Why PitchEngine is Great For Teaching the Social Media News Release

pitchenginelogo

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.

Visuals

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!

Tweetables

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!

PitchEngine-Tweetable

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!

Matt

top graphic: PitchEngine Logo is property of PitchEngine

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Snickers Understands the Opportunity in Search

Snickers used search engines to target customers who were making misspellings during search. This cost-effective campaign reached over 500,000 people in 2 days.

How did it work? As explained on a Google article, “Each time someone misspelled a word, they were given a tailored message to “Grab yourself a Snikkers” as “Yu cant spel properlie wen hungrie.” Clicking the ad brought the customer to YoureNotYouWhenYoureHungry.com.

This is the most brilliant example of search engine marketing I’ve seen in quite a while. And the lessons here extend beyond search engine marketing to search generally, and understanding audience and opportunity. What makes this campaign so great?

Integration across mediums – Integrated Marketing is not new, but this is clever integration of an offline campaign that many of us already know to the online world: Snickers’ “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.” You’ve probably seen the “diva” commercials of someone being hungry and acting moody, then returning to themselves after being given a Snickers. With that familiarity, I know what Snickers is referring to when the campaign ad comes up in search.

Seizing Opportunity– This year, a big trend has been ‘real-time marketing‘ on Twitter. We saw it with Oreo and Audi in the Super Bowl when the lights went out.This week, we saw it with the birth of the royal baby. What is real-time marketing other than taking advantage of an OPPORTUNITY to reach out to an audience and connect with them on a common event or cultural experience? Of course, this type of strategy has been around for ages. Find someone when they’re in need of your product and they’re more likely to buy. But this is a particularly clever way of engaging an audience in that situation and frame of mind.

The search campaign here comes off as an almost secret finding for the searcher, like a treasure hunt they didn’t know they were a part of. There you are browsing for something – like business -, you make a misspelling, are probably frustrated by it, and out of left field comes this funny little find. Hence, an OPPORTUNITY for the target audience to interact with Snickers is created. Who wouldn’t chuckle at someone joking that “Yu cant spel properlie wen hungrie.” at a time like this? It feels like the ad was targeted specifically to you. That’s what I mean when I mention the ‘situation’ and ‘frame of mind’ below.

The video below quickly gives a sense of how Snickers identified an opportunity to target an audience (in this case, young adults who are likely bored, hungry for a snack, and appreciate creativity and humor from a brand), and used search as a creative way of connecting. Though I’m not sure what level of competition they had for the misspelled words, I imagine it wasn’t too great when compared to trying to bid on real spellings for a targeted keyword.

Understanding search behavior – Snickers identified common misspellings of key words. As the video claims, people ‘make spelling mistakes when they’re hungry.’ Though I don’t know about the research on that, I can say that people make spelling mistakes all the time in search. And aren’t we all always hungry for a snack, particularly something sweet?

Meeting Your target demographic on their turf – Snickers targets their audience WHERE their audience is, in the situation and frame of mind that makes them ready to purchase. Let me explain. Who eats Snickers? Well, just about everybody (though I’m a Charleston Chew guy myself). But the campaign uses an odd sense of humor to appeal to younger folks and that busy lifestyle we all experience that makes quick snacks like candy bars an easy option. The video indicates the real target is the bored person at work who is stuck at a computer. And what office doesn’t have a vending machine nearby, or a convenient store around the corner? We’ve seen this sort of targeting in other chocolate bar ads, a la “Gimmie a break” indicating the snack as a quick escape from the drudgery of everyday life.

The resulting experience for the searcher? I didn’t mean to show up at this misspelled search result but, behold, I’m not here alone… Snickers is here too, they’ve made this mistake, and they understand WHY I’m here.

Bringing this all together, I love this example because it shows how one brand cleverly reached an audience on a small budget using something we often talk about, search engines, but don’t always quite realize their full potential.

This is a great example I plan to show in my class to emphasize the importance of search engines, and how they can be used to target audiences (I introduce targeting via search in Writing Across Platforms). I’m sure it will spark discussion and some creativity!

Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)

On my last post I talked about Why I’m teaching Content Marketing in the Writing Class. One of the reasons I gave was the close connection between social media, SEO, and content marketing.

Today, we must teach students to write for 2 audiences:

  • Humans – you know, those organisms you interact with on social media.. oh, sometimes in real life too.
  • Search Engines – Where wonders cease and answers are found.

seo_cartoon

For written assignments, students in Writing Across Platforms (see syllabus) will conduct keyword research to optimize their content for the web.

As one way to introduce my students to SEO and keyword research, I use the below in class exercise with Google Trends (formerly, Google Insights). Google Trends allows users to see and compare trends on what Googlers are searching for, by showing search volume across time. Users can break down trends by category, such as geography.

We also discuss keyword research via Google Adword Keyword Search Tool. But I like to talk about Google Trends first because it is easy to use and a bit more approachable with its visual layout, including interactive maps.

Google Trends Activity and Discussion (Time: 15-20 minutes). Note: Lecture notes at bottom of blog post.

In class, I explain how search engines like Google seek to rank content based on relevancy and credibility so they can deliver the best content to searchers. The algorithms for ranking content are complex and constantly changing. But the question for anyone seeking to get their content in front of the right eyeballs remains the same:

How can we optimize our content to increase the chance people will find it online?

  1. I explain how Google Trends can be used to see what characteristics or features of a topic people search for (you can see the slides below). I ask students to imagine they are writing content for a new Volkswagen. How can they know what features of the new car to highlight in their content?
  2. I use this example because Google already has a great video explaining the results of a keyword search topic. So after we discuss some popular features, I show them the video example.
  3. Then we go to Google Trends and try it for ourselves.
  4. I then give them an in-class activity with a similar scenario asking them to find out what people search for most regarding a particular topic. I prompt with:
  5. Imagine you work for a client who wants to promote a new gym. What do people seem to be most interested in?
  6. Look specifically at Maryland. What do they search for in Maryland?
  7. How could you apply this knowledge to target user interest?
  8. Students go to the following Google Doc (http://bit.ly/WAP_GTrendsEx) and follow the instructions and visuals to walk them through the steps on Google Trends.
  9. This brief activity is followed by discussion of what they found, and their thoughts on how this information could be used.
  10. In my experience (I taught this in a social media class in the past), students at this point are excited about this tool and want to compare a topic they are interested in – maybe ice cream flavors, celebrities, brands, etc. I’ll ask students to make predictions on what topic is being searched for most and why. Often, we are surprised by what we find, which makes for a great discussion. We have lots of fun spending a few minutes doing this kind of exploration!
  11. I end by emphasizing that one way to use Google Trends is to see what people care about the most when they search for a topic, whether it be cars, gyms, et cetera.

From there, we move on to discussing Google Adwords Keyword tool, which I’ll save for a future blog post.

Check out the associated slides for this class and the class before it where I explain SEO and linking below:

What is SEO and link building and why do they matter?

Keyword Research Activity: Google Trends and Adwords (relates directly to above blog post)

What do you think? How do you teach your students about keyword research and search engine optimization? Would love to hear your exercises and thoughts below.

Cheers!
– Matt

Related Posts:

  1. When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 Problems with Marketo’s Ebook
  2. Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class

top cartoon: Some rights reserved by seanrnicholson