During this age of constant information, trends fall and rise as frequently as the sun. One day, we’re debating about the colour of a dress, the next we’ll be raving over the engagement of someone in the Royal Family. There’s this idea that, because of the deluge of content from social media, people have lowered attention spans. However, when they do put their attention on something, it becomes a viral hit.
Content marketing specialists have found a way to piggyback on this fame: newsjacking. According to David Meerman, who coined the term in 2011, it’s the practice of aligning a brand to current events. This way, the company can leverage the attention and boost its visibility and engagement. It’s an easy way to reach a wider audience. It’s not as simple as you might think, though. Read on to understand the concept and how you can use it.
Topics We’ll Cover
We’re going to break down the basic ideas about newsjacking and provide specific samples to illustrate the practice. With these insights, you can confidently ride the next trends and give your brand more exposure:
- What Is Newsjacking?
- Including It to Your Marketing Strategies and Formats to Use
- Famous Examples of Newsjacking
- What To Consider When Looking for Stories
- Key Takeaways
What Is Newsjacking?
The suffix “-jacking” has a negative connotation since it’s associated with words like hijacking and carjacking. In other words, it means stealing. However, newsjacking is harmless. There’s no theft of anything — except maybe the attention if your content becomes more viral than the original news. It’s merely the act of exploiting current events to your advantage.
Why Ride the Trend?
Visibility is one of the most important qualities that a business must have to reach its target audience. That’s why concepts like SEO and keyword research for websites are major buzzwords. When you’re widely known, you can generate clicks, engage customers, and drive up sales.
Jumping on the bandwagon of the most trending events is one way to increase your exposure. Not only does this boost your SEO, but a well-executed newsjacking plan can even make you as viral as the news. Search engines will put you on the front page, and social media sites will pin your content on their trending lists.
Timeline of Newsjacking
News becomes old in a matter of days, so it matters to start newsjacking at the earliest stages. We’ve shared the news cycle of a good newsjacking strategy that you can reference for your upcoming content.
1. Breaking News: An event happens that can potentially become major news. You need to remain vigilant for these by scanning trends, checking developing stories, or activating Google alerts
2. Start Newsjacking: Before even journalists scramble for information about the event, you should already share or upload content that’s related to the event. Reporters might even include what you publish in their news stories.
3. Public Interest Rises: As publications spread the news about the event, the general public and social media users become more interested in the topic. They share your content or may even make memes out of the most viral ones.
4. Peak: Maximum engagement happens at the peak of the newsjacking lifecycle. Your content is everywhere, and your engagements are through the roof.
5. The Event Becomes Old News: Engagement declines as the public is no longer interested in the news. You should be on your way to newsjacking the next big event.
Including It into Your Marketing Strategies and Formats to Use
Today, long-form articles or elaborate news pitches have taken the backstage for quick and attention-grabbing content shared on social media. While the former is still effective for meticulous customers and SEO purposes, most consumers go for the bite-sized content that they can engage with while scrolling their feeds and timelines. So how does newsjacking apply to this?
Content made using newsjacking is a relatively recent marketing strategy that takes advantage of social media. Sharing content on these platforms allows your brand to reach as many people during the peak of a newsjacking cycle. It’s a relatively cheap way to gain visibility even if just for a few hours or days. You’ll monopolise traffic to your website and allow users to get to know your brand. This can lead to more conversions as visitors explore your pages and engage with your longer content.
Tips for Effective Newsjacking
When incorporating newsjacking into your marketing strategy, take note of the following advice. You can apply these to your next project to create more engaging content:
- Timeliness Is a Must: As we’ve established beforehand, there’s a small timeline where you can capitalise on emerging news stories before they get stale. Ensure that your content will always be fresh by newsjacking events as they unfold.
- Know Which Topics to Use: No topic is off-limits if you know how to spin it to your advantage. However, the easiest and safest ones are events that you can directly relate to your target audience.
- Understand Your Audience: You should take note of your geotarget, type of news event, or demographic. It’s important to consider how online users will react to your content. Will it be humorous? Will it come off too bandwagon-y?
- Don’t Overdo It: Newsjacking is not the only marketing strategy, so you shouldn’t saturate your pages or website with it. Use it as a complement to your overall advertising approach.
- Read the Room: News can be anything, and most of the time, it’s about political issues, natural disasters, or other negative events. It’s common sense not to use these situations to further your brand, but that still needs reminding. If it backfires, you can get bad PR and decreased sales.
Formats You Can Use
Newsjacking is dynamic in that you can use various formats to showcase your content. It really depends on the angle you want to take and which people are more likely to see it. Many are familiar with the image-and-text format that usually needs context to understand. If well-executed, these can turn into viral memes that will propel your brand.
However, there are other formats you can use across many types of media. Some companies will make a short analysis of events and predict how it unfolds. Others will offer new perspectives after something has been established. These differing opinions can become viral if they can redefine the entire context of a previous story.
In some cases, all it takes is sharing the bare-bone version of the story. This is ideal if the event is connected to your industry or services since your content might become a source for journalists during their research.
Famous Examples of Newsjacking
We’ve shared some samples of famous (and infamous) newsjacking examples, so you can get an idea of what works.
Back in 2013, the Super Bowl suffered a power outage that caused the lights to turn off for half the stadium. This event was infamous and prompted organisers to upgrade the lighting system of the facility. When it transpired, many brands immediately jumped in and took advantage of the national coverage.
One of the most famous ones was Oreo’s tweet. It was a minimalist image with a single Oreo cookie surrounded by dim light. The caption stated “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark,” referencing how the cookie is typically dunked in milk and the darkness that the power outage caused. This simple message became a viral tweet and is now cited as one of the best samples of real-time marketing.
Apple’s products have been dubbed the standard of mobile smartphones. When the iPhone 6 Plus started having structural issues a few days after its official release, it became one of the hottest topics in the latter half of 2014.
The news was slow to take off, but as more and more people started reporting the phone’s bending, the issue got the global spotlight. Kit Kat knew how to piggyback on this, resulting in a tweet that went as viral as the iPhone issue. They modified their famous tagline and captioned an image with “We don't bend, we #break.” It was a cheeky but highly effective jab at the bending smartphones.
In 2019, McDonald’s lost a legal battle involving their Big Mac trademark to a smaller Irish chain called Supermac's. They can still use the word, but other companies can utilise it for their products and marketing strategies. Burger King, one of McDonald’s biggest competitors, took advantage of the situation. They created a special menu for their European stores, labelling most of their offerings with Big Mac-Ish. It was a hit, leading to one of the most viral trolling campaigns in the past few years.
Just to show that newsjacking can go beyond the digital space, let’s take a look at what reporter Sheila Watko did during a traffic report for NBC10, an American news network. It was around the time when Taylor Swift re-released her Red album, which was a huge marketing event owing to her status in the music industry.
Many brands were quick to jump into the bandwagon, tweeting Red-themed stories or quoting lyrics from famous songs on the album. However, Sheila took it to another level by incorporating all the song titles into her traffic report. The video became viral in NBC10 accounts across many platforms, boosting their engagement and visibility.
For an example of what not to do for newsjacking stories, let’s see Sears’ blunder back in 2012. Everyone knows that natural disasters are a time of crisis, and most people online expect action or sympathy for the victims. Sears got into hot water after a tweet was directed to those affected by Hurricane Sandy in the United States. They included a call-to-action urging the victims to get their much-needed supplies from their store.
It’s one thing to tweet your products that are useful for emergencies, but to direct the marketing towards people who might’ve lost their property or even loved ones was seen as a low blow by most. The company suffered bad press all because of two sentences.
What To Consider When Looking for Stories
Here are some definite steps to take when looking for an excellent newsjacking story.
Set Up Google Alerts and Scan Websites
Most stories will only take a few hours to a day before they’re old news, so you need to be on the alert for events as they develop. There are many tools you can employ for this task, such as Google Alerts. It will notify you of certain topics that you’ve chosen beforehand. It’s a quick and easy way to learn the latest news without having to sift through TV or radio reports.
You can also scan websites for emerging topics — especially social media platforms. This practice is a great way to monitor stories since users usually talk about topics live and may even upload videos as events transpire.
Research Your Angle
To maximise brand appeal, you need to know how to approach a subject according to what your audience wants. In the given examples, Kit Kat went for a more harmless angle that connected their tagline to the current event. Burger King went for a more aggressive approach that took advantage of McDonald’s trademark loss. Think of novel ways that you can showcase whatever story you’ve concocted.
Make Sure Keywords Are There
This goes without saying, but you still need to ensure your keywords are the most searched ones. It’s going to take a bit of keyword research on your end, but it boils down to knowing what people are looking for. For example, people are more likely to look for merchandise related to a particular football player than his team if that athlete won as MVP. In that situation, you’d angle your keywords towards the player.
Align It With Your Brand
Improving your company’s visibility and recognition is the goal for newsjacking — and content marketing in general. Make sure that whatever story you publish is aligned with your brand. This means being selective about the topics you talk about. If it doesn’t connect with your industry, then it’s better not to force it.
Newsjacking is an easy way to take advantage of popular current events. It helps you boost your visibility, increase brand awareness, and improve conversion rates. To successfully pull off a newsjacking campaign, you need out-of-the-box thinking and patience in finding the right story. We can make this easier with our DALIM SOFTWARE. With our innovative solutions, we can help automate your content marketing operations. Get in touch with us today.