In our fast-paced online world of constant news updates, there are seemingly endless opportunities for marketers to embrace the art of newsjacking.
When done right, newsjacking can be a fantastic method of free PR, allowing you to connect with a wider audience by jumping on a trending topic, generating press coverage and social media buzz for your brand.
But, when done wrong, newsjacking can appear forced and produce little to no results, or may even lead to bad publicity for your business.
In this guide, we’ll share our top tips for effective newsjacking, as well as some common pitfalls to watch out for.
What Is Newsjacking?
Newsjacking is a PR technique where a brand leverages a trending news story in order to gain awareness. If your newsjacking attempt is relevant, timely, and well thought out, your brand can gain extra attention by riding on the wave of a trending news story in order to get noticed by a wider audience.
This can be done by commenting on a trending story or even creating a campaign around it. Newsjacking can be lighthearted and witty, or it can provide the opportunity for you to engage with topical issues and communicate your brand values.
Newsjacking in the Age of Social Media
Newsjacking isn’t new, but social media has allowed many more brands to jump on the ‘viral’ bandwagon of trending news stories on social media.
Traditionally, newsjacking meant PR teams monitoring the news and pitching in press releases on behalf of their client to journalists and publications.
Although newsjacking still takes place in the traditional media space, brands no longer require the backing of the media in order to newsjack a story, with most newsjacking taking place on social media such as Twitter or Instagram at a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ pace. In fact, newsjacking can often work in the opposite way to traditional media, if a newsjack goes particularly well, it may end up being a news story itself and getting featured in the media.
Tips for Successful Newsjacking
When done right, newsjacking can help you to draw attention to your brand and speak to a much wider audience, but it does require thought to make sure that your response is timely and appropriate.
1. Set Alerts for Trending Topics
When it comes to finding trending news stories, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. Once everyone you know is talking about a story, it might be too late.
Make sure that you keep an eye on trending Twitter topics to see what everyone is talking about on social media. You can also view what stories are trending around the world by using tools such as Google Trends and BuzzSumo, and customizing them to set alerts for news stories on certain topics.
2. Pick Your Battles
It is impossible, and probably unwise, to attempt to leverage every trending news story for your brand. Before you decide to newsjack a story, ask yourself if it is something that is appropriate for your brand to comment on, especially if it is a topic that you are unfamiliar with.
Some days such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day are common targets for brands looking to newsjack, and there may be a lot more competition with lots of brands vying for attention. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved, but you may need to put more thought into any campaigns around these days in order to get noticed.
3. Master the Art of Good Timing
News moves quickly, and if you are too slow to react to a story, it is likely that your newsjacking efforts will go unnoticed as it will be seen as ‘old news ‘.
No matter how good your newsjacking idea is, it needs to be released at the right time for it to gain attention. The diagram below shows the ideal time to newsjack a story before journalists start scrambling for extra information and the public excitement grows. If you are able to get your brand in the door at the right time, you will become part of the story as it begins to trend on social media.
4. Tread Carefully and Consider Potential Pitfalls
Many brands have experienced backlash due to ill-thought-out attempts at newsjacking, and have been criticized for appearing insensitive or out of touch when commenting on trending news stories. If your brand appears to be out of touch when newsjacking, it could result in you gaining attention for all the wrong reasons.
With that in mind, it pays to be cautious and sense check what you are planning on posting with others before you click ‘post’. If you are commenting on more contentious issues, make sure that your comment appears genuine and doesn’t involve pushing products
5. Align with Your Brand Image
Once you’ve found a breaking news story to comment on, it can be tempting to act as quickly as possible. Although acting quickly is important, it is also vital that anything you put out is in alignment with your brand image or you might risk reputational damage. Make sure that anything you are posting fits with your brand image and would be something that your audience would like to see.
This is also important when considering what social media platform to use for newsjacking.
Examples of Newsjacking
When it was reported in 2021 that supermarket Aldi was being sued by Marks and Spencer for allegedly copying their famous ‘Colin the Caterpillar cake’, Aldi decided to take a light-hearted approach to the news by poking fun of the news story on Twitter. Many other supermarket brands joined in with the debate on social media, and it became one of the biggest social media stories of the year.
The bizarre storming of Area 51, a plan hatched by conspiracy theorists who believed Area 51 was where the US Government was hiding extraterrestrials, was a huge social media story. Many social media users saw the story as a bit of fun, and Oreo jumped on the bandwagon with a simple tweet, asking its followers what flavors of Oreo they believed were being hidden in Area 51. The tweet gained thousands of impressions and got plenty of people talking about their favorite Oreo flavors on social media.
Newsjacking can be a brilliant opportunity for brands big and small to amplify their voice and reach new audiences. By being aware of common pitfalls and staying true to your brand, you can use newsjacking to grow your brand awareness and reach new audiences.