Newsjacking is a brilliant technique that can enhance any content marketing strategy. The practice is all about aligning brands and their messages with current events and breaking news. Piggybacking on trending topics and news stories to ensure that your business is front and centre can give you some serious mileage when it comes to brand awareness.
Newsjacking can make your brand powerfully relevant, which is crucial at a time when everyone is competing for attention. It can increase brand visibility with your target audience and boost the sweet, sweet search traffic to your site.
Like many other aspects of marketing, it requires careful timing and calculation. A close eye on breaking news stories is essential, especially if you set out to associate your brand with a trending news story. Great examples of newsjacking find a happy medium between catching relevant news before it gains maximum traction, and reading the room to make sure it’s a suitable story.
If you catch it too late, you risk looking out of touch. Or worse. Your business might be circulated online for all the wrong reasons if you get the angle wrong. Don’t jeopardise your reputation for free media coverage that might not work out.
The best examples of newsjacking use humour as their way of associating the news with their own story. Making something funny in a smooth and snappy way can add bags of character to what you’re selling. Even something as simple as a water bottle.
Take IKEA’s new reusable glass water bottle, the Cristiano. Recognise the name? This is because IKEA changed the name of the product to match the football star Cristiano Ronaldo after he replaced two bottles of Coca-Cola with some water at a press conference. A cheeky name change was all it took for IKEA to land themselves in association with an international star, subverting another famous brand in the process.
Another brilliant example in the same vein is brought to us by the famous #fijiwatergirl. Fiji brand ambassador Kelleth Cuthbert stole the show at the 2019 Golden Globes. She spent the night photobombing celebrities holding a tray of Fiji Water bottles, and the online response was epic.
What resulted was not only a rise to fame for Kelleth but an explosion of good PR for the brand itself. Reblogged and reposted again and again, Twitter was awash with Fiji Water as social media users discussed her actions. She became a trending topic herself, building her own brand as a result.
It’s worth noting that the brand got very lucky. Thanks to internet “meme” culture, Fiji Water went viral and with it came a surge in brand awareness, and an immediate connection with a much wider audience.
When newsjacking goes wrong
There are two sides to the story when it comes to newsjacking. We’ve seen how brilliant it can be for companies who -intentionally or not- hit the nail on the head. But, the consequence of misjudging the process whilst trying to promote your brand can be disastrous.
An old but classic example is the tweet that Urban Outfitters released in response to 2012’s Hurricane Harvey. In an event that had a devastating impact in the US, the brand tried to make light of the situation by posting: “This storm blows, but free shipping doesn’t.”
You can see why selectivity on the stories you choose to newsjack is important. Urban Outfitters chose the wrong angle, and as a result came off as hugely insensitive. It received torrents of negative responses on the platform following the post.
A more recent and infamous example of a bad attempt at newsjacking comes from Pepsi and their campaign featuring Kendall Jenner. Released in 2017 in the midst of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, a demonstration of people is met with a blockade of police officers. To settle the tension, Jenner offers one a can of Pepsi. The ad was seen to be trivialising the BLM movement, and Pepsi ended up pulling the campaign soon after.
Making newsjacking work for you
On the face of it, using political stories might be a powerful way to put your brand centre stage. But an angle that is too obvious about trying to drive sales, or one that doesn’t honour the issues at hand makes for awful newsjacking.
It is fair to say that this is an opportune practice. Don’t do it for the sake of it. Monitor trending stories and trending hashtags and pick the right one to generate media attention for you. Plan ahead with the news cycle – many news stories are used every year and this gives you time to plan a potential newsjacking story.
If you tick all the boxes, the results are fantastic. Brands can enjoy a boost in online engagement to positive press to wide exposure without chasing journalists. When the time is right and the angle is precise, newsjacking is worth dropping everything else in the book for.