How to Do Newsjacking in Your Marketing (Without Being a Jackass)

by Katy French

If you’re human, you’re probably glued to the news, current events, trends, and pop culture happenings all day, every day. People have an insatiable appetite for this type of content—and the conversations surrounding hot topics—so it’s no wonder brands want in on the action. Hence, newsjacking has become a common occurrence in marketing, whether in a brand infographic, blog post, or video. 

The Value of Newsjacking 

It’s true that newsjacking has gotten a bad rap in recent years. But aside from the aggressive name, newsjacking isn’t inherently bad; creating content around current events can certainly be beneficial for brands. It can help you engage with people, stimulate conversation, create community, and give people a sense of your character and values.

The problem is that most brands don’t know how to do it authentically. They think newsjacking means capitalizing on current events when what it really means is connecting through current events. Some brands have seen enough newsjacking disasters (think Pepsi’s protest ad or AT&T’s 9/11 tweet) that they shy away from it entirely. This is understandable and, depending on the subject, might be the right call. But there are plenty of cases where newsjacking can work if you do it honestly and authentically.

The Dos and Don’ts of Newsjacking

If you want to try newsjacking in your next piece of content, follow these tips to make sure it’s a success.

The Don’ts…

DON’T be a slime ball. It seems common sense, but too many brands are guilty of this. It’s ironic, too, seeing as the entire point of newsjacking is to share your unique voice and connect on a one-on-one level—to be the opposite of a greedy, faceless corporation. But somehow newsjacking often reinforces that exact reputation.

DON’T write about things unrelated to your brand. Good content marketing is about delivering interesting, relevant content that people care about. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s popular with your crowd. Do CMOs care about Beyoncé’s hot new video, or would they be more interested in the unique marketing strategy she used to release that new video?

DON’T tackle sensitive subjects. Controversial topics and tragedies may be in the news, but adding your two cents is rarely worth it. Viewing these topics as fodder that’s “hot right now” will more than likely get you in some major hot water.

That said, there are opportunities to express your brand values in relation to some of these issues. For example, for National Women’s Health Day, we created an interactive experience addressing the stigma around menstruation for women and girls around the world. Menstruation may be considered a taboo subject (especially for a creative agency), but we felt it was important to discuss.

DON’T wait too long. Brands that act quickly can win big in newsjacking. Remember the famous tweet Oreo put out during the power outage at Super Bowl XLVI?

But it only works if you strike when the iron is hot. If you wait too long, you just waste energy on something that people are already over.

The Dos…

DO stay informed. It sounds obvious, but you can’t come up with great content if you’re missing it. Keep up on the news, and create an infrastructure or way to mobilize your team to spot opportunities.

DO vet your ideas. How many times do we see a brand’s newsjacking fail and think, “Who the f**k approved that idea?” It happens all the time. No matter what you come up with for your content idea, always get a second opinion. Outside perspective can help you 1) spot holes or potential issues in your concept or 2) offer ideas to improve it.

DO take a “value first” approach. How will people benefit from this content? If you don’t have an answer, you don’t have a strong idea. One of the most surefire ways to successfully newsjack is to create something that will help people better understand a timely story. An infographic is a great way to do this, as its inherently visual nature makes it easier to break down concepts and visualize data, which can bring great clarity to certain stories.

DO use the right tone. Even a seemingly benign topic can still get you in trouble if you don’t approach it in the right way. Humor, sarcasm, and wit can be great ways to express your brand personality, but use them with caution.

DO use the right keywords. Newsjacking lets you get higher visibility and rank, but only if you optimize it as such. (The same goes for any piece of content you make.) Make sure you use the right keywords to optimize your content.

DO start small. If you’re new to it, start small. A series of mini-graphics or a single post can help you dip your toes in and learn how newsjack well.

DO recycle if relevant. You don’t always have to newsjack from scratch. If an interesting topic is in the news and you have a piece of content related to it, share it again to join the conversation. This helps you offset the biggest frustration of newsjacking (all that work for a limited run).

For example, one of our most popular infographics is on how to grill meats and veggies. We like to repost it for every summer holiday or three-day weekend, as it’s useful information for any BBQ or get-together.     

How to Newsjack an infographic

Always Use Common Sense

No matter what you do with newsjacking, always trust your spidey sense. If it feels off, don’t take the chance. Remember: There are many ways to make good content, and it’s always a good idea to experiment. If you’re looking for different ideas to mix up your marketing:

But if you’re still struggling to come up with better content ideas, consider bringing some expert help. Find out what to look for in a content marketing agency, or reach out. We’d love to work together.

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