Tag Archives: optimizing

Why PitchEngine is Great For Teaching the Social Media News Release


In my Writing Across Platforms class, students write a news release for the social web. We have used PitchEngine to help students learn the web features that can bolster a news release.

So let’s talk about PitchEngine, why it is awesome, and why I love it for this assignment.

What is PitchEngine?

PitchEngine is a service for creating, hosting, and getting the word out about your organization’s news. It is an effective, visually appealing, and easy to use storytelling tool for reaching media – traditional and new – as well as brand fans. I say storytelling because, while a news release is one way PitchEngine can be used, it certainly isn’t the only way. Think of it as a platform for sharing your brand’s story.

In other words, news releases aren’t simply pushed out like the old days – but they are hosted on branded space. This was an innovation that PitchEngine helped introduce. PitchEngine helped bring about the social media news release and so it is fitting that students learn the social media release using their service. PitchEngine CEO/Founder Jason Kintzler has been a leading voice for technology and change in the PR industry.

PitchEngine includes custom layouts, multimedia utilities, and analytics features.

Brands have their own page where all of their pitches are aggregated, such as the A&M Entertainment brand page. Media can follow these pages to get updates when a new pitch is posted.

You can see a host of creative PitchEngine pitches on Pinterest.

How have I used it in this assignment?

When I give out the assignment, I discuss several important features about web writing – whether it be a news release format or a blog post.

  • We talk about SEO, inbound links, and the role of search and sharing in helping people find your content.
  • As part of that, we spend a good amount of time searching keywords on Google Keyword Estimator and Google Trends – things I’ve written before about here, and here.
  • And we talk a little about readability and writing for the web – something I come back to later in the semester with more detail.

After students write their initial news release draft with an emphasis on web writing, students put their pitches into PitchEngine. This is a great experience for getting to get a sense of how writing functions in the web world.

Here are two of the several elements of web pitches I emphasize.


PitchEngine emphasizes the visual element of the pitch. A look over their website shows that they take style seriously. This is no accident. They have easy-to-use, one-click templates for pitch layout. Here’s a great pitch from Keen that harnessing photos to show off their cool new shoes.

In corresponding with Kintzler, he emphasized the value of shooting and composing great photos and visuals for pitch effectiveness. You can see the emphasis on visuals in a PitchEngine pitch, such as this.

I try to impress this upon my students – requiring them to identify key visuals to bolster their pitches. After creating their pitches, they choose a template style that they find most appropriate to their pitch. Note: None of my student’s posts are public because that would mean they were… public, and since we write about real brands with mock situations that would cause a problem. So I won’t share them. But, take my word for it, they look great!


As I note below, PitchEngine has changed over the last few years. They used to have a feature where you typed in ‘quick facts’ that readers can click and Tweet. That appears to have been replaced with a new, also awesome feature – Tweetables.

Tweetables are parts of written text that make for good Tweets. That is, it is a section of a sentence that a reader can click on and Tweet. So, you want it to emphasize a key fact, stat, or point in your pitch that users would find interesting. It should align with your message strategies. I wrote about this concept a while back when I noticed Pew using this same feature to facilitate easy sharing of content from web articles to Twitter.

I noticed that several students struggled with the Tweetable concept this semester. I think I didn’t explain it very well this semester, or show effective examples.

Here’s an example of a Tweetable from a student release (company name redacted). Simply click the link, and Tweet!


More On PitchEngine

The folks at PitchEngine, including Jason, have been so generous and kind in all of my communications with them. They have generously allowed our students to use their tool for the 3 semesters over the past few years that I have taught this class. In that time period, PitchEngine has changed their features and pricing model. But they’ve always been happy to let our students used advanced, paid features – such as templates – for learning purposes; that includes now, that PitchEngine no longer offers free accounts. A big thanks to PitchEngine!

I would love for PitchEngine to build a university program that can help students learn a bit more about the features, suggested strategies for maximizing pitch effectiveness on the platform, analytics, and ‘under the hood’ how it works, of PitchEngine. I think this would make for a great opportunity for more universities and for our students to get the very most out of the tool.

More Details About the Assignment

As I’ve mentioned previously, here is my original social news release assignment (I’ve since modified it to reflect recent changes to PitchEngine).

Dr. Gallicano and Dr. Sweetser have a great guideline for teaching the social media release (Note: PitchEngine is mentioned). I’ve adapted parts of their recommendations to improve my assignment.

Has your class used PitchEngine? If so, how? What recommendations do you have for integrating it into assignments?

Have you check out their, fairly new TinyPitch website? I need to find more time to explore this cool, new tool.

Hope you are enjoying spring break! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


top graphic: PitchEngine Logo is property of PitchEngine

As the teenager goes, so goes Facebook.. so goes the social media professor?


Back in January I posted the below Tweet.

My Communication & New Media class was talking about the boom and bust of Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and the “cool hunt” – the tendency of young folks to jump from one trend to the next. (Yes, of course MySpace came up. Interestingly, students this semester hadn’t heard of Friendster).

I have asked the same question every semester since 2008-2009, when I began teaching new media as a grad student at Washington State University. “What is the most popular social network?” The answer has always been Facebook.

This semester the answer was clear. Facebook is on the way out.

Is there a shift coming to social media?

A great article posted to CNET last week titled “Why teens are tiring of Facebook” offers an in depth look as to the social networking giant’s troubles. Many of those same troubles were echoed by my students. They can be summed up in this Tweet I posted to a question I got from @richelecole to my original Tweet as to what was in:

In other words, Facebook:

  • Lacks exclusivity – “Everyone” is on Facebook – and yes, that means Mom, Dad, and the grandparents. There could be nothing less cool.
  • Is too cumbersome – Facebook, the social network that built itself on being sleeker and less chaotic than Myspace, is too complicated for the fast-paced on the go lifestyle. It takes too much time to maintain and participate in. Students said they just didn’t have time for all Facebook demanded of them. Twitter is quick and easy. Instagram is too, and the bonus is – pictures!

It seems my students aren’t the only ones thinking about unfriending Facebook.

As social media professors, are we always part of the cool hunt as well?

In a way. Trying to keep up with changing trends while balancing the many other responsibilities of being a professor may feel sometimes like an unwinnable race. That’s why it is so important that we keep our focus on what truly matters. Teaching students to think.

The tools will change. New trends will emerge. The fundamentals are much less fickle.

I think of them as:

  1. Monitoring: Strategies for identifying, cultivating, monitoring, and analyzing information on the social/real-time web.
  2. Metrics: Strategies for setting goals and what to measure on social media. And measuring them.
  3. Optimization: Strategic use of optimization strategies to maximize potential exposure to communication content online.
  4. Engagement: Strategies for targeting and engaging potential publics online.

When we teach new media, we should always keep in mind that the tool we’re teaching may be gone tomorrow.

It isn’t the tool so much that counts, as understanding the underlying concepts and strategies – the Why. If students learn only two things in my classes they should be: Be Adaptable (apply what you’ve learned to new situations). Be Lifelong Learners. These are platform agnostic skillsets.

Is a shift coming to social media and what does that mean for educators? As an educator, how do you stay current with changing trends in the classroom? What do you emphasize to your students?  Do you disagree with my approach? I would love to hear your thoughts and discuss this important topic further. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Like this post? Please share it.


– Matt

image creds: Facebook logo. This version hosted by MarcoPako Flickr page.

Using Buffer in the Classroom to Teach Students Social Media Scheduling.

Feb 13, 2013

These days, there is a lot of talk about the importance of scheduling posts to social media (Dan Zarella thinks of it as a ‘science). Posting content to social media at the right time can make all the difference as to how much engagement you garner via likes, clicks, retweets, comments, etc.

That’s why it is important that as social media educators we teach our students about optimizing scheduling social media posts and monitoring the success of our posts help us determine when the best times to share are.


Enter the new app that’s getting a lot of buzz: Bufferapp –  a simple way to automate scheduling posts to be shared on social media (More about the Buffer social media post scheduler).

No more posting too much all at once. No more thinking about when to post something.

But is this new tool Buffer useful in the classroom? I think so. Here’s how I would use it:

How I would use Buffer

While I haven’t used Buffer in the classroom – I’d consider it as a tool for executing a schedule plan. I think its greatest utility would be to couple Buffer with Hootsuite’s post scheduler. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Students schedule content they’ve created as part of a campaign (e.g., original Tweets, Tweets sharing their blog posts, etc). using Hootsuite.
  2. Students use Buffer as a compliment to Hootsuite – setting up their Buffer to post ONLY at those times that they are not posting their original content via Hoostuie. That way, when they find relevant and timely content to share, they can add it to their Buffer. If there’s no content, nothing is posted.

This combination will result in a more complete sharing schedule strategy that doesn’t overlap.

  • A simple example:
    • Original written and planned scheduled post – via Hoostuite.
      • 10am, noon, 4pm.
    • “Found” content – via Buffer.
      • 9am, 1pm, 6pm.

How Buffer Works

I had mixed feelings about Buffer at first. It honestly seemed like a lazy person’s tool to me (I’d previously taught my students to schedule their posts via Hootsuite).

Buffer’s appeal is its simplicity. You post something you want to share to Buffer, and it schedules it to be published on your social media account at a given time (currently supports: Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. I’ve connected to my Twitter @mjkushin & my LinkedIn profile). There is an app, a browser plugin, and integration into your social media accounts. So it is easy to add content from around the web to your Buffer. You can also manually enter Tweets.

Setting up Your Schedule on Buffer


When I dug into Buffer, I found the user sets up what day(s) of the week and what time Buffer publishes content. You can also change your settings by day of the week (you have to pay for this feature unfortunately). Once your schedule is set up, all you have to do is add content and Buffer will publish it at your programmed days/times until your Buffer is empty (screen shot of empty buffer rom my Android app).


In theory, once you determine your optimized schedule, you can program Buffer for those times. You can always adjust the schedule later of course based on analytics feedback (below).

URL shortener and Analytics


There is an integrated URL shortener with analytics, a la Bit.ly. As you can see (photo above of web app, photo below is same thing on my Android) , it tracks some basic stats for me: retweets, mentions, potential reach (my # of followers here), favorites, and clicks. Not quite as robust at Bit.ly, but good. You can also attach photos.




  • Quick & easy to learn & use
  • All-in-one posting and analytics.
  • Can be used to schedule posts, once schedule has been determined.
  • Can be used to monitor success of scheduling, to refine posting schedule.


  • A lack of in-depth analytics.
  • Minimal customization on posting schedule – you can’t adjust the days with free account.

I want my students to not only understand the importance of scheduling, but to understand how to determine the best times to schedule through pre-campaign research, and monitoring.

Buffer may be a great supplemental tool as part of a larger social media scheduling program and lesson. I’ll keep it in my thoughts and report back if I end up using it in the future.

Have you tried Buffer for yourself, in the classroom? What are your thoughts and experiences? 

Have you taught social media scheduling? How? Please comment below.