Newsjacking...getting amazing media attention for free

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Have you heard the term “newsjacking” being bandied about lately but aren’t quite sure what it is, or if you should be doing it? Newsjacking is a new name for an old PR trick for getting great media coverage for free by injecting your brand or product into a breaking news story.

I thought I should pull a few a few examples of how brands have garnered media coverage by newsjacking and explain why you may want to consider adding it to your marketing arsenal, if the opportunity is right for your brand.


Newsjacking has several benefits, including:

  •  Boosting SEO. Online marketers live and die by SEO and by injecting your brand into a breaking news story with appropriate keywords; you can drive a lot of traffic to your website.
  •  Free media exposure for your brand. Marketing campaigns are expensive. They have their place, but why not also grab whatever free exposure you can? Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? With newsjacking, your brand gets a free lunch (and your boss might give you one too!). How much free exposure did Oreo Cookie get with their Superbowl blackout newsjacking tweet? Lots.
  •  Increased sales from timely content. If everyone is talking about a story, tying your brand into the story can make your brand a whole lot more interesting to your customers. Spirit Airlines is known for newsjacking with their marketing and this recent email campaign where they took advantage of the fiscal cliff negotiations is a perfect example.
  •  Drawing attention from your competitors. When a competitor makes an announcement about a new service or product, if you are prepared for it, you can draw some of the attention away from your competitor and insert your brand’s name into the media coverage of your competitor. Case in point: when Amazon entered the email delivery business, email delivery company SMTP newsjacked Amazon’s story with a press release which got coverage in industry news site.

 Are you thinking that newsjacking could be great, but unsure of how should you do it? To understand how to newsjack, we first need to look at the anatomy of a news story. In general, news stories follow a parabolic trajectory. First, the story will break. Reporters start scrambling for sources and experts to quote in their articles. People start talking about the story and public excitement grows. The story will continue to grow and eventually will peak for a little while. Depending on the story, the peak could last for a few hours or a few weeks.

What goes up must come down and after peaking, the story starts the steep slide into old news territory and irrelevance. Once a story is old news, it’s only good for lining the bottom of your parakeet’s cage.

The time to newsjack is right after the story breaks, while the story is still on its upward trend. Once the story peaks, it’s too late and the opportunity is gone.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about newsjacking and here’s an example of each. First the good: during the summer of 2011, actress Kate Winslet garnered international headlines for rescuing Richard Branson’s mother from a burning building. A heartwarming story for sure and the London Fire Brigade lost no time in capitalizing on it, with an invitation for Winslet to train with its firefighters at its training center. The clever newsjack also received international headlines.

More recently, American Apparel tried to newsjack Hurricane Sandy with a tacky email campaign, directing people to visit their online store “in case you’re bored during the storm,” and offered a special “SandySale” discount to shoppers in states affected by the superstorm. The clothing company was roundly criticized for its insensitivity.

Bottom line, positive stories are great prospects for newsjacking, while stories about suffering and disaster are generally not appropriate and in poor taste.  PR pros have been newsjacking for years, it may make sense for marketers to consider adding it to our overall marketing and social media outreach as well. Think about it.  What do you think?


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