Newsjacking: Become a part of the Conversation

September 20, 2013 Paul Van Winssen

Real-time marketing is all the rage right now, and brands are constantly fighting to stay relevant on a social web increasingly saturated with information. Trending news and topics can provide a platform for content marketers to try and cut through the noise and gain attention for their brands. A term for brands leveraging current stories and injecting their point of view into the stream is “Newsjacking”, which has recently been coined by David Meerman Scott, a bestselling author and authority on the topic.

Using current news to promote your brand has many potential benefits for marketers. It creates brand awareness and drives traffic to your online properties. It improves your brand reputation (if done correctly) and promotes your company as a thought leader. It also yields SEO benefits, which have become prevalent only recently as Google has transitioned to real-time indexing. With many in the PR and marketing industries so heavily campaign focused, brands using newsjacking to their advantage can become a part of the most noteworthy conversations.

In my opinion there are two different types of newsjacking that brands are beginning to engage in: Jacking news you know is coming, and newsjacking on the fly.

Jacking News You Know Is Coming

The far more popular type of newsjacking involves creating branded content around news you know is coming. This is a much safer option for brands as they can plan ahead and build creative around anticipated events. A recent example of this was the birth of the British royal baby. Marketers had 9 months to prep for the big announcement, and countless brands including Coca Cola, Oreo, Charmin, and Delta tried to get in on all the discussion surrounding little Prince George. This article from AdAge chronicles the great successes and spectacular failures of brands attempting to capitalize on the conversation of the moment.

Being Prepared for Breaking Stories

Newsjacking breaking stories in real-time is a tactic that is far riskier and thus less popular among major brands. When you know a story is coming you have time to get the right approvals from all parties, and newsjacking becomes essentially traditional campaign marketing. Creating content in real-time has a much higher degree of inherent risk, causing many brands to shy away.

Now some brands will engage in real-time marketing through “eventjacking”, where they know an event is coming up but not exactly how things will turn out. Brands may create a form of command centre for this event so they can churn out creative as necessary to become a part of the conversation. This has become very popular around live TV events such as the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. As I have noted in a previous post, this year’s Super Bowl provided an unprecedented opportunity for Newsjacking in the form of a blackout, which brands like Oreo and Audi used to their full advantage.

The thing with eventjacking is that even though it is real-time, the command centre aspect allows brands to eliminate risk by having the right properties and stakeholders in place. Purely unanticipated newsjacking is a concept that is far scarier.

Be Careful of Sensitive Stories

Newsjacking requires marketers to display enhanced sensitivity to recent events. When creating brand messaging around delicate situations, marketers must be very careful to ensure all content is done in good taste. There are many examples of brands failing miserably at this, including Kenneth Cole, American Apparel, and Kmart. In all of these scenarios brands tried to leverage national and global tragedies to promote their products, and showed an extremely poor understanding of the mood of their audience. Natural disasters, political uprisings, and famous deaths are generally situations that are highly sensitive and that marketers should avoid when newsjacking. If you do feel the need to comment on the subject, be respectful and offer condolences. Keep the content focused on those affected, rather than trying to turn it to promote yourself.

Summary

As real-time marketing continues to evolve, newsjacking is a strategy that more brands are beginning to turn to. As with any use of new mediums, there are brands both succeeding and failing along the way. Newsjacking is a valuable tool for brands to stay relevant to their consumers, but marketers must be certain they fully understand both the nature of the story and how their audience is reacting to it.

About the Author

Paul is a social media marketer and startup enthusiast based in Toronto, Canada. He likes to traverse both the tech startup and marketing agency worlds (and everything in between). Paul divides his time equally between tech events and Blue Jays games.

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