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The Art of Newsjacking and How to Make It Work for Your Events

Skift Take

Looking for new ways of creating content for your audience that will help explain complex ideas? With the right newsjacking strategy, you can inject a breaking news story into your conference schedule or marketing campaign, and elevate your brand’s message.

From Star Wars, to the Super Bowl and Pokémon Go, organizations have been using their own media channels to become a source their community looks to for timely information and commentary.

Traditions of following a preset script or campaign timeline that PR’s and marketers know well, has adapted over the years, due to the speed of public discourse and news spread through platforms such as social media.


Give someone a current news story, cleverly mix it into your marketing strategy and voila, this form of inbound marketing and ‘success by association’ is what is known as newsjacking.

Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed,” said marketer David Meerman Scott, who popularized the term ‘newsjacking’.  

Effectively, newsjacking can have an immediate impact on your event. If used correctly, brand marketing can either become part of the trend or get you ahead as the news is happening. This means capturing the highest traffic for popular keyword and hashtag searches.

However, newsjacking does come with its risks. It is a tricky and delicate thing when it comes to brand marketing.

One prime example, is that numerous brands have tried to make the best out of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma by exploiting these natural disasters as an opportunity to push products. Yes, debate, controversy and having a presence on Twitter can be good business but as eventprofs, we like to plan ahead, so think of how to build a loyal following over the long-term, without p&*$ing anybody off.

But when organizations learn how to effectively navigate social communities like Twitter, newsjacking can help you resonate with your audience on a deeper level. Forget the usual self-promotional content. Think of something that shows your personality and is relevant to your audience and company core values.

There is a lot that can be achieved by playing into the news of the day. One brand that didn’t just get newsjacking right, effectively became a posterchild for newsjacking following a blackout during a Super Bowl game in 2013.

When Newsjacking Works Well

Lauded as a perfect example of well-executed newsjacking, Oreo’s marketing team tweeted a simple image and caption during a Super Bowl game when the lights in the stadium went out. The game stopped and millions of TV viewers were waiting. What did Oreo do? They tweeted.

Oreo’s marketing team tweeted “Power out? No problem” with an image of an Oreo cookie in a dark space and the tagline ‘You can still dunk in the dark’.

Jumping on this event netted the Oreo marketing team more than 15,000 retweets and 6,800 likes by making light of a bad situation, with a well-timed message and some light-hearted humor.

How did it work well? Yes, they were fast, and yes their key stakeholders must have approved the content on the fly but what’s key is that the message was simple.

It’s not an easy thing to do but newsjacking is a way of creating high quality and shareable content. Your team has got to be able to choose a relevant story, find the right angle for your event and create value that either adds to your audience’s conversation, or simply makes them laugh. Oh, and this all has to be done in a very short space of time.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Newsjack

  • Is there a chance that the point we’re trying to make could be misconstrued?
  • Are we ‘trying too hard’?
  • Could this offend anyone?
  • Could this negatively impact a new client’s first impression of our brand?
  • Could this turn off any of our current clients or sponsors?
  • Are we potentially elevating our brand at the expense of another’s misfortune?

If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘yes’, then maybe the current newsjacking idea of yours should NOT be used. You potentially run the risk of causing detriment to your brand and destroying your company’s integrity.

However, as mentioned earlier, if done well, this could catapult you ahead of your competitors and cast you in a new light in front of your audience. To help prepare you in the big wide world of newsjacking, consider trying some of these tips in your next campaign:

Staying Ahead of the Game

  • Understand who you are talking to. What’s the first rule in creating any event marketing strategy? Know your audience. Take the time to research your audience to better understand what types of content they’re looking for and also where they’re looking for it. Consider how you think your audience might want to consume news from you. It doesn’t always have to involve traditional mediums.
  • Do your research. Brand marketers in any industry need to understand internet culture. This means the most current trends, memes, language culture and etiquette. If the events industry likes cat memes (don’t we all?) then see if you can include something furr-tastic in your next marketing campaign.
  • Pay attention. Follow journalists and bloggers that cover stories relevant to your industry. Use Google Trends to monitor trending stories and Google Alerts to monitor keywords of your choice. Have the news on in the background while you work, leisurely read the newspaper when you can or send push alerts to your phone – find a method that works for you.
  • Be relevant and nimble. Hot news will only stay hot if there’s more added to the story. You don’t always have to pitch your products. Add value to an ongoing conversation
  • Trust your gut instinct. Don’t try and benefit from other’s suffering. Good taste, truth and conviction all have a role to play in successful newsjacking. When in doubt, don’t post. If you want to be seen as a thought leader, then you don’t want to be publishing or sharing inaccuracies. Also, you need to be able to trust your team who will be sending out this content.
  • Mix it up. Don’t solely rely on newsjacking as your only form of content marketing. As with anything you plan with your event, it should be one of the cogs in a moving, diverse mix of content.
  • Luck. That’s right, part of it is down to being in the right place at the right time.

In Conclusion

It’s true that the process of leveraging trending news to elevate your brand’s message does come with its own risks, but if executed successfully, newsjacking can be utilized for effective content marketing. It is not just one more thing event planners have to worry about. It is a tool to be considered with skilled marketers and audience research.

The result of aligning your brand’s ideas with breaking news, could demonstrate compelling and positive results by elevating your company and gaining awareness you may have not gotten otherwise.