Newsjacking is the practice of hijacking or drafting behind breaking news to get coverage for your brand or message. David Meerman Scott’s newest book does a great job explaining the concept and recounting numerous examples:
- Rick Perry newsjacked the Iowa Ames Straw Poll this year by officially announcing his candidacy on the same day. Even though Michelle Bachman spent weeks in Iowa and won the poll, Rick Perry got most of the news coverage that day.
- Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress following his idiotic decision to send a sexually explicit picture of himself to a young woman via Twitter and lying about it. Larry Flynt newsjacked the story by offering Weiner employment at his Flynt Management Group. Hundreds of news stories mention Flynt’s employment offer.
- The CEO of Eloqua, a marketing automation company, learned that Oracle had quietly acquired one of his competitors. He immediately got online to write a blog titled “Oracle Joins the Party,” describing how Oracle’s acquisition validates the market and represents a huge opportunity for Eloqua. Many of the news stories quoted his blog post.
The newsjacker’s goal is to own the second paragraph: the part of the news article where the reporter explains the “why” and the implications of the story. In some cases, like the Rick Perry example described above, the newsjack can become the main story. But in most cases, the newsjacker drafts behind the peloton of the breaking news, in some cases spinning it to their advantage.
Newsjacking requires real-time responsiveness to the market – when a story is breaking, you can’t wait until you have some free time to write a response, or look for approval from five layers of management. For this reason, newsjacking often favors the smaller company competing with the corporate giant.
Newsjacking also requires good judgement and a tasteful response. Scott describes the backlash against designer Kenneth Cole when he tweeted “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online”. His cuteness was seen as inappropriate when people were dying in the Egypt uprising as well as a crass attempt to cash in on the protests. If the news is tragedy (and so often it is), your response has to help. If the news is less emotionally laden, the response needs to provide a new insight or perspective.
Scott outlines pragmatic and useful approaches to finding opportunities to newsjack, developing a strategy for providing an appropriate and insightful viewpoint, and getting your message into the market.