Newsjacking, the process of adding your thoughts, messaging and opinions into breaking news stories, is one of the best ways to get yourself noticed. But when it's got to be done in record time, and you've got a busy calendar and not enough time to sit staring at BBC News all day, how do you do it?
Newsjacking is a great opportunity to get your brand’s name out there for many people to see. For PR purposes, it’s becoming harder than ever before to get journalists to cover your story. And if you’re in social, it’s increasingly difficult to get your voice heard above the crowd.
Quite simply, newsjacking is all about piggybacking on a big news story. It’s all about quickly referencing newsy or trendy topics to generate engagement or raise your brand awareness or get press coverage.
For example, when the new iPhone6 plus was released, there was briefly an uproar because people thought they were bending in their pockets. KitKat quickly responded with a beautiful, witty, on-brand newsjack that generated massive engagement:
— KITKAT (@KITKAT) September 24, 2014
The beauty of newsjacking is that you yield the ultimate power that the mainstream media have, and take advantage of it to get more eyes on your brand. Done well, it can happen in the space of an hour!
What is newsjacking?
As a former budding journalist, newsjacking is my personal favourite thing to do in PR.
Newsjacking is the process of taking advantage of the life of a news story that is already out there, in order to get your brand’s voice heard. You jump on the news story with your words, your humour, your opinion, and your people. Whether you give a piece of advice to press on how to deal with remote working as coronavirus escalates, you offer your opinion on a controversial advert, or you quickly turnaround a tongue-in-cheek advert after a celebrity break up, there’s no shortage of news out there to jump on the back of.
Newsjacking needs to be timely, and relevant, and compelling.
For example, Norweigan Air were quick off the mark with this campaign for flights to Los Angeles following the breakup of Brad and Angelina:
It gets you heard because people are already talking about it. They’re interested in what you can add to the conversation.
However, the life of a news story is often minuscule. In today’s attention economy, it’s harder than ever for a news story to capture the public’s attention for longer than a day. Newsjacking is a case of getting your reactive messaging out there, quickly. There’s little point issuing a comment on an iPhone-related story if people stopped talking about it five days ago.
David Meerman Scott created the concept of newsjacking, and it was shortlisted by the Oxford Dictionaries as the word of the year in 2017.
And he produced a useful visual explaining the lifecycle of when newsjacking works:
Newsjacking can come in many different forms:
Newsjacking is often looked at as a PR tactic, which it’s not limited to, but it does have great benefits. Issuing comments, organising media briefings, announcing your own opinion in the form of a media release, quickly analysing data to find new stories. The nature of PR is to create stories, and when the story is already created and all we need to do is find our own spin on it – it’s a perfect opportunity.
Fewer mediums are more immediate than social media. Many brands have posted on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook after breaking news. It’s a great way to get your message immediately out there, but the hard work comes in getting their first, or making your take on it the freshest or most interesting.
Social media newsjacking is popular when news happens in popular culture. Remember the Rebekah Vardy and Colleen Rooney drama? Within an hour, the below happened, with global brands like Innocent Smoothies and Netflix getting their voice in the mix. It might not have an immediate impact on sales, but it’s more likely to stick in someone’s mind, especially if it’s linked to popular culture.
This isn’t as widely spoken about, but newsjacking does have many SEO benefits. If a major story starts, search traffic for keywords which are linked to that story can explode. Google will feature articles and blogs related to that story, and it could have a domino effect, being shared on external websites (generating backlinks) and on social media.
What timescales can I expect?
When newsjacking for PR: When a story breaks, journalists need to cover it as soon as possible – they’re all under immense pressure by their editors to get something out quickly. As a result, they often need authoritative comment on the story ASAP, to add validity to it. When they’re scrambling around for a comment, you can prepare one as soon as possible, and if you’re got in there first, they’re far more likely to choose you.
You often won’t be able to prepare your own content, but if you know a specific date is coming up, you should plan your diary well ahead of time so you have capacity booked in to look at news stories, monitor hashtags, and look out for keyword changes.
If you can, get ahead of the trend if you can prepare for something like the Budget announcement or the roll-out of new legislation.
This, of course, is not always feasible. Many newsjacking opportunities come from unplanned announcements, so ideally you should book out thirty minutes a day to review relevant news to your business. This is especially relevant when producing tongue-in-cheek social responses.
You need to act quickly, and you might not always have the time – or you might see the story once everyone else has already had their say and the moment has already passed. This isn’t a bad thing or something to dwell on. News is 24/7, and the nature of it means there is always going to be more opportunities in the future.
What topics should I look out for?
Every business is different, but you should look out for any news story which is in any way linked to your brand. You might be surprised by how many different stories you can comment on.
For example, if you’re a vegan fashion company, you want to keep an eye on topics and announcements surrounding:
- Fast fashion
- High street closures
- Climate change announcements
- Protests – e.g. Extinction Rebellion
- Fashion weeks
- Workers rights
- And more!
Of course, if you’re a legal firm, it might be difficult to give a comment on the latest winner of The Masked Singer. But with the boom of social media, there’s more news being covered than ever before, and more opportunities to give comment.
6 newsjacking mistakes to avoid
There are a few questions you need to be asking yourself before you kick off a news jacking campaign:
- Is there a connection between the news story and your own brand? Does the angle you’re taking make sense?
- Is the message congruent with your brand personality?
- Is it clear who you are trying to reach? Who is the audience for this story?
- Have you been quick enough off the mark? Is the story still breaking news?
- Is what you are going to say actually interesting? Tone-deaf newsjacking wil damage your reputation.
- Is the story sensitive. tragic or in some other away inappropriate? Don’t be reckless.
So… How Do I Newsjack?
You need to be both proactive and reactive.
- Plan ahead. Create a calendar which you can add upcoming events to. Hold yourself account to it, and make a note of which dates you might want to escalate or comment on as and when they happen. You likely won’t be able to plan 100% what you’re going to say until the news has been announced and you’re fully in the know, but you’ll be able to manage your workload better if you prepare for it.
- Set up Google Alerts. Use relevant keywords for news that has been relevant for your brand before, and in future.
- You can also follow the suggestions provided to you by Google Alerts. Since you will likely want to diversify the alerts you receive – don’t stick to your niche.
- Create alerts for your own interest, which you could later tie in with your brand once something newsworthy pops up. Or, just comment yourself, even if it’s not attributed to your company, it’s still great to build these relationships.
- Use tools to monitor news: You don’t need to read a million different news sites to find out all the news and trending topics anymore. Sites like BuzzSumo give you a much more organised way of tracking the latest news and trends. Its Trending Content feature gives you a real-time rundown of all the latest news that everyone is talking about – likely, the stories they’ll want to comment on. I check this every morning before work, and you can also refine it to a specific industry, whether that is metals or makeup.
- Follow journalist requests on Twitter. Many journalists will ask for urgent comments via the hashtag #journorequest on Twitter, and you can sign up for daily emails which cover all of these requests or make a point to check in regularly throughout the day so you don’t get to a request later than everyone else.
A Newsjacking Template
We have created a very simple template that you can download to create your own newsjacking plan – you can fill in to ensure you don’t miss a thing. We’ve also included some upcoming dates you might find useful, along with suggestions for things to look out for. If you want to tie it into your social media marketing too, why not check out our social media content calendar as well?