PitchEngine revs up public beta, puts the social in PR

Summary:Last week I wrote about how bloggers could better work with public relations folks. While I won't to get into the habit of writing about PR I think we'd all agree that, like it or not, there's a direct correlation between it and social media, especially when we're talking about business strategies.

PitchEngine revs up public beta and puts the social in PR
Last week I wrote about how bloggers could better work with public relations folks. While I won't to get into the habit of writing about PR I think we'd all agree that, like it or not, there's a direct correlation between it and social media, especially when we're talking about business strategies. Before I silence myself on the matter, let me introduce PitchEngine. It's the first service I've seen that provides simplicity for social media savvy PR people need and potential relief for media who need to reduce their inundation of unsolicited pitches.

PitchEngine, which already has more than 300 brands in its alpha, opens up for public beta and introduces its Social Media Newsroom, both this week. What does it do? There are three key features thus far:

  • Social Media Release Builder -- PR pros can build SMRs with a very quick tool that allows for publishing via the PitchEngine site as well as in an iframe on a corporate site. These releases can be posted directly to Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook from within the actual SMR and can include multimedia.
  • Social Media Newsroom -- Automates the corporate newsroom development and maintenance process.
  • PitchFeed -- Allows bloggers / reporters to choose which pitches they will receive based on a customized RSS (it even allows the media to block brands that might be spamming them).

PitchEngine revs up public beta and puts the social in PR
Admittedly, I have been skeptical in the past regarding SMRs as I worried that, if mishandled, they would further the divide between media and PR (and, let's face it, nothing beats relationships). But PitchEngine is doing just the opposite by bridging the gap with its innovative approach to SMR distribution and pitch management. Wanting to dig a little bit more into the service, I interviewed founder Jason Kintzler.

Q. [Jennifer] How do you see this competing with the offerings of PR Newswire, Business Wire, Marketwire, etc. Or is it complementary? A. [Jason] Since we don't provide distribution (at least not the same form), I don't see us as competing. While those services offer varying forms of social media integration, our goal is to be more of a tool for PR firms and brands. The social aspects are superior already -- direct tweets from within the SMRs, and the ability to "follow" a brand on Twitter from the release is pretty innovative. I'm also guessing that "free" is a bit cheaper than those services as well.

Q. How do you plan to monetize this as a PR tool? A. People think it's crazy, but the Social Media Release Builder aspect of PitchEngine is a free service and I plan it to keep it that way. This week, as we roll out public beta, we'll be offering a customizable newsroom feature. Since PitchEngine SMRs are active for 30-days once created, users who subscribe to the service will be able to host and archive their SMRs in these newsrooms. Each newsroom is hosted by us, but mapped from your corporate Web site for a more seamless feel for journalists and consumers visiting your site. The subscription fee will start out at $600/yr per brand.

Q. How about as a tool for media? A. This side of PitchEngine will be a free service as well. Media are inundated with "spam" pitches sent via traditional methods. Everyone keeps telling me there is NO way to cut out spam. They may be right, but we're sure going to put a huge dent in it. Media users will set up a personalized page within the site by simply answering a couple questions -- they will then be provided with a PitchFeed (RSS/SMR feed) specific to their industry, news beat, etc. Media users will be able to filter content in their custom PitchFeed, even be able to accept/deny pitches from specific brands outside of their feed. If a blogger is using this service, it becomes increasingly harder for them to get spammed.

Q. With Reg FD requirements now satisfied with corporate blogs, do you think companies will pay for SMRs when they can simply post content in their blog? Or is there a connection between what you are doing and the corporate blog? A. Posting press content to a blog doesn't necessarily make it easier for a PR person to deliver all the content and assets for media to do their job well. It's definitely easier for bloggers (no need for high res images), but that's still just a piece of the puzzle. I believe having a consistent format will be an advantage for PitchEngine. Media want, and perhaps more importantly, need this to be easy. Stepping into a more social form of media relations will take some coaxing, the majority of media and PR aren't there yet. I think this will be an easier, more friendly transition for the industry. It's not going to solve everyone's problems, but it can certainly take some of the guesswork and out of it.

Next: What is the Social Media Newsroom? -->

Q. How do you approach the social media newsroom? How do you perceive its value and what features will be in there? Will this be an additional cost? A. This launches on Friday. I think it's a great value for a brand as they can host all of their SMRs in one place that is linked from their site to their custom newsroom. The SMRs are archived as long as the brand is subscribed. The newsroom is not all that different from the releases themselves except it has a little bit more traditional "newsie" design to accommodate other assets and feeds. You can imagine what a project it is for some brands or PR firms to build and maintain corporate newsrooms. This automates the process.

Q. Do you think the social media newsroom is going to change the way corporations do their Web sites? A. In general, social media will be doing that anyway. You should see less and less flash animations and whiz-bang design and more content (blogs, video, etc.). The social aspect of PitchEngine relies on brands becoming engaged in social media in order to allow people to "follow" them or share their content from the SMR. It's a trend that hasn't seen mainstream adoption yet, but things like this should help expedite the transition. Who better to introduce social media to a corporation than the PR department? I don't think the social media newsrooms will change corporate Web sites as much as they will encourage a more social form of communications and marketing.

Q. With so many free services, how do you see this business scaling? A. There is no shortage of needs in this arena. I plan to keep rolling out a variety of tools from within PitchEngine that will help PR pros and brands get engaged and more social. There is a definite interest on an international level as social media doesn't have too many boundaries and brands in various countries will be able to take advantage of that through PitchEngine. Ultimately, I see PR and marketing crossing over, especially with social media. We have plans to offer more consumer-focused programs. It won't always be necessary to go through traditional media channels -- brands will engage with willing consumers directly.

[Update 8/19/08 8:37 a.m. SHIFT Communications has a nice Social Media Newsroom template for those companies that want to host their own multimedia press rooms.]

Topics: Social Enterprise

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