Newsjacking

The term newsjacking is made up of the English words “news” and “hijacking” and was coined by author and marketing expert David Meerman Scott. He used it to describe a PR strategy in which companies “hijack” news in order to attract attention and disseminate their own content. In the broadest sense, therefore, it is a possible variant of content marketing, but newsjacking differs in several respects from normal content marketing strategies and therefore also requires a different approach.

With newsjacking, companies use a news item or a specific story from the current news to distribute their own content via the coverage of this story. With skilful newsjacking, a considerable reach is possible, especially as social media channels are also suitable for newsjacking in addition to traditional media.

The aim of newsjacking is always to connect the company or its own content with the news, for example by providing interesting background information or a funny promotion that refers to the news or the event. The latter variant is particularly suitable for social media content, because entertaining content is especially popular on Twitter, Facebook and the like. In addition, the speed of dissemination is particularly high on social media, so that with the right newsjacking, a “buzz” can be generated on the web, which is then picked up by the traditional media, which increases the reach even further.

In his 2011 book “Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage,” David Meerman Scott already describes various ways of using news for one’s own purposes. Since then, several new ways have emerged, all of which can be used for newsjacking.

What types of newsjacking are there?

Just as with SEO and “normal” content marketing measures, there are also different variants of newsjacking. In contrast to SEO and content marketing, however, a distinction is made here between two types:

  • Newsjacking for regularly occurring or plannable events.
  • Newsjacking for current, unpredictable events

The first variant is much easier to implement and also comes closest to classic marketing measures. For example, a particularly radical or attention-grabbing advertising campaign for the World Cup or Christmas would be conceivable here. The advantage of predictable events is that newsjacking can be planned some time in advance and thus refined down to the last detail. The disadvantage, on the other hand, is that the competition will also have planned advertising or marketing measures for such events, so that the company’s own action is quickly lost in the general noise and is neither noticed by news portals nor in the social media channels. So only really sensational actions have a realistic chance of success here.

If an unforeseen event is to be used for newsjacking, less spectacular measures can also have a considerable impact. The greatest difficulty with this variant is to react promptly to the corresponding news. Especially in the online sector, news has a particularly short shelf life and can become outdated after just a few hours. This time pressure inevitably means that only simple measures that can be implemented within a few hours can be effective here. In addition, it is extremely important to filter the news carefully and to select the story for newsjacking with caution. If you use the wrong or inappropriate news for newsjacking, the whole thing can backfire very quickly – instead of positive coverage, a shitstorm often breaks out over the company on Twitter and other social media channels.

What should be considered when newsjacking?

The selection of news plays a particularly important role in newsjacking – and not only for unforeseen events, but also for events that take place regularly or can be planned. The easiest choice is certainly news from one’s own business environment. In this area, it is easy to establish connections to one’s own company, and there is also less risk here that newsjacking will be perceived as disturbing or inappropriate, miss its mark, or even have a negative impact and turn into a PR disaster. On the other hand, the reach of this type of newsjacking is usually very limited, because online media for specific industries are usually only used by representatives from the industry.

With newsjacking for local events or planned events, a larger reach is possible, but the selection of news must be much stricter. In the case of previously known events, the strategy for newsjacking or the measure must also be planned particularly well, because many other companies naturally also carry out marketing campaigns for major events such as world championships in sport or seasonal events such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day. The chance that one’s own content will be noticed by the media or social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook is therefore rather low.

However, newsjacking is certainly most problematic in the case of global news, because on the one hand, the risk of the campaign turning into the opposite is particularly high here. On the other hand, it is very difficult to deliver content that is considered relevant by the media worldwide so that they report on it. Therefore, the following questions should be asked in advance when selecting the message:

  • How can a connection be made between the company or brand and the story?
  • Is this connection of interest to the media or potential customers?
  • Is it a sensitive message in terms of content that could potentially lead to negative coverage?

Once a suitable message has been found, the content must now be published with which the story is to be hijacked. This can be done, for example, via social media channels such as Twitter, via a blog or a press release. The decisive factor here is how the newsjacking is to take place. If you want to generate a “buzz” via social media, the corresponding channels are best suited for this. If, on the other hand, one relies on media sites, content that has been optimized according to SEO standards makes more sense. Because in the fast-moving news world, journalists are increasingly dependent on online sources for their research. Like other people, they find them via search engines like Google. If you manage to publish content that Google classifies as relevant to the topic, that’s half the battle. In the course of their research, journalists then come across this content again and again and in many cases will use it as the basis for their reporting – and the news has been hijacked.

With newsjacking, news can be used to direct public attention “via the back door” to one’s own content. The PR measure is usually quite inexpensive and often has a high reach, but the selection of the appropriate news is sometimes very difficult. In addition, there is a risk that newsjacking will be perceived as disruptive or presumptuous, so that appropriate measures must be carefully considered.

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