David Meerman Scott invented the term “newsjacking” in 2011. He wrote his book, “Newsjacking: How To Inject Your Ideas into A Breaking News Story And Generate Tons Of Media Coverage.”
Newsjacking by nature involves leveraging a breaking story by looking for opportunities to participate in topical discussions and events. Newsjacking is often described as rapid response marketing. It involves fast reactions in real-time and can be a very effective PR strategy when executed well. The ultimate goal of newsjacking is to control the second paragraph of any story. It can help companies become more human and relatable, which will result in greater exposure, positive sentiment, and thought-leadership.
Here are some good examples.
- UK grocery store Marks and Spencer filed legal action against Aldi in April 2021. They claimed that Aldi’s Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake violated its Colin the Caterpillar trademark. Consumer brands such as Missguided, Morrisons, ASOS, Netflix, and Missguided all took to Twitter to voice their opinions.
- Norwegian Airlines launched a viral marketing campaign in 2016 after news broke about Brad Pitt’s and Angelina Jolie splitting. With the tagline “Brad is Single”, the ad promoted low-cost flights to Los Angeles. This was a fun way for the brand capitalize on the news in an easy-to-understand and effective manner. IKEA and Boost juice also took advantage of the separation to engage in some humorous social media activities.
Its relationship with the word “hijack” may have negative connotations. Newsjacking can be very damaging to a brand’s reputation and could come off as insensitive, ill-judged, or just plain uncomfortable. PRs need to be cautious as fast turnarounds can leave room for error. To ensure perfect newsjacking, brands need to be aware of current trends and pop culture.
The 2012 Hurricane Sandy tweet by Urban Outfitters is still being discussed as an example of newsjacking that attempted to make light and exploit a tragedy. The fashion brand used a hashtag to tweet: “This storm blows, but free shipping doesn’t!” Only …’ today using the hashtags #frankenstorm or #ALLSOGGY. Other companies, such as Gap and American Apparel, were also in trouble for trying to use the hurricane to their advantage. The brand was also extremely disrespectful, tone deaf and insensitive to the comment. It is important for brands to show empathy and avoid commercializing serious global events like natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or civil unrest. Recklessness will lead to backlash and condemnation.
How can PRs successfully navigate newsjacking?
While newsjacking is often reactive, it is possible to plan ahead and make sure that potential opportunities are not missed. You can create a calendar that lists upcoming announcements and events. PRs will be able to make notes about which events are worth increasing or implementing. Although details should not be finalized until the announcement, this will allow for more efficient management of workload and provide sufficient time and resources when needed.
Set up Alerts
Keep your eyes open for the right opportunity. PRs must stay on top of the latest news in order to newsjack effectively. Google Alerts and subscriptions to relevant newsletters can be used to monitor relevant hashtags, personalities, and topics on social media. This allows brands to react quickly, but if done in a timely fashion within the attention window, they can still ride the wave and get ahead of the rest.
Exercise Due Diligence
Timing is crucial when newsjacking occurs. Publicists need to be careful before they act. Are the activities likely to offend or be viewed in bad taste? Does the story tie in with your brand? Does the message align with your brand? What are you trying to communicate with? Seek out a second opinion. To ensure that the activity is clear, you should have it reviewed by several people.
Consider other creative ways to approach the news if a major story is in the news and brands are already weighing in. Newsjacking is best done in good humor. Quippy copy can make a dull hook more interesting, especially if it is a political angle. While being part of the conversation will keep your relevance, thinking outside the box can help you be remembered, discussed, and admired.