Newsjacking refers to the practice of using the latest news to push your own brand’s content. The term was first coined by marketer and author David Meerman Scott, who defined it as “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.”
But does newsjacking work, especially when there are several arguments supporting evergreen content?
Perhaps the most famous example of effective newsjacking comes from Oreo. During the 2013 SuperBowl blackout, Oreo famously tweeted: “Power out? No problem.” – with a picture of an Oreo cookie in the dark.
That off-the-cuff comment may have been simple, but generating 12,000 retweets in just one hour and launching a short-lived wave of imitators jumping on the meme bandwagon is impressive.
It is also for this reason that newsjacking – or real time marketing as some people call it – is so easy to ridicule. It is trendy but can make your brand appear tacky when executed poorly.
Just check out these examples of newsjacking fails:
Kenneth Cole’s tweet at the height of the Syrian crisis: “Boots on the ground” or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear”
- Kenneth Cole made another PR gaffe after tweeting about the Egypt crisis: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC”
- Fashion labels tried to newsjack what celebrities wore to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s funeral. Valentino sent a release with photos to journalists and bloggers, writing: “Amy Adams attends the wake for actor Philip Seymour Hoffman at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel on February 6, 2014, in New York City.”
There are several compelling reasons to use newsjacking for content marketing:
- Current events are perfect for ideation. There are only so many evergreen topics you can talk about until you run out of ideas.
- Newsjacking taps the latest topics your audience is hungry for and lets you provide your own information and commentary about them.
- Leveraging fresh news also helps build authority, as it places your content at the forefront of hot searches.
- It also highlights your ability to keep a pulse on recent news and establishes your brand as a source of fresh content.
So those are the benefits. But how do you actually use newsjacking for content marketing?
1. Find topics to newsjack
Google Alerts is the most accessible tool out there to identify topics you want to newsjack. Simply use relevant keywords and phrases that you want to be alerted to as they trend online. For example, if your organization sells photography equipment, you can set email alerts for stories of new camera releases.
If you want to keep track of general news, Feedly and Flipboard are news aggregators you can use to stay abreast of current events. You can focus on entertainment news if you want your content to be engaging and buzzy.
2. Stay ahead of the trend
Scott recommends that the perfect time to newsjack is right before journalists and news outlets get hold of a story. Online communities like Reddit are a great place to monitor events before they hit mainstream audiences, because the stories often come from the members themselves.
Timeliness is at the core of newsjacking, which is why it is not a good idea to base your entire content marketing strategy on news and current events. It is taxing to track stories, interpret them and package your content before everyone else.
Keep it accurate and classy
3. On the other hand, recaps also work
Although writing about developing news is a good idea, it is not the only approach to take. You may have seen blog posts on social media that start with ICYMI (in case you missed it), which offer detailed recaps on earlier trending stories.
Not everyone has the time to keep track of news as it develops; it does not help that many publishers tend to produce false information just to leverage hot stories. You can wait a few hours and get all the details of a story before creating a content asset for your audience. By then it will be more informative, accurate and reliable.
4. Be witty and engaging
If you are going to write about the news, then you might as well be engaging and witty about it. Anything less and you will not generate enough lasting interest from your audience, who will gladly move on to the next content asset about a trending story.
Of course, you should only be tongue-in-cheek with the right stories. Sears learned this the hard way, when they tweeted: “Did Hurricane Sandy affect your city? Get your generators, air mattresses & more in one place #HurricaneSandy”
5. Write about future events
Newsjacking does not have to be in the now. You can just as easily write content focused on future events and stories, such as holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving (useful if your business has a planned seasonal promotion), sporting events and local events.
If you want to use newsjacking to market your brand, it is often better to err on the side of caution. It is better to push a newsjacking article or tweet that sends a tame but positive impression than be memorable for the wrong reasons. Identify what kinds of stories you want to take advantage of, and see how your audience responds to it. Listen to their feedback: they will tell you if newsjacking is worth the investment.