Is Newsjacking Right For Your Brand?

Jenny Force Jenny Force, VP of Marketing

In the past few years, many brands have tried to find ways to insert themselves into breaking or trending news. Sometimes these efforts returned great results; other times attempts were met with outright rejection from the public.

The official term for doing this is called “newsjacking,” and it’s become a fairly common practice, especially in the world of social media where getting in on a story could be as simple as sending a tweet with a trending hashtag. But how do you know if newsjacking is right for your brand? And when’s the right time to do it? 

What exactly is “newsjacking?”

According to David Meerman Scott, who wrote an entire book on the subject:

Newsjacking is the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business. It creates a level playing field—literally anyone can newsjack—but, that new level favors players who are observant, quick to react, and skilled at communicating. It’s a powerful tool that can be used to throw an opponent or simply draft off the news momentum to further your own ends.

In simple terms, newsjacking is a quick and easy way to take a story that’s already trending or getting traction, and finding a way to insert your brand into the news.

This isn’t really a new concept, as communication professionals have been using tactics like this for a very long time. However, in the world of social media where everyone is on a level playing field, it’s become much easier for brands of any size to get in on the action whenever a story is breaking that could relate to their brand in some way.

For example, a few years ago when people were accidentally bending their new phones (when they sat on them in their back pockets), KitKat was quick to send this tweet to get in on the action:

According to the Content Marketing Institute, there are several benefits for newjacking that include:

  • Drawing in an audience with ultra-timely content
  • Boosting SEO
  • Sharing a new angle for branded content ideas
  • Leading your market in thought leadership

 

If you’re thinking that newsjacking might be right for your brand, here are three questions to ask:

Does this news relate to my brand?

By far, this is the most important question to as – one that can make or break your attempt. If your brand has no real connection to a news story, don’t try to fit the two together. Not only will your audience see right through it, they’ll likely think less of your brand (not worth the risk in my opinion). 

Finding a clear connection, however, doesn’t need to be so serious. There are some events where almost any brand can do something fun to get in on the action, like opening day of the baseball season, common holidays, etc. As long as you keep it light hearted and make it more about the event than your brand, you’re golden.

We newsjack quite often, as well. Because Sysomos’ software is able to look at social conversations and help people make sense of it all, pretty much every event that causes a lot of social media chatter becomes an opportunity for us to create some sort of content that looks at those conversations. 

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But not every brand can be so easily positioned. That’s why the second question you need to ask is…

Is it appropriate for my brand to be part of this conversation?

Just because you see a connection or a good opportunity, it’s doesn’t always mean you should newsjack. This especially applies to stories about disaster. Unless your brand or product can help or have a positive impact on those involved, steer clear. 

A good example of this is Duracell. When Hurricane Sandy hit the southern coast of the US, many were left without power for days. The rest is self explanatory…

The best advice is to think about the story you want to insert your brand into. If you have even a slight inkling that it’s not a good idea, it’s probably not a good idea.

When should my brand get in on this story?

This is the last question you should ask when thinking about whether of newsjacking. However, if you’re asking this question, you’re likely too late (or getting very close to being too late).

The power of newsjacking comes from being there as the story is happening and on people’s minds. Newsjacking only works if the story is still relevant to people and in our modern world, people move on to the next big story very quickly.

As a general rule, try to move as quickly as possible to be part of the conversation. If you wait a day, you still might be ok if people are still talking about the story. If you wait a week to go through creative and get approvals, the story has likely already passed and you’ve lost your chance.

So, now that you’ve asked these three questions, is newsjacking right for your brand?

Also, we always love a good example of brands that are doing an awesome job of newsjacking. We want to hear some of your favorite examples, so tell us about them (or even link if possible) in the comments below.

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