Trends (and memes) come and go quickly. In today's digital age, information flows fast, and people process and move on from it even faster. Ad campaigns must present a multi-faceted approach and span many platforms to have a real effect and worthwhile return on investment (ROI). So, in a world that refuses to focus, how do you get them to pay attention?
Simple — you hit that sweet spot of a news cycle where you can capitalize on the breaking news in a way that benefits your brand or business. It is knowing ‘what’s trending' and adding to the dialogue in a way that customers will connect with and enjoy.
Do you want to know just how this Digital PR tactic can benefit your brand or business? Keep reading to learn more about this phenomenon and the keys to successful newsjacking.
Table of Contents
So what is newsjacking? Essentially, it is a Digital PR technique where businesses can gain media coverage by responding to breaking news and injecting their ideas or angles. The concept comes from David Meerman Scott, the guy who wrote the book on generating sales leads and pulling in new customers through newsjacking in 2011.
The strategy may sound like a way to ‘highjack’ the news, but it's a bit different. It is not quite the same as announcing the first breaking news story or stealing a story. Instead, it is seeing a trend and finding a quick, creative way to leverage it for your business purposes. Not to be confused with reactive PR where you respond to news about your own company.
When done effectively, newsjacking stories can help a business attract media coverage, bring in new clients, and engage current customers.
Should I Try Newsjacking?
The short answer: yes.
Newsjacking is basically a free way to get the attention of people already interested in the trending news. One of the best newsjacking examples is Oreo, back when Beyoncé successfully blew the Superdome's power during the Super Bowl. Businesses pay millions to run ads during this event. Oreo made an ad quickly based on the power outage, put out a Tweet, and had a viral reaction worldwide. The entire world was looking at Beyoncé, and with some quick thinking, they were looking at Oreo too.
Newsjacking gives you a spot in the limelight without the costs that come with the usual ad or billboard campaign. When done right, it will build your community connections in the online sphere but without dubious ROI and less financial and capital investment.
Now that you know why you should try newsjacking, the question is, how?
Keys to Successful Newsjacking
There is no secret formula or magic way to execute this marketing tactic flawlessly. It may be a little bit of trial and error at the start — but practice makes perfect! These are some general keys to success, and the only tool you need to get started are the social media accounts you likely already have.
Find the Topic (or Predict Them)
To get started, grab your crystal ball and predict the future. Just kidding — but only about the crystal ball part. Finding a trending topic is not all that hard, thanks to the algorithms on social media sites.
Many news sources have a ‘trending' tab where you can quickly see what topics are drawing attention. You can even home in to see what is happening in your country or region.
True social media aficionados know that trends move differently on various platforms. It is lightning fast on Twitter and slow and steady on Instagram.
You can also (generally) predict possible trends based on upcoming events. Is National Donut Day around the corner? A major cultural event like a music festival, awards ceremony, or sporting event? Get ready to roll with the unpredictable nature of human events and see what happens!
Be Tactful and Creative
Your newsjacking success depends on how well you craft your message. Take the Oreo ad, for example. It gives very little information about the product, but its apparent connection to the trending event brings delight and excitement to customers. It is like an inside joke the whole world is in on for a good laugh. The creativity is in its subtle product marketing and clear connection to recent events.
The second goal in your message is to get it on the screens of people who do not know your brand or business. Since they do not know you, be tactful. Do not cast major shade or anything that readers or viewers could misconstrue as overly rude.
Instead, adopt a light, teasing tone that the public will accept and understand. Candid (or sassy) responses are best for the community who already knows you.
Do Not Shamelessly Plug
Newsjacking stories requires a delicate balance of capitalizing on the trend without pandering and shamelessly plugging your business. People have shown an interest in the trend, not your brand (yet). But, they will remember your brand because you were relatable and joined in on the fun. See the trickiness of getting in on the action?
Jumping in without tact will possibly get your brand trolled or chastised. Some internet users are ruthless, after all. If you appear ignorant or completely miss the point, the audience will see that and call you out on it.
With the speed of trending news, it can be easy to go into newsjacking with a reckless perspective. It is an art where a faux pas can put you in hot water and hurt your brand. Even though you have to move fast, you should maintain the integrity of your brand and keep the voice consistent.
Stay positive with newsjacking, and do not criticize unless that is what your audience expects from your brand voice. Sensitive topics like death, war, and sorrow are not suitable topics. Steer clear of those.
Instead, newsjacking works best when it is funny and sometimes insightful but never mean or arrogant. You want to be human and relatable — not out-of-touch and naive. You are showing your audience, “hey, we see the humor in the same things you do, and we are human too!”
Leverage Industry Experts
A successful newsjacking campaign can be executed in-house or with existing resources.
With that being said, paying attention to the news is time consuming. There's also a lot of clutter out there, which can make it difficult to identify the best stories to build campaigns around.
This is where Digital PR Agencies can provide a lot of value. These firms can provide you with additional firepower to stay on top of the latest breaking news.
Digital PR agencies also have the experience to find ways to work your brand into what's already being talked about. This is a great way to quickly get more eyes on your brand. And when positioned properly, it can be a solid way of attributing your business as a trusted source. This is very valuable, especially when you are looking to build brand and website authority.
When Should You Try Newsjacking?
The rule of thumb is to newsjack anytime it directly relates to your business and brand. To attract new eyes and engage followers, step out of your comfort zone.
The most opportune time to chime in is on trending topics, the newest meme, and the unexpected turn of events at the biggest event of the year. It is all about homing in on the unexpected moment of opportunity in a way that delights followers and engages them.
The cycle of a news story is fast. The sweet spot you are aiming for is the moment between when the story breaks and journalists begin scrambling for additional information. You jump in as the public excitement and interest are climbing, so your contribution is out there before the story peaks.
In a way, like Oreo and the Superbowl, your newsjacking success occurs when your brand becomes part of the story itself. You do not want to weigh in by the time the story is ‘old news.’
The Bottom Line
Newsjacking stories can be just as influential as the originating story itself. When done right, people everywhere will be saying, “Did you see what ABC tweeted? So funny!” You jump in on the chance and take a bit of the spotlight for yourself. This low-cost tactic requires excellent timing, a strong brand voice, and creativity. Take some time to pursue trending topics to see how major brands utilize newsjacking and see just where you fit.
The golden rule of newsjacking is this: timing is everything. Good luck!