Newsjacking: Why It Works and Making It Work For You

By: Katie Higgins

In the world of up-to-the-second, round-the-clock, trend-focused news coverage, you have already witnessed dozens of examples of newsjacking—whether you realized it or not.

For those unfamiliar with the term “newsjacking”—made popular by David Meerman Scott who wrote the book on it (literally)you may still recognize the concept in practice.

At its simplest form, newsjacking is the method of inserting your company’s voice into the breaking news story of the day.

At its most powerful, newsjacking has the potential to dramatically amplify your company’s voice to generate significant media coverage and drive unmatched social media engagement. It’s an effective way to utilize a trend or event that people are already talking about to draw new attention to your brand.

Be in the know

Knowing what is happening in the media and trending on social channels is critical. It’s important to be an avid consumer of content and to not only be aware of what is happening now, but what is happening next. Many great topics can be anticipated in a general consumer news environment and fitted for nearly any industry. Some topics will be of interest on an annual basis, like holiday shopping, the State of the Union address, or the Superbowl.

Take the seasons, for example. Spring cleaning and wealth management do not immediately appear to be a fit, but financial spring cleaning is an opportunity to provide valuable content from an investment group or financial advising firm.

Plan ahead, but prepare to move quickly

Knowing your company’s business goals, style and expertise is paramount. Not less so is having a clear understanding of the types of trends or topics for valuable commentary. When the Supreme Court deliberated on gay marriage, media-savvy law firms across the country generated a great deal of attention as local experts could provide legal insight into the story.

When you know something big is coming, make sure to discuss it with your team and connect with local media contacts as soon as possible to be included in their coverage. Don’t forget to move fast—what is big news today is old news tomorrow.

Avoiding controversy: Religion, politics and too much funny business

As a general rule, brands avoid sharing extreme or controversial opinions that may alienate their clientele. At the same time, it is critical to gauge the type of story that is right for participation.

Humor is an engaging and trendy way to newsjack a popular story, but does not work well for companies in serious industries. Consumer-facing brands may have much more flexibility in taking a casual and comedic stance on a topic than a risk management firm or medical device manufacturer.

As a tool, newsjacking has been in practice among PR pros for years. However, success requires timing, strategy and great media relationships. In order to incorporate the newsjacking concept into your media relations outreach or social media plan, it’s important to determine your goals and set your boundaries.

With the right topic and crackerjack timing, newsjacking can yield nearly instant results in the media and earn an entirely new and more engaged digital following.