Newsjacking: What Is It and How to Do It

Remember when Beyonce basically blew our stadium’s power (it’s the Superdome and it’s magnificent, thank you very much) and Oreo was so quick-witted and on brand that we all felt a little like taken aback?

Yeah, that one. This post was subtle and seems underwhelming now, but at the time, when advertisers paid hand over foot to get their brand into the commercials, Oreo stole the moment for free.

This blog was originally written for Story Block Media on September 28, 2016.

What is Newsjacking?

In case you’re still unclear, newsjacking is not jacking someone’s jacket or even being the first with breaking news (the latter is very close.)

According to author David Meerman Scott, who literally wrote the book on it, “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.”

In short, newsjacking is jumping on the “what’s trending?” bandwagon by adding to the conversation and using it as leverage to delight existing brand loyalists and catch the eye of new potential leads.

Should I use Newsjacking?

Should you use soap? Yes, of course, you should try newsjacking. It’s basically a free way to get yourself in front of a whole bunch of new eyes, ears, and opinions. Think of it like having a booth at an expo or festival or placing an ad or billboard (both of which have dubious ROI and cost time and money). The purpose of those investments is to be involved in the community or cause and get more reach. And if done right, newsjacking can do both in the online space for much less investment.

The term may sound a little unsavory, but with a little help and some brand insight, you can totally nail this. We have some advice on how.

How to use Newsjacking?

There’s no 1-2-3 step process to use newsjacking. And everything you currently use for social media is all you really need to get started.

Find (or Predict) Trending Topics

Unless you loathe social media, you know what a trending topic is. Finding them is not difficult – for Facebook, it’s usually in the right sidebar next to that section that lists all the people Facebook thinks you know that you really don’t. For Twitter, just tap the search icon and the first thing you see is trending topics for your country or region. On Instagram, trends spread like paint dries – slowly and gradually. Doing your research on recurring hashtags and stacking up on your relevant hashtags will gets you some easy gains. On Pinterest, just check out what’s popular or see what’s being pinned on boards relevant to your industry. You can also aim to create or predict trending topics, like we did with a historical brand, Aunt Sally’s Pralines, for National Praline Day.

Social media twitter post example of newsjacking and topic possession to maintain brand presence and establish thought leadership.This tweet was part of an all-day social media presence pre-planned to maintain constant brand presence.

Be Clever and Tactful

If you can, craft a message that gives information, no matter how little, while also aiming to delight existing customers. That’s your first priority. The second? Getting in front of people who don’t know who you are while also maintaining your cool. That Oreo post? It plugged its product while casting a subtle side-eye towards the Superbowl’s power outage. Gentle or light teasing is appropriate for most public posts. Keep the more candid responses for community engagement and management.

Pandering and jumping into the fray just to shamelessly plug yourself without any tact will be ignored and possibly chastised or trolled. It comes off as ignorant and will miss the mark of the audience you’ll likely be attracting.

Keep it Classy

There is a risk of newsjacking if you go into it with a reckless perspective – a social faux pas can not only cast aspersions on your brand, but can land you in hot water. You need to really know your brand voice or what direction you want to develop your brand voice towards before you start. Keep it positive. Don’t criticize unless you absolutely know that your audience is looking for your brand voice to do just that. On sensitive subjects, steer clear (anything involving war, death, and sorrow is off-limits.) Go for funny, not mean; be insightful, not haughty. Try to stay relatable and human – insightful and sympathetic, not naive and out-of-touch.

When should I newsjack?

Well, you should newsjack anytime it directly relates to you without a doubt. The real cleverness that attracts fresh pairs of eyes and delights your followers is when you venture out of your comfort zone and connect with other things that interest them or that they are experiencing. Newsjacking gives you the opportunity to inform their opinion on matters (and you) in real time. Savvy brands can hone in on moments of real opportunity.

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David Meerman Scott says you should newsjack right after news breaks from an official source, but before journalists are able to publish updated details. By doing this, sometimes you also find your message being used by those same journalists looking to share more relevant or interesting details. As long as you’re still seeing traffic generating around a trending topic, you still have a chance to be a dark horse and take home the title of “most memorable post.”

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