Newsjacking is one of the oldest tricks in the PR playbook. Breaking news happens, and media outlets scramble to find experts who can add context. And there’s no better way to promote your brand without spending a dime.
But does newsjacking have a place in content marketing?
Absolutely. Weighing in as an expert on a timely matter establishes thought leadership and boosts SEO. Evergreen articles may generate a consistent drip of traffic, but breaking-news analysis is sexier — and sexy goes viral. When you’re actively listening to what’s going on in the world, you’ll find endless opportunities to newsjack.
Consumers crave content that’s entertaining, insightful, and timely. To illustrate, marketers who commented on the birth of the royal baby saw a 1,200 percent increase in engagement. And Oreo’s “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” Super Bowl tweet was shared 10,000 times in an hour.
Effective newsjacking doesn’t come about through luck, though — these brands were armed with a strategy and knew what their customer base was looking for. If you’re seeking similar newsjacking success, you can do the same.
Don’t wait to build your strategy until something big happens — implement newsjacking governance policies so your team isn’t at a loss when it's time to move.
There are four newsjacking response scenarios, each presenting different opportunities. Here's how you can incorporate them into your content marketing strategy:
Of course, none of these strategies matter if your audience doesn’t engage. Mobile surveys are a great way to find out which events resonate with your community so you don’t waste hours writing content no one reads.
Mobile surveys, in particular, help you collect real-time opinions that can shape your strategy. My company conducted a mobile survey on the Apple vs. FBI controversy within hours of the news coming out. We quickly had the pulse of more than 1,000 people on the issue, and we tailored our content accordingly.
Once you have your game plan, use these guidelines to execute it successfully, checking in with your audience all along the way:
Be ready to move when opportunity presents itself. Arby’s killed it during the 2014 Grammys when it poked fun at Pharrell Williams’ hat via Twitter. People retweeted the company’s joke 75,000 times within a few hours and gave it 40,000 likes.
But don’t sacrifice originality for speed. Look for ways to capture new angles on a story, especially when you’re publishing a delayed analysis. Surveys can help here, but you will need to get responses fast, so be certain to ask short, specific questions that you can analyze quickly. The goal is to collect plenty of responses in a short amount of time so you can capitalize on the rising buzz.
Everyone loves a feel-good piece of news, but negative content goes viral, too. Whether your brand benefits from it depends on your approach. Conducting a quick mobile survey will give you a read on how your community feels about a particular issue so you know how to handle it with sensitivity.
Avoid newsjacking stories about deaths, natural disasters, and other tragedies. Unless you’re offering solidarity with the victims or furthering the conversation constructively, you'll come across as tasteless and opportunistic.
After the Casey Anthony verdict came down, Entenmann’s incorporated the #notguilty hashtag into a humorous tweet about its snacks. Unfortunately, people had been using #notguilty to express anger about the verdict and were offended by Entenmann’s attempt to use it for self-promotion.
You want to enhance people’s understanding of the news, not trick them into learning about your product. Consider the following headline: “Apple Watch is now on sale. Apple CEO Tim Cook says this is the first smartwatch that matters, but is he right?” A company selling a different smartwatch could use Apple’s announcement to raise awareness of its own product without detracting from the main story.
Content that's overtly self-promotional can hurt your brand, and tunnel vision about product promotion causes missteps when it comes to newsjacking. As debates raged about whether the U.S. should send troops into Syria, Kenneth Cole tweeted, “'Boots on the ground' or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps, and loafers. #footwear.” The designer drew criticism from consumers who thought the message was classless.
Whether it’s funny, moving, or informative, newsjacking puts your brand in the middle of a timely conversation — positioning you as a thought leader and connecting you to your consumer base. A solid newsjacking strategy can take your brand viral, but your audience has to be engaged before your content spreads like wildfire.
Ray Beharry is an accomplished leader with a passion for providing and marketing technologies that engage, enrich, and empower others. Ray’s areas of expertise collide in his position as head of marketing at Pollfish, a company whose online survey tool helps businesses make educated decisions by providing relevant, meaningful, and customizable consumer opinion data in real time.