicer to get to know someone before you ask to borrow $5. So give everybody something fun to click on, like nerd-folk band the Doubleclicks did when we launched the music video for our single “I’m Winning” on day one of our campaign. The video got great press coverage, which led a wave of excited fans to the campaign.
6. Stay positive and keep going
Your campaign may hit its goal in the first few hours, or it could take all month. Either way, stay positive and don't stop promoting. It’s the best way to keep generating enthusiasm and momentum, as long as your campaign is live.
Indie band The Misbehavin’ Maidens plan ongoing celebrations throughout their campaigns, including sharing fun gifs to celebrate milestones. Band member Enfys Book says their ongoing momentum is intentional. "I think a good deal of our success was because we planned for promotion throughout the whole campaign," said Enfys. The band reached out to their friends and connections at different times throughout the project, not just the beginning, in order to keep the excitement up the whole way through.
Running a Kickstarter campaign can be a lot of work, but the opportunities it offers for collaborative creation and community-building will have a really wonderful impact during the life of the campaign—and beyond. Promotion may take a lot of time and dedication, but it will all pay off when the backers pile up and your creative dreams get funded. Remember: It’s a marathon, not a sprint—so prep as much as possible, stay positive and diligent, and don’t forget to thank your backers and contributors when it’s all done!
Laser Malena-Webber is a Kickstarter Expert with Laser Campaigns and a Billboard-charting singer-songwriter with indie band The Doubleclicks. Laser is the author of Crowdfunding for Musicians (Berklee Press, 2019). Check out their free resources for Kickstarter creators at lasercampaigns.com.