Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Scott Thorne talks about a story on boardgames that ran on NPR this weekend and how stores and publishers can get media attention.

In case you missed it this past Saturday morning, and if you did, I can understand why, NPR ran a 5 minute segment in which host Scott Simon discussed good (and good-selling) boardgames with Kathleen Donohue of Labyrinth Games & Puzzles in Washington DC. Games mentioned include Secret Hitler,  Azul (as a beautiful game to give), Codenames, cooperative games from Peaceable Kingdom and, as a game that all ages will enjoy, that ol’ stalwart Ticket to Ride (which, surprisingly, is offered pretty close to Asmodee’s MAP on Amazon,  unlike companies with no MAP, such as Wizards of the Coast, which does not seem to care a whit how much Amazon devalues the D&D brand).  Though some people might complain about the games selected, given that Secret Hitler is only available through Amazon (from where a lot of stores buy and resell it) and a couple of others are exclusive with particular distributors, it is still a nice bit of publicity that reached some 4 million to 6 million listeners at no cost to Donohue (except for her time and whatever preparation she made) or to any of the publishers of the games she mentioned.  Just how much is getting your game (or your store) in front of 4 million people?  Now and for the next eight months is the time for you to start cultivating media contacts and developing promotional plans that will bear fruit in the last quarter of 2019.  How to do this?

Reach out to the media or otherwise make yourself known to them.  Donohue gets mentioned on some NPR program at least once a year because many of the staff there are fans of her store.  MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow used to shop at the now shuttered Modern Myths and would post photos of her purchases there on occasion.  The editor of one of our local papers is a customer and we don’t hesitate to pitch him a story when we have something we think is newsworthy.  Making sure the media is aware of your existence is a major factor in getting your store mentioned in articles like this.  Incidentally, one of the things I would like to see GAMA do over the next year is launch a public relations campaign to position the organization as the go-to source for information on the tabletop game industry.  Similarly, in your community, your store should be the one the media contacts if they have a question about what Secret Hitler is or why Catan has maintained its popularity for so many years.  The Growler, which published the article linked to earlier, focuses on craft brewing while Illinois Country Living, published by the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, also published an article on boardgames last summer.  You never can tell what publications what might want to do a story on your store or game.

Create Events and Pitch Them.  The news media likes news and is always looking for stories to publish.  In today’s 24 hour news cycle, the need for new content is unending and your events, especially if they are out of the norm, can provide that content, especially if you can tie it to some sort of national event such as Free Comic Book Day or Free RPG Day.  We have actually had success contacting our city government and getting them to proclaim the 1st Saturday in May as Free Comic Book Day in Carbondale and the 3rd Saturday in June as Free RPG Day (Unfortunately, we still had to explain what an RPG is, but once we used the term "Dungeons and Dragons," the proclamation went through fine).

The media is your friend or wants to be if you approach them. It is too late to work with them for this holiday season but you’ve nine months to prepare for the next one.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of