September 8, 2014Uncategorized

The art of newsjacking is not new. For better or worse, rightly or wrongly, everyone from marketers (guilty!) to politicians and comedians is frequently making use of the piggybacking-on-a-trending-news-item-to-promote-your-own-message practice.

But now, newsjacking has become an essential daily instrument in the content marketer’s toolkit. So much so that if you’re not trawling your social media channels, newsfeeds and other websites for breaking news and current events on the hour, every hour, every day, you could be missing out on some golden opportunities for a little timely self-promotion.

What is it?

Just as a refresher, David Meerman Scott, who coined the phrase, defines newsjacking as injecting your ideas into breaking news stories to draw attention to your own content. You may have also heard it referred to as real-time marketing.Whatever you call it, here are some of his suggestions for doing it successfully:


  • Blog your take on the news.
  • Tweet it using an established hashtag.
  • Send a real-time media alert.
  • Hold a live or virtual news conference.
  • Directly contact a journalist who may be interested.

Add to that: using other social media channels, such Facebook and LinkedIn, and videos or vines.

Indeed, content marketers would do well to take a page from the late-night comedians’ playbook of the likes of Jonathan Ross, Russell Howard or Graham Norton when newsjacking. Constantly taking advantage of the day’s headlines in their opening monologues, both to get a laugh and increase exposure and ratings, it’s not unusual for their antics to go viral – and, if controversial enough, become news themselves.

A nation of newsjackers

We’ve started to see newsjacking occur more and more in the UK, from Nokia’s takeover of Apple’s iPhone announcement to Specsavers attaching their “should’ve gone to Specsavers” tagline to several well-publicised international blunders.

Recently, one of the biggest instances involved the leveraging of the hashtag #tubestrike by several local charities during the tube strike earlier this year, which saw commuters facing a 48-hour strike as members of the RMT union protested plans to close ticket offices – a move that would’ve seen almost 1000 jobs lost. As the hashtag began trending on social media, Save the Children, Macmillan Cancer Support and Leonard Cheshire Disability all quickly jumped on the bandwagon, attaching the hashtag to posts that pushed their own agendas.

Leonard Cheshire Disability tweeted an infographic proclaiming that, for disabled commuters, “every day is like a #tubestrike” as they face delays every day as a result of non-wheelchair-accessible platforms. The tweet received more than 750 retweets and over 140 favourites as well as plenty of shares and comments on Facebook.

However it, and similar posts by Save the Children and Macmillan Cancer Support, were met with criticism by some who believed it was disrespectful and insensitive to the strikers’ situation. Right or wrong, the newsjacking hit headlines, making their (intentional or not) goal of creating publicity for themselves a success. After all, any publicity is good publicity, right?

If you’re not newsjacking, get started

If you’ve not yet been tempted to play, as The Independent puts it, “the advertising equivalent of Russian roulette”, there’s no better time than now. And it’s relatively easy to start.

Maintain and regularly update a calendar of events – both national and international – that you can use to anticipate the types of news stories most likely to occur on those days. Figure out how you can capitalise on them to boost your brand or a particular product or service of yours while still providing relevant information to your audience.

But remember to avoid making your posts look like orchestrated PR campaigns. Always ensure your newsjacking has some sort of substance and actual relevance. Because, as advises, “To keep visitors coming back, you need to give them something with lasting value.”

From there, it’s a good idea to have someone in your company act as a real-time newsroom. In other words, have this person constantly aware of what’s happening in your industry today, so you can act on it today. Because, who knows, you just might be viral tomorrow.