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Art And Science Newsjacking

About a year ago, a story appeared in the news about a first year professional football player calling it quits because he feared suffering the effects of serious head trauma – a condition we now know to be quite prevalent among professional football players – years after his career would have ended.

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At the same time, a company that manufactures a device to remove interventional cardiologists away from the source of radiation in the cath lab considered leveraging this piece of news to promote their brand’s voice and product. The thinking was that, similar to professional football players who usually don’t experience the effects of traumatic head injuries until post-career years later, interventional cardiologists don’t experience the insidious effects of ionizing radiation until they’ve already spent years in the cath lab. 

This is a perfect example of newsjacking. And, while the corporate review process basically killed the story before it got off the ground, some valuable lessons can be learned from this experience – both in terms of the benefits of newsjacking, as well as how to undertake newsjacking successfully.

Newsjacking is a term popularized by marketer David Meerman Scott. It refers to the practice of capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to amplify a company’s sales and marketing success. The practice can be based on breaking news about something important happening in your industry, in an industry somewhat related to yours, or somewhere in the world completely unrelated to your industry.

Timing is key to the success of a newsjacking effort. To do it well, you must be quick. Unfortunately, marketers have a tendency to become mired in the details of a campaign or in needing to write a blog post quickly; or, by the time copy runs through the usual corporate approval process, nothing actually gets accomplished. Newsjacking requires immediate action to be successful. It can have an immediate impact on marketing efforts to either become part of the trend, or by getting out ahead of it as its happening to capture the highest traffic for popular keyword and hashtag searches.

There are some risks involved in newsjacking, such as if a company is perceived as taking advantage of an event that has caused considerable human suffering, for example. In cases such as these, newsjacking is a tricky and delicate proposition when it involves brand marketing. But, if businesses can learn how to effectively employ newsjacking as part of their overall brand strategy, there’s a lot that they can achieve by playing into the news of the day.

As the example at the beginning of this blogpost illustrates, the best newsjacking efforts add brand relevance to a news item even when the link between the two isn’t very obvious. But what are the best ways to newsjack successfully? Inbound marketing company HubSpot provides the following steps: 

  1. Set up alerts – marketers should constantly monitor the news to find stories to newsjack. While this can be an extremely time-consuming process, try setting up an RSS feed that includes major outlets as well as industry publications that will alert companies to both natural as well as out-of-the-box opportunities. Also, leverage social media – particularly Twitter – as a means of discovering newsjacking opportunities.
  2. Check keyword search volume – once you’ve found a story you’d like to newsjack, you’ll want to create content around it. Before you do though, take a little time to research the search volume around variations of the keyword phrase you’d like to target. According to HubSpot, this can help you get that extra little organic boost because you chose to target a variation of your keyword phrase that delivers higher search volume.
  3. Read about your topic—Prior to creating and promoting content, locate the primary source of the news story and what others have already written about it. This will allow you to secure a firm grasp on the story before you proceed to the actual newsjacking – an important step because it allows you to maintain both originality and creativity. Needless to say, you don’t want to write something that others have already written.
  4. Write quickly, but accurately – Once you understand the breaking story you want to newsjack, you’ll want to start writing quickly. After all, you want to be the first to respond to a news story. Just make sure your content is accurate and has been read through by a trusted colleague.
  5. Differentiate yourself – always inject your own unique angle when newsjacking by asking, “What makes this story interesting to my audience, specifically?” If someone has already written your angle to the story, write it better! Either be more thorough, more clear, or provide more examples. With newsjacking, you need to provide a reason(s) for people to reference your content over the other content out there. 
  6. Get the word out – the last step in newsjacking is to market your content. While you might get some traction through organic search, that alone won’t give you the impact you want that made you decide to newsjack in the first place. Generate awareness on your spin to the story by sharing all newsjacking content on your social media networks to extend reach. Also, foster long-term relationships with partners and journalists who can help get the word out, when relevant. Realize that if you can be the one to offer them a unique story, chances are they will most likely give your newsjacking some coverage.

We now live in a world where social media has created a 24-hour news cycle. With newsjacking, you can take advantage of the news’ immediacy to promote your brand voice to help generate sales and followers over the long term.