Newsjacking as a marketing strategy was popularised by David Meerman Scott in his book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Newsjacking describes the practice of aligning a brand with a current event to generate media attention and increase brand exposure.
Newsjacking differs from a publicity stunt in that the news item is leveraged in the marketing campaign and not in a public venue or place of business. Essentially, the company employing newsjacking as a strategy is piggybacking off of a newsworthy event and the large amount of discussion these events generate.
A decade or so ago, businesses would attempt to use the strategy during large, televised events such as the Super Bowl or Academy Awards. With many consumers becoming desensitized to traditional forms of advertising, newsjacking has moved to social media and other online channels.
Newsjacking and the life of a news story
Meerman argues that for newsjacking to be effective, timing is everything. Ideas must be injected into a breaking news story at a precise moment to encourage viral spread.
One way to visualize the life of a news story is to consider a bell curve with time on the x-axis and interest level on the y-axis. The first key point on the curve is where the news breaks. Here, there are low-interest levels because a small amount of time has elapsed and the story has not reached a lot of the population.
As more time passes, interest levels grow. This causes journalists to scramble for additional information about the story which in turn causes an increase in public interest. For businesses, the ideal time to insert their marketing message is between the point where the news breaks and the point where it is picked up by the media.
As the media reports on the who, what, when, and where of the story, they often struggle with the why. In other words, the implications of the event. Marketing strategists who are clever enough to get in at this point add the story of their own brand to the wider news story. In essence, the news and brand become inseparable as the business associates itself with the event via a blog post, tweet, media alert, or press release.
Real-world examples of newsjacking
Here are three real-world examples of companies successfully employing newsjacking:
Oreo and the 2013 Super Bowl blackout
When the 2013 Super Bowl suffered an electricity outage for approximately 30 minutes, biscuit company Oreo tweeted that sports fans could still “dunk in the dark”. The tweet amassed over 16,000 re-tweets because the marketing team was able to respond to a farcical situation with brevity and wit.
Mashable and the 2015 Golden Globes
Digital media giant Mashable wrote a timely article about crafting Golden Globe cocktails at home in the lead-up to the 2015 awards. This allowed award fans to drink like their favorite celebrities and increased brand exposure for Mashable.
Kit Kat and the iPhone 6
When the iPhone 6 launched in 2014, many Apple fans complained about a tendency for the smartphone to bend while in their back pockets. In response, the company released a tweet remarking “We don’t bend, we #break.” The tweet represented a subtle dig at Apple but was not so offensive that it started a brand war. The tweet has since been reposted over 22,000 times.
- Newsjacking involves a brand or business mentioning or creating a separate campaign around a major news event. The strategy leverages news exposure to increase brand awareness.
- Newsjacking was most often used during televised events such as the Super Bowl. As consumers have become savvier, efforts are now mostly focused on social media.
- Biscuit maker Oreo used newsjacking to capitalize on an electricity outage during the 2013 Super Bowl.
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