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What is newsjacking? 4 questions to help you understand it

Before David Meerman Scott popularized the term in his book, Newsjacking, the world was bereft of a label for the act of piggybacking off trending or important news stories to generate interest for oneself or brand. This was back in 2011, and times certainly have changed. Newsjacking has now infiltrated itself into the consciousness of marketing and PR, for better or worse. 

There have been a few slip ups where newsjacking has gone awry. For example, it is not wise to try and newsjack any stories that have a tragic or sad element attached to them, like devastating hurricanes or civil unrest. You will simply draw the ire or disgust from others.

Here at PRLab we are unabashed fans of newsjacking. But, we always strive to do it in the right way without causing offence while still jumping on to trending news for maximum effect. In this article you will learn what newsjacking is all about, as we answer four common questions that we often hear about newsjacking, and what it all entails.

1. What is newsjacking?

Newsjacking is the process of adding your opinions or thoughts to a breaking news story. You are essentially piggybacking off news that is trending to get yourself, or any content that you are creating, noticed by a larger audience. In order to make it work, you have to understand how and when information and topics are going to break, or start trending in the news. To newsjack at the right moment means you have to get your opinion or thoughts out there at the right time, which is before the news has hit its peak. 

There are a few foundational concepts that encompass what newsjacking is all about. These are:

  • That news is constantly happening and breaking, all the time.
  • The life cycle of any news story dies down very quickly, due to the sheer amount of news that continues to happen.
  • There is a point in which you have to take the opportunity and piggyback off the popularity of some news, and insert your message before attention in the story dies down and people lose interest.

2. What are the benefits of newsjacking?

The benefits of newsjacking are numerous, as this is a nice technique to get featured in the press, if done correctly. If you decide to newsjack a contentious or sensitive topic, or story, it may come back to haunt you. Newsjacking done successfully will add many benefits to you or your content, because you are essentially involving yourself in predominant and larger social conversations of the day.

Some of the benefits you can derive from newsjacking are: raising your brand’s reputation or general awareness; it can also generate more traffic for you or your brand, which could turn into leads and potential sales; and you can establish yourself over time as an authority over a certain topic, as well as building your thought leadership credibility.

3. What are some examples of newsjacking?

Since we have mentioned both the potential positive and negative consequences of newsjacking, we will share with you an example of exemplary newsjacking, as well as an example of newsjacking that went terribly wrong.

First, an example of newsjacking performed with a genuine awareness of the news climate and its cycle, as well as injecting a true splash of creativity in the process. I am of course speaking about Norwegian Airlines, and their inimitable post newsjacking off of a major celebrity announcement. They memorably listed an ad announcing a one way ticket to Los Angeles after Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie split, with the call to action being “Brad is single” because he lived there. It was cute and playful, and resonated with many.

Now, here is an example of newsjacking gone wrong. The example we will use is one of a shoe company that attempted to piggyback off of the breaking news and civil unrest taking place in Cairo, Egypt, during the Arab Spring. This shoe company was perceived as trivializing the suffering of those in Cairo with this attempted newsjacking tweet: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.” Naturally, this tweet did not bode well with customers, or the public at large.

4. How can you start newsjacking?

Now that you know what newsjacking is, and you have examples to learn from, you can finally start to attempt newsjacking too. Not for nothing, it is treated as both an art and a science by David Meerman Scott, who as you remember developed newsjacking. When you consider it as such, it will therefore require special attention and consistent practice to be done well. That is why there are a few key details that we find imperative for you to remember and to follow when you try newsjacking.

The first thing you need to remember is to constantly, religiously, monitor the news. Be that through the daily papers, news websites, Twitter or Facebook, literally any source that shares news in any fashion. You have to do this so that you will pick up or notice the trends that are developing.

Secondly, you need to be able to create the content you want to use for newsjacking, fast. Speed is the key that enables you to jump on the trending news at the right time. 

Finally, it is important to make sure that the content you create for newsjacking is done with awareness. By that we mean, with sensitivity. As mentioned before, it will not help you or your brand if you are newsjacking a sensitive topic. Do not try to help yourself at the expense of others, be creative but remain aware of the news and what it is about.

As with anything, newsjacking takes practice and careful attention. If done properly, you and your brand may reap all the benefits that newsjacking has to offer. One tip before you attempt newsjacking, you might want to try using an opinion piece as a way to jump on trending news. If you want to know why opinion pieces are beneficial to you or your brand, check out our article, Benefits of writing a great opinion piece to get picked up by the press.

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