Marketing strategist David Meerman Scott discusses what to strive for and what to avoid when turning breaking news into marketing opportunities.
It’s every company’s goal to be at the center of its universe — to be so influential and ubiquitous that no industry news story would be complete without its name in the headline.
Of course, achieving that type of market domination and recognition is easier said than done, but with newsjacking, smart marketers are finding a way for companies to pull even otherwise unrelated news stories (and the eyeballs that come with them) into their orbit.
What is this magnetic media tactic? And is it the next evolution of PR? David Meerman Scott, best-selling author and the authority on the subject, recently sat down with OpenView to explain the finer points of newsjacking.
Harnessing the Noise
In today’s 24/7 news cycle, stories are constantly popping up on an ever expanding number of topics. And somewhere in that mass there lies a story each business is uniquely qualified to speak to. “The idea of newsjacking,” says Scott, “is the art of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story.”
For marketers, there are two key elements to newsjacking; acting quickly and adding something to the conversation. According to Scott, by creating a piece of content that offers an early and unique perspective on breaking news, it provides journalists with something to incorporate and react to as they develop their story.
And by providing timely content at the moment when readers looking for additional information a business is able to seamlessly become an active participant in the conversation and ride the wave of the news story.
Sound easy? Well, maybe. In order to achieving maximum impact newsjacking requires a lot of commitment and effort. Scott shared a few tips to keep in mind for any companies interested in giving it a shot.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Newsjacking
Table of Contents
- Harnessing the Noise
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Newsjacking
- Do: Get permission ahead of time.
- Don’t: Simply repeat the news.
- Do: Be flexible and harness the ability to publish quickly.
- Don’t: Attempt to newsjack tragic stories.
- Do: Stay up-to-date with a variety of news sources.
- Don’t: Bad-mouth the competition.
- Do: Build a network of reporters and influencers.
- Don’t: Sit on an idea/story.
- Do: Take advantage of industry news and competitors announcements.
- Don’t: Publish inaccurate information.
- Do: Be prepared.
- Don’t: Get caught up in making the writing perfect.
Do: Get permission ahead of time.
Because newsjacking demands decisive action in the moment, it’s important to get sign off in advance from your company’s legal and PR teams or perhaps even your boss or CEO. After all, news stories don’t adhere to a 9-5 schedule, and timeliness is crucial.
“It happens on weekends, it happens on vacation periods, it happens when the CEO is on vacation,” says Scott. “It happens at weird times, so you need to get that pre-approval in place. I think that’s critical.”
Don’t: Simply repeat the news.
The facts are the facts, and they’re not going to change, but the important thing is to contribute to the value of the story. If your content isn’t propelling the story forward in a new and interesting way, journalists will gloss over it without a second thought. Adding relevant, insightful content is the only way to get noticed, and the only way to affect the angle of the story.
Do: Be flexible and harness the ability to publish quickly.
In addition to getting your preemptive sign-off settled away, you also need to make sure you have the technical ability to publish at the drop of a hat. When the moment presents itself, be prepared to strike — without assistance from others. Scott says it’s as simple as adopting a “Hey, if this is going to happen, I’m going to do it” mindset.
Don’t: Attempt to newsjack tragic stories.
There really isn’t any way for a business to come off smelling like roses after diverting attention from a tragedy (Hurricane Sandy, the Boston Marathon bombings, etc.). “People tried,” says Scott. “It’s just a very tough thing to do.”
Do: Stay up-to-date with a variety of news sources.
It’s impossible to know when and where an opportunity will present itself, so Scott says it’s important to keep an open mind when it comes to news outlets.
Check cable news shows and Google news (with personalization turned off). Don’t limit it to business news, but stay up to date with sports, fashion, and other realms. “You never know what you’re going to find,” says Scott.
Don’t: Bad-mouth the competition.
Taking a negative stance on competitors while newsjacking is generally a big no-no. For one thing, it adds nothing to story. For another, it brings more attention back to them.
Instead, by adding something poignant to the conversation you can refocus the spotlight of the story and leave competitors in the dark.
Do: Build a network of reporters and influencers.
News breaks. Content is created. Now what? A blog post buried on your company’s website isn’t necessarily going to catch the eye of reporters and readers looking for updates.
Without a network to distribute it to, any attempt at newsjacking is sunk. Before you dive in, make sure you’re also actively building relationships with key players both within your company and externally who can help you spread the word.
Scott is quick to point out it’s easier than ever to start a relationship with influencers, especially on Twitter. “You’re not always going to know ahead of time when these things occur,” he says. But you can very quickly find the Twitter profile of reporters and reach out to them with a comment.
Don’t: Sit on an idea/story.
Timeliness is everything in newsjacking, so there’s no room for hemming and hawing. When the time comes, be decisive, says Scott. If you think it’s the right thing to do, pull the trigger.
Do: Take advantage of industry news and competitors announcements.
In one of Scott’s favorite examples of successful newsjacking, Eloqua CEO Joe Payne noticed his competition had been purchased by Oracle. With little information available on the acquisition, Payne’s team quickly developed blog post that was subsequently picked up by nearly every publication covering the development. The result? “A million dollars in new business,” according to Scott.
Don’t: Publish inaccurate information.
“You definitely want to be careful about the facts,” says Scott. Nothing will ruin a company’s credibility as part of the conversation quicker than false facts.
Do: Be prepared.
You might be able to chalk the perfect news story striking at the perfect time up to serendipity, but it’s the preparation ahead of time that allows you to capitalize on it and what really makes newsjacking possible.
Don’t: Get caught up in making the writing perfect.
Because a quick reaction is the key to newsjacking, content often needs to be created in a rush. But as long as the facts are right, the rest is just details. Scott admits to being “frequently guilty of making mistakes and forgetting to include something.” Timeliness is what’s imperative. Mistakes can be corrected later on.