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How to Successfully Newsjack Content

DATE PUBLISHED: February 20, 2014

There's an old saying in the journalism world: "Never let a good story go to waste. "Actually, we may have just made that up, but it's true nonetheless; using news, special events and holidays to create engaging, relevant content also known as 'newsjacking'  is a great way to conquer writer's block and create cool marketing messages.

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Newsjacking in Action - A Case Study

There is no shortage of examples of brands newsjacking content. For our purposes we'd like to look at what happened when the fast food chain Chic-fil-A filed a lawsuit against an artist for using a generic part of their tagline. A marketing firm called The Future Buzz posted a blog about it (the same day the news broke) and criticized Chic-fil-A for what they considered to be a huge PR blunder. The post generated close to 700 comments. But what made this  successful newsjacking is that by posting and astute marketing insights, the Future Buzz came across as experts in their field. Who knows, maybe they even picked up some clients in the process.

Newsjacking Rules of Thumb

Before you newsjack, make sure you keep these simple rules of thumb in mind:

  • Reflect your brand. As this aforementioned example illustrates, make sure your commentary, when possible, reflects your brand. While it's nice to compel readers to buy stuff, good newsjackers also aim to inform and educate readers.  
  • Be judicious. Choose the content itself wisely. Some of the greatest social media disasters in history involved brands foolishly newsjacking tragic news like, believe it or not, terrorist attacks.
  • Be accurate. If you're an auto dealer or a neighborhood bank, odds are you're not trying to break a front-page news story or a piece of celebrity gossip. Information moves fast online and there's no shortage of hoaxes; make sure the source material is accurate prior to posting.

How to Newsjack Content (Spoiler Alert: It's Easy)

  1. Identify key events in advance. Not all newsjacking requires an immediate Tweet about breaking news. In fact, you'll want to plan around key events ahead of time, making sure they're applicable to your brand. For example: if you're an auto dealer, make a note of upcoming special promotions and sales. You may sell a lot of trucks, so take note that Opening Day for the baseball season is March 31st. Saint Patrick's Day is March 17th. Spring begins on the 20th. The possibilities are endless.
  2. State your goals. What are you looking to accomplish by newsjacking content? Sell a product, make people laugh, exude expertise, etc? Of course, your answer can be "all of the above," just make sure the news you select is well-aligned with your goal.
  3. Identify the content, find an angle. As we noted in step 1, there's no shortage of key events and news out there. The trick is to match your content based on your goal.  Also ask yourself, is there a story behind the story? For example, you may find a story noting the cost of installing solar panels is historically low. That's the obvious part. And while solar panels may be cheap to install, as an added bonus, houses with pre-installed panels resell at higher prices. Installing solar panels can also be viewed as a long-term financial investment.
  4. Pick your channel. Certain platforms are more conducive to certain goals. If, for example, you're looking to provide some insight around the fact that solar panel prices are the cheapest in history, you can get the basic message across very quickly on Twitter. But if you want to provide deeper analysis around how this will affect the typical family's heating budget, then a 250-500 word blog post is a better bet.
  5. Ask for feedback. Newsjacking content should serve as a springboard for greater dialogue. Throw a question back to the reader, ask for Likes, Shares, and Comments, and encourage people to give their opinion.
  6. Stay informed. Newsjacked content can build its own momentum over time. Keep readers apprised of developments. Cite previous pieces of content, identify trends, and see what other people are saying about similar topics.

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