5 newsjacking strategies that PR can use.

As a marketing agency, you always want to ensure that you promote your clients to the best of your abilities. This includes creating advertising and PR campaigns that will be highly visible and draw attention. For many, determining what strategies will give your clients that visibility can be a challenge. 

Newsjacking is among the more common strategies. The term was first widely used in 2011 in a book by David Meerman Scott. It lets you take advantage of current trends to promote your product or brand and can be highly effective when used properly.

What Is Newsjacking?

The term “newsjacking” first became extremely popular, thanks to David Meerman Scott. He published a book called “Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage.” The term was used occasionally before this, but the book made it significantly more popular.

The full title of the book provides a concise definition of newsjacking. It is when you take current events or popular news and figure out a way to add in your ideas, brand, products, or services. 

According to Meerman Scott, there is an optimal point during the news story’s life that you should “newsjack,” as shown in the following chart. 

Life of a News Story Chart

There are no readily available statistics regarding newsjacking, but a simple online search can show you how popular it is. A fairly recent example would be how companies have somehow injected themselves into the conversation about coronavirus. Specific examples would be companies advertising things to do while at home or to stay healthy and either directly mentioning or strongly alluding to the virus. That said, most newsjacking strategies rely on shorter-term news stories than COVID.

The following shows a more concrete example. At the same time, it shows that newsjacking has been around since at least 2013:

Screenshot of Oreo Instagram on Newsjacking

For some context, Oreo wrote this Tweet in 2013 during the blackout that occurred during the Superbowl.

Common newsjacking strategies for content marketing and PR.

The following are some of the more common newsjacking strategies you can find in PR and content marketing. Some content will only use one of these strategies, while others will use more than one.

1. Act quickly – so set up alerts

The most common strategy when it comes to newsjacking is to act as quickly as you can without hurting the quality of the content. The sooner you “newsjack,” the more effective it will be. You mainly want your story or post to get out before others do, as that maximizes your attention. 

To ensure you can act quickly and “jack the news” effectively, consider the following strategies:

  •   Create news alerts, such as Google Alerts
  •   Use Google Trends

 A good example of this comes from KitKat. In 2014, the iPhone 6 Plus had issues with bending in back pockets. KitKat acted quickly and created the following Tweet.

KitKat Twitter Screenshot

2. Emphasize the story, not the sale

Another important strategy for newsjacking is to make sure that you place the focus on the story in question. Your client’s brand should seem like a secondary thought. If you make the promotional aspect too strong, you could do more harm than good.

Oreo offers a good example of this strategy, showing the company has had a well-rounded newsjacking approach for a while. They released the following ad when Kate Middleton had her baby.

Oreo Ad of milk and cookie on a red pillow

An Oreo is in the image, but you see the “royal” cushion and baby bottle first. Therefore, this emphasizes the story or the birth of the royal baby. At the same time, it has a gentle sell for the Oreo with the tagline at the bottom and the image of the Oreo.

3. Using negative content – but only with extreme tact

You can also take advantage of negative news stories, but you have to be extremely careful when doing so. You should be particularly cautious before you “newsjack” any story that involves:

  •   Tragedy
  •   Death
  •   Natural disasters
  •   Similar negative content

The exception here is if you’ll use newsjacking to further the conversation or show solidarity. You need to be particularly careful about promotions and community sentiment.

This is the type of newsjacking where solidarity and support will be much more effective than blatant promotions. 

Bad examples

To start, consider an example of how this strategy can go very poorly. After Hurricane Sandy caused devastation and death, Sears made the following insensitive tweet.

Sears Tweet about Hurricane Sandy

The company was quickly accused of trying to profit from the tragedy. It became an example of what not to do.

Another poor example is the following from Spaghetti-O to commemorate Pearl Harbor, a day associated with death.

SpaghettiOs Tweet

A good example

For a good example of this strategy, look at Gillette and its response to the #MeToo movement in 2018 and 2019. Gillette had used the slogan “The Best a Man Can Get” for years and changed it to “The Best Man Can Be” with a Superbowl ad that confronted toxic masculinity.

The commercial helped confront the issues of #MeToo and toxic masculinity by showing examples before saying, “Something finally changed – and there will be no going back,” and then switching to instances of men doing good and making changes.

4. Newsjacking stories about other brands

Some of the most successful newsjacking efforts come from bringing up or responding to controversies regarding other brands. This lets you take advantage of negative media attention on another company. 

While the seemingly obvious use case would be to take advantage of a competitor’s bad press, that is not the only possibility. 

A great example of this comes from Aviation Gin’s newsjacking of Peloton’s commercial that went over poorly. In December 2019, Peloton released a commercial intending to show how great of a gift their bikes are. Instead, people interpreted it as implying a potentially abusive relationship where the husband was forcing the wife to exercise on the bike. 

Aviation Gin took advantage of the scandal, even casting the “wife” from the Peloton ad. It was clearly an ad for the brand’s gin, but the content implied it was a sequel to the Peloton ad. This went viral, providing great marketing for Aviation Gin.

To make this example of newsjacking more effective, Aviation Gin even titled its ad in response to the Peloton ad. The Peloton ad was called “The Gift that Gives Back,” while the Aviation Gin ad was “The Gift that Doesn’t Give Back.” 

5. Newsjacking popular media

Another popular newsjacking strategy is to use something popular in media or entertainment and connect it to your brand or messaging. This commonly involves TV shows or movies.

For example, consider this article from MarketWatch:

Title that says "7 Management Lessons from 'The Walking Dead'

Or consider this one from the Globe and Mail. 

Title that says "What Breaking Bad Can Teach us about Investing"

Is Newsjacking the Right Strategy?

So, should you consider incorporating newsjacking into your marketing and PR strategies? It can be a very useful strategy, but you want to be careful with it. 

Keep in mind that newsjacking offers the following benefits: 

  •   Boosts your brand reputation
  •   Boosts your brand authority and credibility
  •   Shows your company is always up-to-date
  •   Provides a new angle
  •   Reaches new audiences
  •   Drives traffic that is highly targeted
  •   Increases conversions
  •   Generates organic links
  •   Boosts social media engagement

That said, you have to keep in mind that newsjacking does not produce evergreen content. 

Research into newsjacking 

Early research into it shows that it is effective. A study from Angell et al. that is yet published concluded that the cluttered nature of social media means that consumers simply ignore a lot of messages and need something novel to cut through it. They say that:

“Newsjacking can achieve this. For content creators, the news is something they really can use.”

That particular study did, however, also conclude that more research is necessary.

What to keep in mind if you use newsjacking 

Based on all of the research so far and the various attempts by different companies, the consensus seems that newsjacking is the right strategy. The caveats are that you have to keep the following rules in mind: 

  •   Respond quickly
  •   Confirm the topic has a high search volume
  •   Be tactful
  •   Don’t seem overly promotional
  •   Don’t try to benefit from bad situations or disasters, or seem like you do

Conclusion – why newsjacking is relevant to your business

Newsjacking involves incorporating your brand into current events or news in some way. It can be a highly effective strategy to make your brand appear relevant when used correctly. You simply have to act quickly to release your content at the right time in the news cycle. You also have to exercise tact and understand how your audience feels about the news in question. 

Newsjacking should make up just one of your marketing strategies. Joining the Podium Partner Program lets you work with a company that can help you grow your marketing, sales, and promotion in other ways as well.

Megan Schille
Megan Schille Partner Operations Manager

Megan Schille is a partner solutions professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects marketing agencies with their clients.

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