When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie broke up their marriage in 2016, it was all the world could talk about. Brangelina dominated the news cycle for weeks, with media channels worldwide focusing on the collapse of the most well-known power couple in Hollywood. While the news was still fresh on everyone’s mind, consumers in Britain started seeing a cheeky ad from a Norwegian airline:
This light-hearted attempt to associate an airline with the celebrity break-up became a meme and instantly went viral. The creative marketing team at this relatively unknown budget airline had just pulled off an elusive but powerful marketing trick – newsjacking.
First mentioned by David Meerman Scott in his book, Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage, the term ‘newsjacking’ is somewhat self-explanatory. It’s a strategy to associate your brand or business with breaking news that’s dominating the cycle.
From bitcoin to Trump tweets, a well-timed and thoughtful association between a brand and a current hot topic can unleash a torrent of traffic to your site. Here’s how you can apply this clever marketing strategy to your advantage:
Hijacking the News
There’s no doubt that media coverage has always been a powerful force. Regardless of whether the news is accessed via social media (something millennials are more likely to do) or through mainstream news outlets, everyone requires daily and authoritative information. With the rise of live streams on social media and 24/7 news channels, there is a constant supply to meet this demand for information.
In this environment, news is born and cycled at a breath-taking pace. The traditional model of developing a consistent PR strategy has a diminished impact in a world where the public’s attention span has narrowed. Instead, tactics like newsjacking are likely to have the bigger impact for businesses and marketers.
By hijacking the news at the perfect moment, you can insert your brand and your angle into a story that is likely to dominate the public debate for weeks, or even months. Newsjacking at the right time with the right angle promises to bring your brand a lot of attention from a highly engaged audience. It’s the holy grail of digital marketing.
Beyond the site traffic and inbound links, a well-executed newsjack can also bring mainstream media attention and offer credibility to your brand and thought leadership.
To pull this strategy off effectively, you need to develop a plan based on the following steps:
1. Monitor the News
Constantly monitoring the news for breaking stories is the most vital aspect for beginning your newsjacking strategy. There’s simply no way to do this without the right tools. Google Alerts and social platforms like Twitter are essential, but for better results you may have to dig even deeper. Tools like Mention can help you set up alerts for more keywords and platforms. Professional journalists also have alerts on official government websites, Tweetdeck, RSS feeds, Reddit, and many others to help monitor the web more precisely.
2. Pick up on Trends
Picking up on news trends is the next step in this strategy. If your monitors help you identify news stories, you’ll need an extra layer of tools to see if the news cycle is starting to gain momentum. Google Trends is probably your best bet here. The built-in tools on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook can also help you spot a trend before anyone else.
Your entire strategy hinges on this step. Timing is crucial and you need to spot a trend as it is just starting to pick up, but is yet to be acknowledged by mainstream journalists.
3. Read up on the topic
Timing is crucial, but your reputation is more important. The only thing worse than missing a trend is saying or posting a tone-deaf or inappropriate comment. Take the time to read up on the subject and come up with an angle that is both relevant and inoffensive. You want to attract attention to your business, but you don’t want to tarnish your brand.
4. Write (quickly)
Having a freelance writer or editorial team on standby is important in order to be able to use the news story you have chosen effectively. You need a group of professional writers who can churn out great content quick enough to ride the news cycle.
Your marketing team also needs some time to differentiate your message. Simply relaying the breaking news won’t help. You brand needs an honest opinion, a relevant message, or a funny take on a news story. If you’re not adding to the public debate in any way, don’t participate at all. Keep your message fresh and interesting while staying true to your brand.
The final step in this newsjacking attempt is to market your marketing. Organic search results will probably get you started, since Google’s smart algorithms tend to reward the first site to break a news item, but don’t rely on organic search alone. Use social media platforms and automation tools like IFTTT and Buffer to speed up your messaging and get the word out there.
To Sum Up
With the constant stream of breaking news dominating the public conversation, businesses with traditional PR strategies could struggle to keep up. Newsjacking is the art of associating your brand with the latest trending news story. While it’s a difficult strategy to execute, the rewards for newsjacking at the right moment are immense. Not only will your brand gain organic traffic from search results, but it will also enjoy its 15 seconds of fame in the national spotlight.
Adapt and modify the six steps outlined here to try newsjacking and augment your business marketing strategy.