Newsjacking with Twitter

At the first edition of ContentDays, I presented about using Twitter (and other social networks) for newsjacking. Although newsjacking isn’t a new strategy, it’s not really understood very well and many brands aren’t using it to their best advantage. Executed properly, newsjacking can give you a whole host of opportunities across Content, PR, and Social – broadening your audience and building out your brand as an expert in its field.

‘Newsjacking’ is a combination of ‘news’ and ‘hijacking’ – and it means “to take advantage of current events or news stories in such a way as to promote or advertise one’s product or brand”. The term itself rose in prominence around 2011, and can now even be found in the English Dictionary – as a result of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The reason it was initially coined in 2011 is that that was the year in which Google began to index content in real-time. This meant that quick-witted marketers could get newsjacking content up and on their site which would then be found and covered by journalists mere minutes later.

Whilst it’s easy for journalists to get the bare bones of a story together quite quickly (the who, what, where and when) it’s much more challenging for them to fill paragraph 2. This is where your brand can come in: with expert insight or additional information which helps them to flesh out the story (and gets you coverage). And when your customers see your brand front & center of a big news event (whether in the news or on social) it reinforces their feelings of affiliation with you.

Your newsjacking approach will take time to hone and get right. In the first instance, you need to have a team of people who are poised and ready each morning – reading the news, and keeping an eye on what’s happening online. You need to have someone ready to be able to draft a comment or visual, get it signed off, and post or issue it to media if relevant. Planning key events or awareness days into your calendar in advance will help you save time on the day – when you can post first thing without needing to think on your feet or chase sign off.

Quite often the ‘news’ you’re capitalizing on won’t be traditional news like a government announcement, but more light-hearted or funny. During the #WagathaChristie scandal in 2019, for example, many of the brands that capitalized on the number of people talking about it did so with humorous tweets or visuals.

That’s not to say that you should only get involved if your brand can be funny, though. Every brand and sector has the opportunity to take advantage of newsjacking and use it to their advantage – so long as you are sensitive about it. There have been a few obviously bad efforts by brands trying to take advantage of news that doesn’t have any link to their product or service (just Google ‘Prince + Cheerios’ or ‘British Gas + Bowie and you’ll see what I mean). Consider how relevant you are to the news before you post, and always have a sign-off process in place before you throw all of your energy into newsjacking.

Having said that, don’t feel you need to avoid all contentious topics. Politics can dominate the news agenda, especially around an election or following a referendum. You don’t need to wade in with your political opinion, but you can acknowledge the awkward or divisive nature of the topic in your comments or posts.

And having a well-known or tongue-in-cheek brand shouldn’t be a barrier either. One of the most successful ‘newsjackers’ I always recommend that people look up is Mitch Jackson, a senior partner and trial lawyer based in the USA who regularly comments on cases in the news. He was already a highly sought after and successful lawyer but through newsjacking on social he’s been able to attract over 45k followers on Twitter and several in-bound leads.


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