A Marketing Team's Guide On How To Excel At Newsjacking

Nov 5, 2021 14 min read

Marketing professionals are taking advantage of every possible opportunity to generate a buzz about their brand and product. One of the more popular options that is transforming marketing efforts is newsjacking.

It involves brands to maximize the buzz of current news stories and events to raise awareness about their own product and brand. The sheer amount of competition from other brands with the same goal means that your own newsjacking efforts need to be as interesting, newsworthy and relevant as possible in order to cut through the noise and grab your audience's attention.

So, if your marketing team is finding it challenging to make newsjacking a part of your plate-spinning process, then this blog post will explain how you can improve it and do it the right way. Let's dive in!

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What Is Newsjacking?

The strategy of newsjacking involves brands referencing topical news stories in their marketing messaging to get noticed, go viral, and make a difference. With news life cycles being brutally short, brands that insert themselves and capitalize on the trending topics are often remembered better. Newsjacking is a popular marketing strategy of today as it has a potentially high ROI if done well and that too with a minimal budget.

The author of the book Newsjacking, David Meerman Scott, had coined this concept back in 2011. Fast forward to today, and the idea has become an integral part of a smart marketing strategy by being an excellent addition to building a brand and gaining the attention of your customers within a short span of time.

This can be done by either commenting on a trending story or creating an entire marketing campaign around it. Newsjacking should be lighthearted and witty so that it provides you the opportunity to engage with topical issues and communicate your brand values.

However, there are also a few caveats. When done well, newsjacking will not just get you enormous engagements but will also bring new clients and stakeholders. But, when done thoughtlessly, there are chances of it backfiring. Hence, it's best to build a newsjacking strategy for your marketing team that can help you use it as an elevator to build brand awareness and get audience attention.

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Types Of Newsjacking

Your marketing team can invest their efforts in two different types of news:

1. Future And Plannable Events

Such news includes future events that have been planned for a long time. In such instances, your team has more time for detailed planning to capitalize on the news. However, you also need to know that other brands may also plan to use such future events for their own marketing purposes, so the competition is stronger in such instances.

Such future events include big global events such as the Soccer World Cup, which are decided long before it begins and can be used as a base for marketing.

2. Current And Unpredictable Events

Such events include momentary news that is unforeseen. Brands usually find it difficult to capitalize on such news because it requires them to react promptly to the corresponding message.

Such news messages have a particularly short shelf life and can even become outdated after a few hours. The time pressure during such news events is inevitable since marketing efforts have to be implemented effectively within a few hours.

In addition, it is also extremely important to filter the news carefully and select the story with care. If an inappropriate or wrong message for newsjacking is chosen, it can affect the company's reputation badly.

How To Newsjack?

Newsjacking requires carefully thought and diligent efforts to make sure that your response is timely and appropriate. Here is the step-by-step roadmap for effectively hijacking trending news.

1. Set Up Alerts

Successful newsjacking should be done fast. To gain the biggest bounce from a trending topic, you should publish content when its search volume and public attention are rising and not when the topic has achieved its peak of public interest. This is where newsjacking differs from the normal evergreen content publishing cycle.

Hence, your marketing team should constantly keep an eye on the social media news daily. Monitor industry news outlets, mainstream media feeds, and several social media platforms for global trending topics to produce content on.

You can also do this passively using tools that alert you about the breaking news. This method is way more effective and easier in the long term. Set up Google alerts to receive notifications on specific topics.

Leverage social listening tools like Statusbrew to receive alerts on topics regarding your brand and industry, brand sentiment, and trending hashtags. In this manner, you can be in tune with what's trending while also receiving insight into the conversation around these topics to know if this is a conversation your brand should tap into!

Using Statusbrew's RSS Feeds, you can discover content from across the web and share it directly to your social networks. All you need to do is connect your favorite publications by adding their RSS feeds to Statusbrew.

Statusbrew's RSS Feeds

Create, manage and use RSS feeds in Statusbrew to discover content from across the web

You can also install Chrome Extensions like RSS Finder to hunt for the RSS feed URL of any website you visit. Any Statusbrew user can access & manage the RSS Feeds in Statusbrew.

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2. Research The Story Well

When you find a trending news, read about that topic. Fact checks it and confirms if the news is 100% factually accurate and not just a rumor. Since fake news is also highly prevalent these days on social media, if your newsjacking efforts attach your brand to an untrue story, it will be damaging your company's reputation online. Hence, ensure that the news source is genuine before you even start to create content around the topic.

Read the content that's already floating online around the same topic. Research isn't only to learn about the topic but also to ensure that you create original content that's fully credible and relevant to the event. Researching will also help you decide if the news item is worth producing content for your brand.

Recently, the “Tell me without telling me” trend became popular on Twitter that asked people to share that they match a set of criteria or are part of a group without explicitly stating it. Brands across the platform started using this trend for engagement & asked their followers to make pointed statements by defining characteristics in line with the brand.

3. Pick Your Battles

It is impossible and an unwise decision to attempt to leverage every trending news for your brand. Before you decide to hijack a news, ask yourself if the story is something that is appropriate for your brand to comment on. Especially if it is a topic that is not related to your industry and you are unfamiliar with the story.

Some days of the year, such as Halloween, are common targets for brands looking to newsjack. But there is also a lot more competition with such plannable events as several brands are vying for public attention. But this doesn't mean that your brand can't get involved; it's just that you may need to put more thought into designing the campaigns around these days in order to get noticed.

4. Master The Art Of Good Timing

Once you have picked up the trending topic and are sure that the topic can benefit your brand, you should work on creating relevant content fast. While creating content as quickly as possible, make sure you don't forget to insert the creative element and also include the necessary relevant information that your users should know about the news.

If you want your newsjacking efforts to get noticed and capture the attention it deserves you to react to the story quickly; otherwise, it will be seen as 'old news.'

No matter how good your newsjacking idea is, it should be released at the right time. The chart below shows the ideal time to hijack the news, that is before journalists start scrambling for extra information and the public excitement grows.

Time Of Newsjacking

Image Source: Newsjacking.com

5. Make Your Content Unique

When preparing your story, you need to think about how you can differentiate your content and add something that is attention-grabbing and likable by your audience. Because that is an integral element to expanding your brand's reach and awareness. Adding uniqueness to your content and contributing your knowledge to the topic will attract people to your brand without sounding forceful.

Remember, newsjacking doesn't always have to be serious; it's often comedic content that travels fast on social media and reaches a wide variety of audiences. Look at viral memes on social media; the reason they are so popular is because people find them funny and connect to their message.

If you are able to get your angle of the story in the door at the right time, your story is likely to get dissolved among a pool of other such news by big and well-known brands on social media.

6. Tread Carefully And Consider Potential Pitfalls

Several brands have experienced backlash due to ill-thought attempts at newsjacking. They have been criticized for appearing insensitive and out of touch when commenting on trending stories. If your brand seems to be out of touch when hijacking a piece of news, it could result in gaining attention for all the wrong reasons.

Keeping that in mind, it pays to be cautious and check mindfully with other team members on what you are planning to post. If you are commenting on more contentious issues, ensure that your comment appears genuine and doesn't involve pushing products.

7. Align With Your Brand Image

Although acting quickly is essential in newsjacking, anything you put out must align with your brand image, or your efforts to hijack the news will hardly bring any good to your brand. Ensure that anything you post fits with your brand image and would be something that your audience would like to see.

See how the chocolate brand KitKat had put out a tweet when Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram were shut down with the message being in perfect alignment with their brand identity.

8. Publish And Promote

Once you have crafted the perfect piece of content to go out on social, you should start with the distribution process. Promote the social media post, images, videos, gifs, or other forms of content on your brand's social channels.

You can also include relevant hashtags widely used across the social channel for the same campaign so that your content shows up within trending search queries. Hashtags are hugely influential on Twitter and Instagram. It can be the difference between your content reaching a broader audience base and being buried under a sea of other similar posts.

Tips To Newsjack Like A Pro

Once you have your game plan ready, use these tips to execute your newsjacking strategy successfully:

1. Adopt Speed, Accuracy, And Uniqueness In Unison

As you prepare yourself to be ready and move when the opportunity presents itself, you shouldn't sacrifice originality for speed. Hence, look for ways to capture new angles on the story, especially when you are publishing a delayed analysis.

Newsjacking brings results when it's done quickly and accurately. When a story comes to your attention, you should first find its primary source and early comments from people to preserve their credibility.

The creativity that you have thought about might also be something your competitors will be working towards. Hence, you need to work quickly as perfectionism can delay action and allow your competitors to grab the spotlight.

One of the biggest mistakes you can commit is writing content just for the sake of it. It needs to have the intention and offer something helpful to readers without losing the context.

2. Don't Newsjack Tragedies

This one should go without saying, but you would be surprised at some of the sleazy marketing practices that have taken place in the past by well-known brands. Positive or neutral stories are the ripest for newsjacking.

Avoid newsjacking stories about deaths, natural disasters, and other such tragedies. Unless you are offering solidarity to the victims or furthering the conversation constructively, you will come across as tasteless and opportunistic.

Newsjacking a tragedy will backfire and damage your brand's reputation. While jokes have the best place in newsjacking a positive or neutral story, they should always be light and agreeable.

So, before you even think about inserting your brand within the latest tragic news story, just stop and don't move ahead. Instead, think of ideas and ways how your brand can offer a helping hand or be part of the solution.

3. Don't Put The Sale Before The Story

The purpose of newsjacking a story should be to enhance people's understanding of the news and not trick them into learning about your product and services. Content that's overly self-promotional will hurt your brand and cause missteps when it comes to newsjacking.

If your product or service goes well with the context, only insert it because every marketing piece is not meant for promotion, some just work to build a rapport with your audience.

4. Know Your Audience

Your newsjacking efforts will not work optimally if you don't know your target audience. The more thoroughly you know your audience, the more effective newsjacking content you can make for your brand.

Analyze how your audience has responded to the newsjacking story put out by other brands to understand your target audience better. If you find that people do not enjoy newsjacking posts by other brands, avoid creating content around such stories.

5. Never Regurgitate The News

Offer something new to your audience to read and not just the same facts and details that they have already been reading in the major news outlets. Newsjacking is about capitalizing on the latest trending news and not re-reporting it. Strive to give readers some insight that only you can provide through your content.

6. Never Steal Someone’s Ideas

You will immediately lose your audience's attention when you copy someone else's ideas. If the idea is not original, you are being a jerk by taking it from someone else who has actually shown the creative part. However, you can become inspired by them. Copying other brands' posts and putting out the same piece of content will backfire your brand similarly as it would if you hijack tragic news.

7. Always Stay Neutral

If an issue is controversial and even if you have deep thoughts about it, it's best to steer clear by staying neutral in your messaging. You will offend some portion of the audience no matter which side you take and no matter how crystal clear and popular your opinion it might seem to be.

8. Bring It Back To Your Brand

Your creative angle to the newsjacking post should work to actually pull things back to your brand and its core message. You might be able to attract readers to your page by jumping onto hot news topics, but you won't be able to keep them on your site unless your perspective relates to your brand mission and values.

What Should You Watch Out For When Newsjacking?

Newsjacking is certainly problematic since it has people's emotions involved. On the other hand, the risk of the action being reversed is also high. Therefore to hijack a piece of news successfully, here are the questions that you should ask before attempting to hijack a piece of news.

  • How can a connection between the brand and the news be established?

  • Is this connection of interest to your potential audience?

  • Is it a sensitive piece of news in terms of content that could potentially lead to negative reporting?

  • Could the point that you are trying to make be misconstrued by the audience?

  • Can your message offend someone or a group of people?

  • Could this message negatively impact someone's first impression of our brand?

  • Are you "trying too hard"?

  • Does the story elevate your brand at the expense of someone's misfortune?

  • How is this story relevant to your brand, product, or service?

  • Is there a unique angle you can take to respond to the news?

  • Are there existing assets that can be used with social promotion? Or is there any team member available to create new content promptly?

When Should You Give Newsjacking a Second Thought?

If you are struggling to draw a connection to the news you are hijacking, chances are you shouldn't hijack that news.

When you try to use a piece of news that seems irrelevant to your brand, you run the risk of confusing your audience with the message and diluting your voice.

When Prince George was born in 2013, several brands posted on social media pages to celebrate, some messages were clever and cute, but some missed the mark.

@Chobani's tweet confused many, and while it did get attention, it was of the wrong kind. Many people commented in dismay and asked why the brand had even tried to contribute to the news discussion at all.

So the question to ponder here is what didn't work well for the brand? The connection between the brand and the news seemed forced. And the audience could understand this very well through the message.

How To Achieve Accuracy And Swiftness Within A Marketing Team While Newsjacking?

A brand's marketing team consists of several team members, each having expertise in their skills. And in order to put out a great post, the expertise of several team members comes into play.

It often becomes difficult and cumbersome for a marketing team to put out a great social media post within the minimal time since a lot of back and forth communication is involved.

Then how does a marketing team achieve swiftness and accuracy at the time of newsjacking without compromising the quality of posts? For that, your team needs to adopt smart strategies. Everyone should be clear about one's own responsibility, have a clear communication channel, and develop efficient workflows.

Statusbrew helps you manage content, reporting, and your marketing team's efforts from a single dashboard. You can streamline the complex workflows of creating, reviewing, communicating, and approving social media content and conversations with easy-to-configure approval paths.

In order to have a clutter-free management experience within your team, you can set up access permissions and configure what each user can access and use. In this manner, you would be ensuring that none of the content gets published without being reviewed or approved.

Statusbrew Planner Bulk Approval Of Posts

In fact, you can create user groups to handle a large team effortlessly. By creating user groups, you can bundle users of the same teams and can provide them with the same access levels.

If you use Slack to communicate with your team, you can integrate it with one or more Slack channels and workplaces. You will receive instant Slack notifications for configured activities performed in the Statusbrew Publish and Engage Section.

Statusbrew Slack notifications

You can set notifications for posts sent for approval, post approved, post rejected, post deleted, post failed to get published, note added to post, and bulk upload. This will eliminate back and forth communication and checking for updates among the team members at the time of creating a post that needs immediate approval and publishing.

In fact, Statusbrew also provides you the ability to control the visibility of your Slack teams to manage your workflows better. You can make the Slack team visible to all or choose specific users/user groups.

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Rushali Das

Rushali is a content writer at Statusbrew. She is fond of writing content that compels people to slow down and look more closely to discover the unknown stories.

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