The Content Marketer’s Guide to Newsjacking

Most marketers and PR professionals know that tying your company’s press releases to current news events is a tried-and-true way to boost brand awareness and introduce new products and services. Newsjacking takes that strategy one step farther.

Instead of limiting newsworthy information to the occasional press release, marketers can leverage breaking news stories and trending social media topics to craft timely content, generating buzz with every word. The recent coronavirus epidemic, for instance, has spawned a ton of articles about how businesses can adjust to their “new normal.”

But marketers also need to be careful as this strategy can get your brand in hot water when done wrong. Here’s a quick guide to ensure you’ve thought through your newsjacking strategy, and how to execute it alongside your other, more-evergreen content initiatives.

Get the Tone Right

You don’t have to look very hard right now to find examples of brands who are trying to take advantage of the trending narratives of the minute. And with smart, empathetic marketers at the helm of these brands, praise, loyalty and revenue may follow.

However, as G2’s Tim Ferguson points out, when you don’t get it right, it can get “forced, awkward, or even offensive…” You need only to go back three years ago to wince at Nivea’s tone-deaf “White Is Purity” ad to shake your head and wonder, “What were they thinking?”

What they meant to do was to capitalize on a breakthrough in the chemistry industry — news that could make a world of difference for people who work in the public eye. Its then-new deodorant took advantage of that development to prevent the dreaded yellow sweat stains on white shirts and blouses.

Shockingly (not shocked), their attempt at newsjacking fell flat on its face. As did Pepsi, with its infamous ad featuring the face of privilege — Kylie Jenner — offering a Pepsi to a cop during a protest, even as black people faced tear gas and water hoses during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2017.

On the other hand, Kit Kat — yes, the candy — got it right. When Apple introduced its infamous iPhone 6, its penchant for bending caused a furor. Kit Kat leveraged that news story to point out its unique value proposition — its ability to break in two for easy sharing.

Charmin, too, used the 2013 Oscars to create a humorous piece of content that went viral. A tweet, featuring a woman in a drop-dead red gown, wished the nominees good luck — and reminded them to look down before they stride down the red carpet, lest the toilet paper from their last visit to the loo trail behind them.

Get the Timing Right

Newsjacking guru David Meerman Scott advises marketers to get on the wave before it peaks — right after the news breaks. We agree.

However, to do that, you need a system in place that makes it easy for you to get your content out when news breaks. We have a few tips to help you do just that.

1. Use News Alerts to Inform Your Teams About Breaking News

Let’s kick this off by first categorizing the types of news you may choose to jack. Depending on your company’s overarching content strategy, you may choose to just stick to niche-industry news. For example, the founder of CrossFit just had to step down from his leadership role (June 2020) for a blatantly racist comment on Twitter. If you were a CrossFit gym owner, this would be a ripe opportunity to newsjack and build some awareness of your gym among fitness and CrossFit enthusiasts in your local area.

Google Alerts is one of the best sources to track down breaking news about your niche. Simply enter your target keywords, as well as your customers’ main interests, demographics, and pain points, and you’ll receive a wealth of news right in your inbox.

Alternatively, if general, mainstream news and trending topics are more your flavor, you’ll probably want to download the apps from major news sources from across the spectrum (politics, sports, entertainment, etc.). Set them to allow notifications, and you’ll receive real-time alerts with a balanced view. Twitter, too, is an excellent source of trending topics.

2. Have a Template Handy

As part of your newsjacking strategy, you should probably put some thought into the content channels and formats in which you would likely deliver the content. Certain newsjacking opportunities may lend themselves to a specific format or channel, but you probably shouldn’t stray too from your comfort zone, or experiment with a channel with which you aren’t familiar or have no following.

The usual suspects (blog, email, social and video) are probably your go-tos and most companies probably have these channels well-oiled by now. Here’s where the templates come in.

When news breaks, you need to simplify the content ideation and creation process to make sure you land your content in that sweet spot, as quick as possible.

A template can help you do that. When time is of the essence, every step you can save is critical. With outline structure, keyword, title, heading, and bullet point prompts, you can organize your thoughts at light speed.

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Similarly, if your content is mostly videos, you can create a template that helps you include everything that boosts your chances of going viral. In that template, you can include a checklist that could help you eliminate any references to possibly offensive imagery or scripts.

3. Look at Your Content Calendar

Even though newsjacking is all about the now, your content calendar might give you some ideas about the direction you plan to take. For example, if your calendar indicated that you planned to post something about “What to Put in Your Beach Bag” in preparation for the July 4th holiday, you could pivot to including masks, measuring tape, or your favorite pool-noodle hat in that bag when your governor announced the new social distancing guidelines when they opened up the beaches during the coronavirus pandemic.

4. Use a Comprehensive Content Marketing Platform

Having a single content marketing platform where all your teams can see what’s already planned, brainstorm, collaborate and automate content is essential when time is of the essence. Communication and timing are critical to getting time-sensitive content out to the right people at the right time.

5. Promote Your Newsjacked Content Everywhere Your Customers Are

You won’t miss an opportunity to connect with a potential customer when you have an effective content distribution strategy in place. If you’ve done your homework, you’ve already used your analytics program to discover where and when your target customers are online.

Start with your owned channels — your website, primarily. Then publish links to that content on your social media channels. If it’s appropriate, you can boost those posts with paid advertising, using content analytics to narrow down your audience to those people whose location and interests are a good fit for your business. Then, if appropriate, create a press release and get in touch with any journalists you know to amplify your reach.

6. Use Your Analytics Program to Measure Your Reach

Always measure the effectiveness of your efforts. What types of reactions to news stories interest your target audience? How did it perform regarding conversions and sales? By learning what worked and what didn’t, you can refine your newsjacking strategy to become even more effective.

But Don’t Forget About Evergreen Content

It’s easy to get caught up in the adrenaline rush of being the first to deliver an exclusive angle on a breaking news story. But remember, you’re not here to break news stories — rather, to publish content that helps your target customers conquer their challenges.

Most of those challenges aren’t related to the coronavirus, the latest kerfuffle in the Middle East, or even the latest exploits of the Kardashians. Your customers need to know how to streamline their production, create widgets that don’t break down after a year of use, or how to recruit better talent.

Those kinds of challenges demand evergreen content — content that addresses ongoing issues. Not only does this content position you as a thought leader in your grateful customers’ minds, but because it’s so useful, it ranks better in online searches.

If you’d like to give newsjacking a try but don’t have the time to find news and then create, publish, and measure newsworthy content, consider giving DivvyHQ a test drive. With all the content tools you need under one virtual roof, it makes creating timely posts a breeze. Start your free 14-day FREE trial today!