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Your Complete Guide to Successful Newsjacking

Posted by Callum Sharp
Speed Reading Mode

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Did we get your attention? Are you suddenly hankering for a new heat lamp?

If you’ve ever found an opportunity to take advantage of breaking news to benefit your business, you’re a newsjacker. Congratulations! Newsjacking is a brilliant way to promote your business, engage with your audience and support your company SEO strategy.

But what exactly is newsjacking and why should you be doing it?

The what of it

Media coverage is important. With breaking news occurring every second and across the entire globe, marketers are turning popular stories into ploys to get their business out there. And it works a treat.


Remember when the iPhone 6 plus was released and everyone thought they were bending in their pockets? That was breaking news for a hot minute, and KitKat stole the limelight. During that time, they released this advert:

Newsjacking in 2018 - Kitkat

That single tweet received more than 27,000 retweets. Impressive, right? That could be 27,000 new followers, or 27,000 existing followers who subconsciously picked up a KitKat later that evening during their weekly shop. Either way, they took advantage of current news and used it to sell their product.

I have another I want to share. It’s my personal favourite. Remember Brad and Angelina’s breakup? Of course you do, who am I kidding. Norwegian airlines made good use of it. During the time this news broke, the company released this advert:

Newsjacking in 2018 

Clever, isn’t it?

You can picture those young singletons jumping on the first flight to LA in search of a heartbroken Brad. I know I would have. Angelina was single, too, don’t forget.

Newsjacking isn’t limited to social media coverage. So long as it leads to exposure for your business, it doesn’t matter where that exposure is. It’s about getting your business’s name out there by turning popular news into a marketing tactic.

But why bother?

You need to be quick and precise with what you do. There’s no room for bureaucracy in the newsjacking game. The faster you can act, the more exposure you’ll get. My advice, then, comes from Confucius: 

‘Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.’

In short: Don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough. 

Newsjacking is about quick wins. Brand awareness counts for everything in today’s digitally-fuelled world, and with so much noise on the web, it’s tough to get out in front of your competitors. But newsjacking helps you do just that. In fact, it helps your business:

  • Improve brand reputation
  • Turn into a thought leader
  • Boost organic traffic to your website and social channels
  • Improve authority and in turn, SEO
  • Acquire new customers 

‘So, Callum, how can my business do this?’ 

That, my friends, is a great question. Here’s everything I know.

1. First, alert yourself

How do you know what news to hijack if you don’t follow the news? Alerts, that’s how.

It’s tough to keep up with trends. You could spend days reading news and not even make a dent. But thankfully we live in an age of automation tools, and we’ve never been more grateful. 

Hootsuite, for example, let’s you monitor social media channels and even alerts you about breaking news. You can also sign up to news alerts on your favourite news sites or use aggregate tools like Google News. 

The point is, to become a newsjacker, you need to have your finger to the beating heart of the media. The royal wedding was the latest and greatest case of newsjacking. Marmite, for example, produced limited edition ‘Harry and Meghan’ jars to sell.

Newsjacking in 2018 - marmite 

2. Go the extra mile with keyword search

If you’re a fast mover on a news story, Google will reward you. But to keep that top spot, you’ll need to do a little keyword research and SEO-optimise what you’re writing.

This, of course, applies mostly to blog post writing. If you’re publishing a social media post or getting press coverage, it isn’t as important. But for newsjacking posts, it’s critical to ensure you adopt SEO best practices. Make sure:

  • Your content is easy to read and understand
  • You’ve used your keyword in your title and body text
  • It provides value to the reader 

You won’t be the only one jumping on the back of a news story to promote your business. Competition will be rife, and keyword research is your body armour.

3. Type, fast and furious

You don’t have long to get your newsjacking piece out there. The longer you take to come up with ideas and get approvals, the less impact you’ll make.

It’s only ever the first business to do something that reaps the reward. As soon as someone does it once, it’s old news. Game over. Done. Don’t sit and wait. Write, and write fast.

4. Make it original

Newsjacking is about creativity. It’s about using a popular story to your benefit. But maybe your audience doesn’t care about the royal wedding or Brad Pitt’s newly found singleness.

How, then, can you still do a good job at newsjacking?

Well, every story can be spun to attract your audience. It just takes a little imaginative thinking. Back in 2014 when same-sex marriage became legalised in the UK, Virgin Holidays released this advert: 

Newsjacking in 2018 - Virgin holidays

While not every Virgin customer would have believed in this cause, there was no harm done. Those who didn’t believe in the cause likely ignored the advert, and those who did likely booked a holiday. The result: a win for Virgin. 

5. Spread the word

Now that you’ve got the advert, blog post or social media post, it’s time to put it to work. The final step of a successful newsjacking campaign is to get your word out there.

If you’ve written a blog post, make sure you push it out on your social channels, but be sure to monitor how long this news story remains news. Tweeting about the royal wedding in two months will be detrimental, not beneficial. Don’t schedule newsjacking posts long into the future.

We also recommend getting online and reaching out to journalists. Help A Reporter Out and Source Bottle are great starting points, and the more journalists you can reach out to, the more exposure you’ll likely receive.

Newsjacking: It’s like walking a tightrope

Of course, newsjacking has a dark side. Many businesses jump on a press bandwagon with good intention, but fail to see the other side of the coin and end up damaging their brand reputation. 

BrewDog is a perfect example. Earlier this year they released a ‘Pink IPA’ to support their flagship beer ‘Punk IPA’. The aim of the campaign was to use sexism ironically to promote equality.

What they failed to see, however, was that ironic sexism to promote a product is still sexism. Here’s the advert:

Your Complete Guide to Successful Newsjacking in 2020 - beer

Are you uncomfortable? I sure am. This was an awful use of newsjacking, and there’s lots of negative press about the company as a result.

Our advice: newsjack to your heart’s content. It’s good for brand awareness, company growth, SEO and your social channels. Just be completely sure that what you’re saying has no negative connotations. What could propel your business into the limelight could just as easily send it to the gallows.

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