Newsjacking is the practice of capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to generate media attention for yourself or your business. A newsjack can come in a variety of forms, such as a social media update, a blog post, or a press release. A newsjack can also cover several different angles, such as reporting the facts from new research relevant to your industry or offering unique takeaways as to why a specific news story is important or relevant. When done right, newsjacking can bring your business web traffic, inbound links, and search engine rankings with minimal financial investment. Here’s how to newsjack to boost traffic, and to do it in a way that builds a positive image for your brand:
The Best Time to Newsjack is Right After a Story Breaks
To get the most traffic from a newsjack, you need to be one of the first covering the story right after it breaks. Getting the newsjack in at this point in the story’s lifecycle means that it’s available as public excitement grows and as the story reaches its peak, giving your post the best opportunity capture the audience’s attention. Doing the newsjack too late means you will miss most of the public’s interest in the story and your coverage won’t get much traffic.
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Also consider that you’re not the only one looking for opportunities to piggyback on a breaking story. The longer you wait, the more it gives another company or marketer the chance to get their story out first. If you newsjack the same story as a competitor, with the same format and angle, it will cause you to look like a follower instead of a leader in your industry, which is obviously not the impression you want your brand to have. This can be prevented by doing some quick research before starting your newsjack, giving you a chance to tweak your idea or your format before creating the post if you find a competing post already exists. You don’t want to be halfway through your blog post or press release only to find out a competitor has already published coverage identical to yours.
Double Check the News Story Before Newsjacking
Newsjacking can be problematic on Twitter in particular, when companies may hijack a trending hashtag before realizing what it means. CelebBoutique, a UK-based online store, http://gayecho.com/, failing to verify that it was trending because of a recent shooting in Aurora, CO. The company simply used it to promote an “Aurora” dress, and the social media marketing campaign backfired because the newsjack was considered offensive to many people.
Kenneth Cole is another example of a PR fail; there was a lot of backlash for attempting to exploit the #Cairo hashtag to promote Cole’s Spring Collection. Before you inject your business into a breaking news story, make sure that you know what the news story is and whether or not it’s a good fit for your brand.
As a rule of thumb, military coups, natural disasters and celebrity deaths ought to be treated with sensitivity and should not be newsjacked unless your business has a direct connection to the event. For example, Pearl Drums issued a tribute to the late Ricky Lawson because the drummer was a spokesperson for their product. This worked because Pearl Drums had direct relationship with Lawson and expressed genuinely sympathy at Lawson’s passing. If any other company were to do this, even a company in the music industry, then the move could be seen as exploitation of a sad news event to sell product.
Timing and Accuracy Need to Work Together
Of course, timing your newsjack right means that you need to tune in to what’s happening in the world and come up with an idea or angle. To do this, choose a handful of news outlets to watch for newsjacking opportunities. One of these outlets should be industry-focused, while another should be relevant to your audience i.e. if most of your customers are young families, then a parenting news site would be a good choice to follow. At least one national or local news site should also be included.
Doing your newsjack quickly is important, but doing it accurately is equally critical. Your newsjack isn’t going to work if you publish something that is wrong or unverified. This is another reason why you should double check the news story before choosing it for a newsjacking opportunity. For example, Justin Bieber tweeted twice in one week that he was retiring from music, which seems like a good news story to cover if your audience is teenage girls or if you’re a music or venue promoter that wants to highlight other artists you work with. It’s also a good choice because there is lots of search volume for keywords, like “Justin Bieber retiring.” However, there are conflicting stories about the veracity of the claims, with some sources saying that the remarks were just a ploy to attract buzz for his new movie. With this story, you don’t want to be the company that says Bieber is retiring, only for him not to retire and for you to be cited for spreading false information. Make sure you perform the necessary due diligence on your newsjack before publishing it.
Have you tried newsjacking? Do you think there’s room for it in your content marketing or online marketing strategy? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.