The Fine Art of Social Media Newsjacking

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Whether you’re in charge of PR, social media, marketing or media relations, you may have heard of the “newsjacking” concept. In fact, you may have it on your list of goals for this year, but you may not entirely be sure where to start.

Newsjacking, a term coined by David Meerman Scott, is the art of inserting yourself into a news story. This strategy can be truly effective to help your brand to become part of the dialogue by adding your perspective on the issue via social media.

Before the advent of Twitter, Facebook and Google+, PR pros would reach out to reporters covering a story, either by email or phone, in an effort to try to shoehorn their way into the ongoing coverage.

With social media, newsjacking has become so much more simple as there’s no longer the need to work through the media to participate in the conversation. Where you would have had to compete with other companies to hopefully be an expert source or commentator, you can now simply publish your own response. Your content can have an instant impact connecting with your target audience as the news is happening.

For newsjacking to be most effective, it should be a well-thought out part of an overall social media and PR plan. In short, you shouldn’t go into work one day and decide that today is the day you should engage in some newsjacking.

Preparation Meets Opportunity for Newsjacking Success

Newsjacking is a social strategy, so your organization will need to have an established social media platform with strong engagement for it to work. Without an audience that is engaged and already knows, likes, and trusts you, your efforts will fall short.

Consider what social networks are best suited for your organization and how you can possibly leverage them. You want to ensure that your networks are primed for this type of activity and that you are ready to create content native to that platform when the opportunity arises.

As you look at creating a plan for newsjacking, keep in mind that response time is key. Getting stuck in corporate approval cycles means that your newsjacking effort is becoming less and less relevant by the minute.

You may need to go as far as to get sign off from your VP of marketing or the C-suite so your social media/PR teams can act without approval as required.

Remember, the most effective newsjacking efforts are spontaneous and capitalize on opportunities as they arise. Imagine if Oreo’s social media team had been sitting around waiting for approval on the now infamous blackout tweet during the 2013 Superbowl?

In the pre-social media days when I was working with a security software startup, we were able to secure media coverage in high profile media outlets even as a small player in a big market. The reason? Response time. We were first to the punch thanks to a solid rapid response protocol where we could contact reporters in mere minutes after a hack or breach was reported.

The same principles apply to newsjacking. You want a low friction, easy to execute plan without the need for approvals.

Avoiding a Newsjacking Fail

While newsjacking has become a lot easier, it has also become a lot more complex. Using social media, a simple misstep can quickly become a PR disaster. There are many high profile examples of newsjacking done with terrible judgement around events such as Hurricane Sandy.

To avoid your organization being a newsjacking fail (or worse yet, disaster), as a team you will want to get very clear on what areas are suitable for newsjacking. You may choose to focus only on pop culture or positive current events versus controversial or tragic news items.

Consider creating a test for if a news item is appropriate for newsjacking including such questions as:
* Are we able to add value or humor to this story?
* Is it a fit with our brand and values? Is it ridiculously self-serving?
* What are the possible downsides of being associated with this story?

In short, an effective newsjacking strategy requires some careful planning, getting buy-in from everyone involved and the ability to react quickly as opportunities arise. Newsjacking is a fine art, but it can be extremely powerful to building social media reach and engagement.

Maggie Patterson
This monthly Social Media and Media Relations column is contributed by Maggie Patterson. Maggie is a PR strategist, freelance writer and blogger. She has 15 years of hands-on experience in PR, working with some of the largest brands in the world to solopreneurs securing hundreds of speaking gigs, along with thousands of guest posts and media hits. Maggie currently offers PR and social media consulting and coaching with a focus on guest blog posting and leveraging social media to support more traditional PR strategies. +Maggie Patterson
Maggie Patterson


Communications strategist, host of the Marketing Moxie show and blogger. Creator of The Story Distillery. Grateful for the beach, books + my thesaurus.
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Maggie Patterson


  1. says

    Newsjacking is a hip, new term, though the practice has been part and parcel to any thorough public relations plan for decades. The bullet item in the plan read something like this: “Actively capitalize on trending news and events.” Easy to offer as a service and success examples are tantalizing to client prospects, but it only works when a company is willing to drop *everything* and go into a high PR/public availability mode when opportunity calls. If you hesitate, fret about risks or have to go into committee, you are oldjacking.

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