What is newsjacking – and why brands need to think about it more…

Newsjacking. It’s an incredibly useful strategy for brands looking to raise their profile – particularly within the UK. But many people don’t know much about newsjacking as a tactic – what goes into it, when it’s appropriate (and not so appropriate), why it’s a great tactic, who should comment, and how to go about it successfully.

Given that it’s a reliable tactic for PR and marketing pros alike, it’s worth digging deeper into who, what, when, why, and how newsjacking can be used to amplify brands and position spokespeople as experts within the press.

What exactly is newsjacking? Simply, it’s the linkage of your brand to an item on the news agenda.

Newsjacking can be either proactive or reactive. Proactive opportunities are easy to plan for in advance – these may be existing calendar dates, launches or anniversaries that you can comment on and tie back to your core messaging. These comments and statements are easily built out in advance and pitched to key interested media ahead of the event to maximize your chances of being quoted.

Reactive newsjacking is a different beast altogether – while with proactive commenting you can spend time building out and crafting the perfect comment, reactive opportunities are often a matter of timeliness. When a news story breaks, you need to respond in a timely manner or you simply won’t be quoted. Reactive opportunities often provide the possibility for big coverage payoffs on topics like government announcements, large company or industry changing news.

The art of reactive newsjacking is expecting (and planning for) the unexpected.

When should you newsjack something?

It’s important to caveat here that not all news agenda items are appropriate for commentary. It’s often unwise to comment on negative news – such as the death of a celebrity or international conflict. It can be seen as a company capitalising on misery, and could result in negative press or damage to your brand’s reputation.

However, when you do find an opportunity to comment on, it’s important to move quickly. Remember that when news breaks, there is a finite window of time during which commentary will be relevant. You need to get in on the ground floor if you want your voice to be heard. This is particularly true for large agenda items like national holidays or government announcements. Journalists are always looking for experts to comment, but it needs to be relevant and timely or your voice will be lost in the crowd and be a wasted effort.

To answer why newsjacking should be employed by any brand looking to optimise coverage, ultimately all roads lead to the same place. Newsjacking provides the opportunity to position your brand, and your spokesperson (or people) as someone who can provide expert insight on a given topic. This is critical for a brand in the short term, as it results in immediate coverage. In the long term, you know newsjacking has worked when journalists begin coming to you for insight ahead of breaking news – as they rely on your thought leaders for their acumen.

Now that we know how useful newsjacking is for a brand, how do we go about doing it successfully? It’s important to remember that not every newsjack opportunity results in coverage, there are a few key steps you can take to maximise your chances of success, particularly with reactive commentary. Bearing in mind that timeliness is key, for maximum chance of seeing any coverage, you should aim to respond to news within two hours of it breaking. This includes 1) identifying the opportunity, 2) drafting the comment, 3) obtaining sign off and 4) pitching to target press.

It’s equally important to remember that sharing your insight with key press will further serve to position you as an expert in your field. Alongside your wider campaign strategy, using newsjacking as a tactic can help boost your ROI and renew your visibility in the press.

Words – Ashley Dennee

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