How to: newsjacking/reactive PR

PR & SEO is an ever-evolving landscape that (if you want to thrive professionally) requires *constant* attention and adaptability. When done right, reactive PR and Newsjacking provides a great opportunity for content to go viral and build links, whilst putting your brand at the forefront of people’s minds.

One strategy that has legs to stand on when it comes to stratospheric coverage and success is newsjacking. And because it’s been so effective for so many of our clients, we decided to let you in on a few of our secrets.

So what is Newsjacking?

The newsjacking movement was first formulated by renowned marketer David Scott, who described it as the process of adding your thoughts and opinions to breaking news stories. Basically, it’s the act of jumping on the back of trending news topics to get your brand recognised.

If you’re on the ball, it’s literally a handed-to-you-on-a-plate opportunity when it comes to opening up your brand to a wider audience, and positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Which is why it’s so important to keep an eye out for stories that you could offer some kind of opinion or insight into.

Newsjacking x Content Strategy

Let’s face it – the majority of modern consumers do not have the time or the attention span these days to digest (and we’re sorry to say it) dull statistics or generic info about a business unless it has a direct, positive impact on their life. As a brand, you have to find ways to divulge this information in a more engaging and enticing way, and this is where imaginative content strategy and newsjacking go hand in hand…

Capitalising on Pop Culture 

By taking advantage of current news stories that are trending, (always keep an eye on social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) you have access to an already established mass audience that you can influence to react with your posts.

There is one catch though – make sure you are piggybacking on trends that have some sort of relevance to your brand. It will be incredibly obvious to consumers if you are creating content about a subject that your organisation clearly has zero interest or knowledge in. Not only will this devalue your brand’s credibility, but it will also compromise your authenticity, too.

Benefits of Newsjacking

When done right, newsjacking is a technique that can provide your business with a whole load of benefits, including:

  • Improving brand recognition and reputation: When you launch content from a viral news story, you’re letting your audience know that you keep up with current events and trends. The best examples of successful newsjacking not only see brands contributing to the trending conversation but also associating themselves with the story. 
  • Introduces you to new audiences: If you feel like your brand isn’t attracting as large an audience as you would like, newsjacking is a really quick (and effective) way to put you at the forefront of the conversation. You’re much more likely to attract new eyes when you connect your brand with a current and relevant news story.
  • It drives highly targeted traffic: And we all know what that means – more leads and sales. Essentially, a well-executed newsjacking strategy will organically drive more traffic to your website. Lets also not ignore the real reason most brands love newsjacking – links! The more links from authoritative websites, the most Google is going to think of you as a brand that knows what they’re talking about, and with more trust comes higher rankings.
  • It is a time and cost-effective marketing technique: When you already have a mass audience talking about something, you have skipped the process of having to cause a stir yourself. This not only saves you time but money, too. Though, we won’t lie, newsjacking is time consuming (and addictive!) and once a new trend or news story launches you have to move QUICKLY to be in with a chance of getting your name in there.

Steps for Successful Newsjacking

Like the sound of those benefits? You can turn them into a reality if you follow these successful newsjacking steps. While new brands and marketers may find the initial concept intimidating, the process itself is actually pretty simple (and fun!). Let’s break it down…

Set Up News Alerts

As you know, newsjacking is fast-paced and new trends come as quickly as they go. It requires you to be immersed in and aware of breaking news stories as they launch so you can ride the wave with them. 

And while many peoples’ first thought would be to manually trawl the internet for these trends, the easiest and most time-saving solution is to set up news alerts. You’ll want to create an RSS feed to help you stay up-to-date with trending conversations – it’s basically an online file that stores content from different media and news outlets and will alert you on stories from different industries. For additional opportunities, have your notifications turned on on social media apps like Twitter. Leveraging these platforms is only ever beneficial.  We also recommend google alerts to track specific keywords in news stories, these tend to be in real time so provide a great opportunity to move quickly.

Find your expertise

Now you’ve found the news story you plan to jump on, you’ll need to find who writes about this most commonly. Collate your media list based on people that have covered similar topics in the past. For example, if you’re planning to jump on the back of financial updates (think Netflix, Amazon etc) it’s worth searching to find out who wrote about it last month. There’s also no harm in reaching out to ask if they’ll be covering that specific topic, and if not, who is.

Plan ahead

Now you’ve decided what you’ll be covering, you can get to work on actually writing your content. Find someone in your company that can provide opinion or insight into the specific topic you’re commenting on. Ensure it’s adding value, but keep it short and coincide (lets not overload journalists!). Collate quotes for as many outcomes as you can predict, for example if you’re commenting on financial reports as mentioned above, create 3 quotes, one for if the company profits increase, decrease or stay the same. This way you have a comment ready no matter what the outcome,and once the story launches you can be the first to contact the journalists to provide comment, without having to write and get it approved first.

Tip: You’re going to want to make your work stand out as much as possible from other newsjacked content. This is why you need to ensure your angle is adding interesting insight or a new opinion. Try and bring something new to the discussion that will feel fresh and exciting, you’re more likely to be featured if you have something to add to the conversation that hasn’t already been mentioned.

Say thanks

So, you’ve completed all the necessary steps that make up a successful newsjacking campaign. You’ve done everything right – from optimising the content to developing your own unique angle, researching your media list to securing those first pieces of coverage. 

To keep those relationships strong and show gratitude, say thanks to the journo publicly by sharing the pieces on your socials. This will help to build those relationships for future coverage. If you consistently provide ready to go well written comments, you may find journos begin reaching out to you before the story goes live for your comment. 

Our PR Manager says:

“As we have touched on briefly above, one quick and easy way that we have been obtaining links for our financial client Admirals is newsjacking.

How we do this is by shortlisting a range of businesses in several different areas, these areas can range between energy, television and media, medical, insurance and so on. The key is to marry our shortlist with industries that are likely to be covered in the news. By tapping into hot topics such as the energy crisis (and more) we increase the potential to secure a link as we know lots of journalists will cover the announcement.

Logistically, how this works is we monitor key dates that our chosen businesses will release financial reports, usually quarterly and annual earnings. Once we have the key dates planned into our calendars, we work alongside Admirals’ Market Analyst to draft quotes, predicting the outcome of each financial report.

On the day of the announcement we scan the news for relevant articles and send the appropriate quote from our experts to the journalist, to be included as an addition with a link to Admirals homepage.

This is a rinse and repeat process as we update our shortlist and calendars each month.

So far we have obtained 6 pieces of coverage and 3 links, with many more to come. Obtaining links in top tier news sites such as The Guardian, all with a DR above 60.”

Examples of Brands who Have Launched Successful Reactive Campaigns

Take a look at these major brands that were able to launch a successful newsjacking campaign. All were very creative and well thought-out and managed to jump on and keep the conversation going:

Burger King’s ‘Big Mac-ish’

After McDonald’s lost its BigMac trademark against Supermac, the Irish fast-food chain, Burger King was quick to jump on the trending topic. Supermac’s victory against the fast-food giants had already attracted major attention from global news sources and the industry, so Burger King decided to start their own campaign by designing their ‘Big Mac-ish’ menu. It made fun of the trademark loss by using the Big Mac slogan and just adding an ‘ish’ on the end. Their ‘Not Big Mac’s’ range of burgers had an array of satirical names, including ‘Like a Big Mac but actually big’, ‘The burger Big Mac wished it was’, and ‘The kind of like a Big Mac but juicier and tastier.’

Oreo’s Area 51 Tweet

Remember back in 2019 when social media users were *obsessed* with Area 51 – a highly classified US government base that conspiracy theorists claimed was the home of testing extraterrestrials and the plan to raid it? 

And remember when Oreo literally took to Twitter with a one-liner that went viral? Simply joking “What flavors do you think they’re hiding in #Area51?” they managed to get thousands of shares and replies – even from other brands who joined in on the joke and posted their thoughts.

This also proved the power of the hashtag. 

Is Newsjacking Worth it?

The short answer – when done right, yes.

Newsjacking can be incredibly productive because it’s a great way to quickly improve your online visibility and achieve link placements for yourself or clients. Some campaigns even have similar successful results to other longer campaigns that take way more thought, time, effort, and money.

It all depends on how well you understand newsjacking, and how well you can interpret a trend’s relevance to your brand. If you can choose the right conversations and execute the right campaigns, you’re opening your brand up to a world of opportunities.

Sophie Crosby

Head of Content (UK & ES) at Minty.

CIM qualified. Brand and content nerd. Cat lover and full time ice cream enthusiast.
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