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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