Breaking news happens all the time – just not always in your industry. But, when it happens in your industry, you don’t have to be the first to break it to get benefit from it. Anything that happens in an industry remotely related to your business can be used to your advantage – either through a blog post, crafting a lead generation offer, or launching a social media campaign. That’s newsjacking in a nutshell. And though it sounds like a negative term – it’s completely legal, and lots of inbound marketers do it. You can, too. I’ll show you how.
Newsjacking capitalizes on the popularity of a news story to allow you to amplify your marketing. Of course, not every breaking story will be appropriate, and not every breaking story will remain popular for the same amount of time. Sometimes, a story is only popular for a few hours, but others could remain popular for weeks. The earlier you can start riding that wave, the better for your business.
Timing is Everything
Think back to the 2013 Superbowl, where the power went out right in the middle of Beyonce’s Halftime performance. Oreo jumped on it right away and sent out this tweet.
That’s a classic example of newsjacking done right. Sure, the hype didn’t last long, but Oreo wasn’t the only brand to make use of it.
It’s not something they could have possibly planned for it, but these brands acted quickly enough to at least inject some humor into the brand.
The key is to get in early enough in the cycle to where you can have news out as the excitement is still building, so you’re getting a lot of traffic when the story peaks.
Step-By-Step Newsjacking Process
- Setup Google Alerts: Setup Google Alerts “as they happen” for anything that’s relevant to your industry. You can set them to monitor major news sources for anything related to your keywords is newsworthy. You can also: use Google Trends to keep an eye on current trending stories, follow bloggers and journalists who are covering stories in your industry, and watch trending hashtags on Twitter.
- Check Keyword Search Volume: At this point, you’ve found a story you want to newsjack, but you’ll have to make sure it is worth the time and effort to create new content around it. Research the search volume for variations of the keyword phrase you’re trying to target. Yes of course Google will reward you for being the first one to write about something, but if you can get an extra boost from using a keyword with a higher search volume, while not go for that, too? The keyword volume can help you tremendously when you’re optimizing your content, and it takes only a few seconds to get.
- Read What’s Already Out There: Take time to locate the original source of the story, and look into what others have written. You want to make sure you’ve got as much of the story as accurate as possible before you start putting out your own story. You need to make sure your content is well-informed, since spreading false information could backfire on your brand’s image.
- Write Fast: You want to do what you can to beat others – namely your competition – to the punch. This means writing quickly. If you can’t do it yourself, reach out to someone else in the company, or consider looking for freelancers who can take assignments on a super-fast turnaround time.
- Add Your Own Spin to It: Don’t just regurgitate the same thing all the other sources are reporting. Take the time to add your own spin to it. Use the super bowl power outage example above to see how three different brands were able to use the same event to create something specific to their brand.
- Spread the Word: Writing the content alone isn’t going to be enough to get you the kind of traction you want and need from newsjacking, so once you publish your content, start promoting the heck out of it. Promote it on social media, reach out to colleagues and ask them to share it, and if and when appropriate, share it to other websites like Growth Hackers, Biz Sugar, and Inbound. Contact journalists and bloggers who may be interested. Hold a virtual press conference on Facebook or Periscope.
Benefits of Newsjacking
If you can move past the analysis paralysis that plagues most businesses from not taking any action at all, newsjacking has a number of benefits.
- SEO Benefits: When you’re one of the first to write about something, you’ll get a boost from Google, but you’ll also be getting a lot of traffic since you’re one of the only sources out there on a topic. This is why going after those high volume keywords can help you. If you’re optimized for something that doesn’t get searched, when you could have optimized for something that gets thousands of searches, you’ve definitely lost your opportunity.
- Improve Brand Reputation: This only applies if you’ve exercised good judgment, which I’ll get to in a minute. But, let’s assume you have, like with the examples I showed you from the super bowl above. All of those no doubt made customers laugh, which helps them see a more human side of your brand. Humanizing your brand helps build those connections and strengthen relationships, which is an essential factor of building customer loyalty.
- Drives Highly Targeted Traffic: Newsjacking something relevant to your industry means it’s also relevant to your customers. They’re going to be looking for more information on the topic, and if you’ve jumped in at the right time and optimized your content correctly, you’ll rank in no time – where you’ll likely stay at or toward the top until the wave is over. As such, you should see a burst of targeted traffic, which can turn prospects into leads, and those leads into paying customers.
- Low Cost: Because you have to act so quickly, there’s not a lot of time to invest massive resources into newsjacking. You’ll have to pay for content creation if you’re not willing to do it yourself, of course, or for the hours an employee is working on getting the content ready and promoted – and you may decide to pay for some social promotion, but overall, especially when compared to other options, it’s definitely a low cost solution.
It’s worth noting that you can kind of get ahead of the game on some things – such as Oreo’s approach to when Princess Kate gave birth. You don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen, but you can get the graphics and text ready to go, so it’s ready to launch as soon as you get the news it does.
This also works for elections and sporting events, since you know there is only one winner – you can create content as though each team/candidate one, and release only the one that is accurate as soon as the news hits.
Exercising Good Judgment
Think about the implications of newsjacking the story ebfore you do it. Consider how people who see it will think of the content. If you believe most of them will find it funny, then you should go for it. If it is offensive, or may not make sense, then maybe it’s better to wait for another story.
If you have trouble being critical of your own work – that’s okay, a lot of us do. Just ask someone else for an opinion before anything goes out.
When determining whether or not you should newsjack a story, break it down into one of two categories: educational intent, and publicity and entertainment. But, jumping on bandwagon too quickly without doing it the right way can backfire.
Sears comes off as somewhat callous in this tweet, advertising themselves as a place to get supplies when Hurricane Sandy came through. It’s not too bad though, since it’s actually serving as a way to educate people who were affected by the disaster.
On the other side of the spectrum, we see Urban Outfitters trying, yet failing, to be funny. The storm has no relevance to their brand, so trying to piggyback on it just makes little to no sense. This is the kind of thing that backfires on brand, though obviously, they were able to recover.
And though it should go without saying, don’t use tragedies where people died to promote your company, even if you are spreading a positive message. It’s just in poor taste, and will no doubt upset some people… regardless of what you were trying to do.
Newsjacking Isn’t for the Faint of Heart
Getting results from newsjacking requires being in the right place at the right time, with the right message. Since you can’t newsjack every story, it may take a few tries before you can get it right. And that’s okay. It’s certainly not a long term tactic as each news story will have a limited amount of time in the limelight before it goes away… but as long as you’ve got the story, your angle, and your timing down – and you’ve used good judgment, then you’re okay.
What do you think when brands newsjack? Is this something you’ll be willing to try with your audience the next time something relevant happens? I think Oreo is brilliant for capitalizing on things the way they have, but know you can’t ride those waves forever.