• David Johnson

How to create buzz, try newsjacking

I was chatting with a friend the other day, let’s call her Nancy, about some PR stuff and she mentioned how hard it has been lately to get the press’ attention.

She was frustrated because after a number of pitches, the media didn’t bite or show any interest in what she was offering. Sound familiar?

So I asked Nancy if she had ever heard of newsjacking. The look on her face was priceless.

Her response was, “WTF is newsjacking?”

What is newsjacking?

In this current environment of cost-cutting and doing more with less, news outlets these days, especially the ones in the smaller markets, aren’t staffed to handle the daily volume of news, let alone the number of news releases and pitches they receive.

We live in the “now” news cycle and editors want stories that are relevant and unique. When there is breaking national news story and an editor can apply a local angle to it, it’s a win.

This is where newsjacking comes into play.

I learned about the term a few years ago after reading The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott. He defines newsjacking as “inserting your ideas into a breaking news story by writing a real-time blog post or shooting a video to interest reporters and generate coverage.”

How does it work?

The beauty of newsjacking is that it can take many forms. The first rule is that it requires you to have your finger on the pulse of the news.

If it’s breaking news and is relevant to your organization, the opportunity to newsjack is ripe for the taking.

For example, CNN recently ran the story - Not exercising worse for your health than smoking, diabetes and heart disease, study reveals

How could you newsjack this story?

If you’re a fitness club owner or a company that sells gym equipment, you could post a blog that highlights what your company is doing to help people stay fit and link it to the CNN story.

You should do the same on Facebook and Twitter, and link it back to your blog.

Finally, you should email a news release to the news outlets in your area and journalists who might be interested. Remember to link the CNN story back to your brand and show the relevance.

After the blog is posted and news release sent, make sure you follow-up with a phone call to the journalist or news outlet.

Always look for a hook

Doing any or all of the above actions will not guarantee a journalist will call you. However, if the story is getting a lot of national traction, and you can hook your news on it, the odds are good that a journalist will take notice.

When I was the public information officer with the state health department, I would do variations of newsjacking and it worked.

Nearly every time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would make an announcement about a public health matter, I looked for a connection to the health department’s mission.

The journalists I contacted took notice, and pursued the story.

Speed is critical

Newsjacking relies on speed. If it takes management forever and a day to approve your blog post or news release, newsjacking is not right for your business.

When that story breaks at 7 a.m., you don’t have hours to play with. The longer you delay in getting your blog posted or news release out, the likelihood that a journalist will not call you.

Bottom line, it still pays to be first.

To ensure that you don’t get left behind, my advice is to treat newsjacking like you would when a crisis hits. When a story breaks you have minutes to decide how to hook your news to it.

Look before you newsjack

Here are few a questions you need to ask yourself before you newsjack a story.

First, why is this story important to my brand?

Second, what makes my messaging relevant to the breaking news?

Finally, why would audiences care?

This last question is important because this is what’s going through the journalist’s mind.

Remember, its a business and news organizations need stories that attract eyeballs and ears.

Keep in mind that journalists need faces and voices to make their stories come alive. So, this means that you’re going to need subject matter experts ready and willing to conduct an interview. If your effort grabs the attention of a journalist, your phone will be ringing immediately. Welcome to newsjacking.

What’s the goal?

This should be a no brainer, but it’s worth saying. The goal of newsjacking is to get editors or reporters to take notice of your organization. As a result, hopefully this interest generates buzz.

When used effectively, the upside yields positive results. Newsjacking is a strategic tool that should be in every public relations professional’s toolbox.

The race to get attention is competitive. Newsjacking is your edge. All you need is an awareness of what’s trending in the news, a strategy, and the readiness to newsjack.


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Santa Cruz, CA