From conversations around the office water cooler to in-depth discussions at an annual family reunion, what appears in the media has a profound effect on how we interact with each other every day. That’s why organisations seek to earn media coverage in the first place: Publicity sparks conversation, drives awareness and fuels engagement.
Newsjacking is one of the more effective ways to achieve that much-sought-after publicity. While many traditional PR tactics attempt to “create” news built around a brand, newsjacking inserts the brand into the news, leveraging the existing news cycle and capitalising on conversations that are already popular.
Whether that means participating in the latest social media trend or offering an expert to analyse current events, effective newsjacking is unique because it offers value to the brand, the media and consumers. And while it can be a powerful tactic for earning media coverage, newsjacking works best when done strategically. To use it to greatest effect, here are a few things to keep in mind:
As with any attempt to earn media coverage or get people talking, timing is crucial. This is especially true for newsjacking, which requires joining a conversation after its started but before it fizzles out. Attempting to newsjack too late in the cycle can be seen as uncompelling and tired. Trying too early could mean people won’t see the relevance of your execution.
The reverse is true when using newsjacking as inspiration for social media content. If you hop on the bandwagon too soon, your audience may not understand what you’re trying to do. Join too late and you risk being seen as irrelevant or slow to respond. It’s a delicate balance, and one that require a bit of research. Which leads us to...
Effectively building brand awareness and earning media coverage always requires research, and that process is greatly accelerated with newsjacking. Marketing and communications practitioners must use research to quickly identify emerging stories and how they might complement their organization’s brand or key messaging. Once identified, you must determine the best strategy for taking advantage of the opportunity, including what media outlets to target or what owned channels to utilise.
Tackling several research tasks in quick succession is a challenge, but having an effective media research tool can help speed the process along. These tools allow you to quickly search a global selection of news outlets and social media channels for who has and hasn’t covered a quickly spreading topic. Those search results can then be used to identify the parts of a story that are attracting the most attention. This valuable data can help you to craft the most compelling perspective and story angle.
Standing out from the crowd is critical for a successful newsjacking campaign. Make sure the story angles you pitch to media are unique. Focus your messaging on something new to news outlets, provocative, or novel to overcome short attention spans.
When the questionable content of beef products began making headlines in western Europe a few years back, Mini Cooper made waves with a newsjacking ad campaign. The brand launched an ad featuring the tagline “Beef. With a lot of horses hidden in it”, the same week that the story rose to global prominence. It resulted in a wave of praise for Mini’s boldly humorous approach and reinforced a message that the company’s “beefy” vehicles packed serious horsepower.
Being unique doesn’t always mean being provocative. An equally valid approach could be getting your top executives to provide unique commentary on a major story sweeping the news. Examples include having an executive chef provide recipes to accompany a television event, or offering a financial firm’s chief strategist as a commentator on a highly anticipated IPO.
Newsjacking is often deployed around stories that are less serious in nature or involve a more lighthearted viral online moment. Catching them early requires a keen awareness of what’s going on online.
Social media sites like Twitter and Reddit are great incubators for virality. Hashtags that quickly gain traction or memes that explode can often be the source for the next trending story. Keeping a finger to the pulse of both channels can help you to identify these stories early, understand how they evolved and give you a leg up when determining an approach that’s unique enough to successfully newsjack your way to coverage for a brand.
Most importantly, be authentic to the brand and be real with reporters. Not every story or trend will be the right fit, and not every key message is going to ring true. Trying to newsjack too often—especially when an angle is a stretch—is a great way to burn bridges. Use research and keen observational skills to guide your judgement of what works and what doesn’t.
Branding and media relations share the prerequisite of authenticity, and newsjackingrelies on both. Keep that in mind, and you’ve honed a valuable tactic in your professional toolbelt.