Content | June 30, 2023

Newsjacking: What it Is and How To Use It Effectively

Being a PR specialist means knowing what’s on the tips of every journalist’s tongue (or fingers) and using that knowledge to secure coverage for the brands you represent. PR goes both ways; one can choose to be reactive with their efforts, hopping on stories and adding their own unique spin, or proactive by creating news themselves.

At the end of it all, the goals are both the same: brand exposure. And for digital agencies, this exposure often comes with the valuable links that drive our clients’ search rankings.

Let’s discover more about newsjacking: what it is, and what a successful newsjacking campaign looks like.

What is Newsjacking?

The term newsjacking is often used synonymously with reactive PR, but at its core is an approach towards PR that seeks to utilise trending topics to increase brand exposure. Professional newsjackers will have a keen eye for content that they can use to their brand’s advantage by exposing hidden links between stories, ultimately resulting in a fresh piece of content driven by a unique, interesting angle.

Newsjacking is more than just reacting to everything, it’s about finding stories that wider audiences will find interesting and which add to the initial story. It means helping journalists provide their readers with a diverse range of viewpoints, all while remaining relevant to the topic at hand.

With newsjacking, there’s a small window of opportunity that PR specialists must take advantage of if they stand any chance of riding the wave. The size of this window ultimately depends on the freshness of the story and the wider discourse surrounding the subject.

How does Newsjacking Work?

Although different stories may survive in headlines longer than others, the newsjacking process typically remains unchanged, falling under a few key stages:

  • Story Breaks: News circulates and starts trending on social channels or on Reddit before getting picked up by journalists on high profile outlets.
  • Journalist Promotion: The author’s responsible for the articles begin to promote the stories on their social media.
  • PR Specialists Mobilise: After digesting the story and discovering tangential links, PR specialists reach out to journalists and publications to put forward their respective brand’s input.
  • Public Interest Grows: As the story receives more online attention, it gets shared across various social communities.
  • Peak Interest: The story is at its peak of exposure.
  • Tailing Off:Interest slowly declines before it tumbles out of relevance.

How to Newsjack

While it may sound simple, newsjacking is tricky. Not only must PR specialists be confident in their ability to turn out a convincing sounding link between stories, but the content of those stories must also be interesting enough to convince readers to pay attention.

The process usually looks like this:

Set up News Alerts

The very best newsjackers are well informed. Being mindful of when new stories break and being the first to react is half the battle while newsjacking, and the best way to keep informed is though continuous news alerts.

Monitor trending hashtags on Twitter, TikTok and Reddit, and set up daily Google alerts, particularly to do with core topics that are relevant to your brand. For instance, we specialise in the bed industry, so you’ll always want to keep an eye on the trending topics around sleep.

Consult Internal Experts

Anticipating breaking news can really transform how quick you are to respond to it. While it’s impossible to predict what is and isn’t going to trend among readers, staying prepared for a set number of possibilities is always a good idea.

In similar vein to how publications will often prepare stories for impending news like wars, celebrity deaths and public service announcements, working within your organisation to prepare ready-to-go responses to similar situations is invaluable.

Get your collaborative hat on and fire off some questions to your internal team around the subject at hand, and use your PR skills to massage that material into a quote.

Respond Quickly

This almost goes without saying, but with newsjacking, PR specialists usually have minutes to respond to a relevant story before a journalist snaps someone else up. It’s a fierce world, so getting your foot through the door immediately is pretty much the only way to guarantee that your voice is heard.

Just be sure to curate your responses before firing them off. Missing the mark even slightly is enough to give a journalist a completely different angle than what was originally intended, which could leave your brand in the wrong kind of spotlight.

Choose the Right Stories

When you’re desperate for coverage, or working within a particularly niche industry, it can be tempting to respond to almost every news story that breaks.

While we understand this temptation, it’s not advised. Being involved in a story that makes no conceivable link to your brand serves only to mislead readers, impacting brand trust and potentially harming your reputation.

That’s why it’s always best to take a step back and consider “Is this relevant to my audience?” Doing so will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Our Favourite Newsjacking Examples

Oreo Blackout

Of course, newsjacking isn’t restricted to just the PR world. Some of the best newsjacks happen on a collaborative basis between departments, with Oreo producing one of the most infamous instances of newsjacking.

Back in 2013 during the 47th American Super Bowl, a power outage made mass headlines due to the lengthy disruption it placed on the event. In a matter of hours, Oreo was quick to step in with a timely, humorous Tweet that promoted Oreo while remaining relevant to the story.

With a picture of one of their famous biscuits being secluded by the darkness, a simple caption of “Power out? No problem.” Was all it took for Oreo to garner thousands of likes and retweets off the back of the story; a successful newsjack if there ever was one.

Aldi Caterpillar

In 2021, you’d be hard pressed to not run into the hashtag #FreeCuthbert when browsing Twitter. During a legal battle between supermarket chains Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Aldi, the Twittersphere was quick to erupt with public outcry shaming M&S for taking such a strong stance on the subject.

Realising that the fans were on their side, Aldi used this opportunity to its advantage by creating an onslaught of Tweets directly targeted towards M&S, making fun of the whole situation. It was an interesting time filled with images, jokes and light-hearted banter between the two brands both trying to win the public debate. Ultimately, the two ended legal proceedings via a private settlement that resulted in Aldi continuing to sell their copy-caterpillar cakes. Sweet, sweet victory.

Google’s Year in Search

Google runs its very own trends aggregator under the guise of Google Trends. The tool scours the internet for emerging trends on its search platform, of which usually tie into public discussion be it health risks, new products, or brand launches.

Rather than let this data go to waste, Google makes a continual effort every year to recap the past 12 months through its “Year in Search” campaign. Each one is different, featuring a professionally-shot video detailing where search interests were placed across the year, utilising stories created via its own data, news outlets and Social Media trends.

Click here to check out the latest version of this campaign

Put Your Brand Front and Centre

Although newsjacking can be difficult, the results it produces can be more than worth the effort it takes to pull off successfully. If you need help launching your brand right into the forefront of your audience’s mind, Liberty can help.

With strategic digital PR services devised to push you up search rankings, our team is well versed in getting the right kinds of exposure for our clients. Contact us today to talk more about your new PR strategy.

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