The term newsjacking is made up of the English words “news” and “hijacking” and was coined by the author and marketing expert David Meerman Scott. He used it in his book “Newsjacking” to describe a PR strategy in which companies “hijack” news in order to attract attention and distribute their own content. In the broadest sense, it is a possible variant of content marketing, but newsjacking differs in several points from normal content marketing strategies and therefore requires a different approach. According to David Meerman, newsjacking is an attention-grabbing marketing strategy.
With newsjacking, companies use a message or a specific story from the current news to spread their own content through reporting on this story. With clever newsjacking, a considerable reach is possible, especially since social media channels are also suitable for newsjacking in addition to traditional media.
The aim of newsjacking is always to bring your own company or your own content into connection with the news, for example through interesting background information or a funny advertising campaign that relates to the news or the event. The latter variant is particularly suitable for social media content because entertaining content is particularly popular on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. In addition, the rate of dissemination in social media is particularly high, so that with the right newsjacking, a “buzz” can be generated on the internet, which in turn is picked up by the classic media, which increases the reach even more.
David Meerman Scott describes in his book “Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage” from 2011 different ways to use news for your own purposes. Since then, various new ways have opened up, all of which can be used for newsjacking.
What Types of Newsjacking are There?
Just like with SEO and content marketing measures, there are also different versions of newsjacking. In contrast to SEO and content marketing, a distinction is made between two types:
- Newsjacking for events that take place regularly or that can be planned
- Newsjacking in the event of current, unpredictable events
The first variant is much easier to implement and also comes closest to classic marketing measures. For example, a particularly radical or attention-grabbing advertising campaign for the soccer World Cup or Christmas would be conceivable. The advantage of foreseeable events is that newsjacking can be planned some time in advance and thus fine-tuned down to the last detail. On the other hand, it is disadvantageous that the competition will have planned advertising or marketing measures for such events so that your own action is quickly drowned in the general noise and is not noticed either by news portals or on social media channels. So only really sensational campaigns have a realistic chance of success here.
If an unforeseen event is to be used for newsjacking, less spectacular measures can also have a considerable effect. The greatest difficulty with this variant is to react promptly to the corresponding message. In the online area, in particular, messages have a particularly short shelf life and can be out of date after a few hours. This time pressure inevitably means that only simple measures can take effect here that can be implemented within a few hours. In addition, it is extremely important to filter the news carefully and to select the story for newsjacking with care. If a wrong or inappropriate message for newsjacking is chosen, a shitstorm can happen over the company.
How to Use Newsjacking?
There are two different ways of using the news in newsjacking. The focus is either on future, plannable events or on current, unpredictable events. If you use future events that have been planned for a long time, you also have more time for the detailed planning of the newsjacking. However, other companies may also plan to use this future event for their own purposes, so that the competition is stronger. An example of this would be the soccer World Cup, which has been decided long before it begins and which can be used as a marketing platform. When using current events, real-time monitoring is a central point in order to always stay up-to-date and to be able to react promptly to the events.
It is also advantageous to maintain contact with journalists and agencies who can be the first to pass the news on to the company. It is important to weigh up which news is serious and can be used well, as news, especially in the online area, only has a short shelf life and the marketing measures can be implemented in the shortest possible time.
What should You Watch Out for When NewsJacking?
The choice of news plays a particularly important role in newsjacking, not only for unforeseen events but also for events that take place regularly or that can be planned. The easiest choice is certainly for events and news from your own business environment. In this area, it is easy to establish connections to your own company, and there is also less risk that newsjacking will be perceived as disruptive or inappropriate, that it will not work, or that it will even have a negative impact and develop into a PR disaster. On the other hand, the range of this type of newsjacking is usually very limited, because online media for certain industries are usually only used by representatives from the industry.
With newsjacking for local events or planned events, a greater range is possible, but the selection of the news here must be much more strict. In the case of previously known events, the strategy for newsjacking or the measure must also be planned particularly well, because many other companies also carry out marketing campaigns for major events such as world championships in sport or seasonal events such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day. The chance that your own content will be noticed by the media or social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook is therefore rather low.
Newsjacking is certainly the most problematic with global news because, on the one hand, the risk of the action being reversed is particularly high here. On the other hand, it is very difficult to deliver content that is considered relevant by the media around the world so that they cover it. Therefore for a newsjacking implementation, the questions below should be asked.
- How can a connection between the company or brand and the story be established?
- Is this connection of interest to the media or potential customers?
- Is it a sensitive piece of news in terms of content that could potentially lead to negative reporting?
If a suitable message is found, the content with which the story is to be hijacked must now be published. This can be done, for example, via social media channels such as Twitter, via a blog, or a press release. The decisive factor here is how the newsjacking should take place. If you want to create a “buzz” via social media, the appropriate channels are best suited for this. If, on the other hand, you rely on media pages, content that has been optimized according to SEO standards makes more sense. In the fast-moving news world, journalists are increasingly dependent on online sources for their research. Like other people, they can find them via search engines like Google. If you manage to publish content that Google has classified as relevant to the topic, that’s half the battle. During the investigation, the journalists come across this content again and again and will in many cases use it as a basis for their reporting, and the news was hijacked.
The reference to pop culture topics that are currently of interest, such as Game of Thrones (April 2019) or Stranger Things (July 2019) can also be valuable and ensure reach and awareness.
Best Examples of NewsJacking
Newsjacking can be learned and implemented by examining the live NewsJacking examples. In this section, you will see some NewsJacking examples for different industries in the forms of video and image.
1. Oakley Sunglasses’ Newsjacking for Chile Miners
The eyewear retailer Oakley provided a successful example of newsjacking when it gave the miners buried in Chile sunglasses to protect their eyes from exposure to sunlight after 69 days of darkness. With this marketing strategy, the company reportedly achieved a media value of $40 million.
2. Sixt Car Rental Newsjacking Example with Train Driver Strike
In 2014, for example, the Sixt car rental company used a train driver strike for advertising purposes. The company published an ad that read-only “HDGDL, GDL” in German. The usual online abbreviation for “I love you very much” could be deciphered immediately for many users. It also enabled a little “play on words” with the abbreviation for the train drivers’ union. The car rental company’s “thank you” for the strike made the ad fun that was easy to understand and shared thousand times over, thus creating a remarkable impact.
3. Zondag America First NewsJacking Example
A more recent example is a video from the Dutch satirical program “Zondag met Lubach ”, which published a video on YouTube when Donald Trump took office. In the video, the Netherlands was presented with typical Trump rhetoric. The video was viewed around ten million times within three weeks and thus made a noticeable contribution to the awareness of the program.
4. Paleton Bike NewsJacking Example
Peloton’s Newsjacking example for the Christmas Gifts is different than other examples of newsjacking. Peloton used husband and wife relationships to trigger a social virality. In the commercial, a husband buys a Peloton Bike to her wife, and on social media, people criticized the commercial, this criticism created a social sharing wave.
Peloton used the Christmas Gift theme for creating a buzz factor on social media. But also, Ryan Reynolds used Paleton commercial for his own brand which is Aviation Gin. Ryan Reynolds hired the actress from the Peloton Bike commercial who is Monica Ruiz and published another commercial. You can watch the “The Gift that Doesn’t Give Back” commercial and newsjacking example below.
Ryan Reynolds used the Peloton Bike commercial to show that the wife from the Peloton Bike commercial divorced her husband and go to a bar with her friends. And, in the bar, the commercial says that “You look great by the way” while the wife drinks Aviation Gin. Ryan Reynolds told the story of the Peloton Wife newsjacking example’s story in Jimmy Kimmel show as below.
The Aviation Gin commercial and newsjacking example has been watched more than 7.5 millions times in 2 days. It also generated 55.000 retweets.
5. Burger King and Big Mac-ish Menu Newsjacking Example
Burger King started a new campaign after Mcdonald’s lost its BigMac trademark against the Irish fast-food chain Supermac. Supermac’s victory over the BigMac trademark has attracted attention from the industry and global news sources published several stories. Thus, Burger King started a new campaign that makes fun of McDonald’s trademark loss by using the “Mig Mac-ish” slogan as below.
6. Microsoft Team’s Together Mode Newsjacking Example
With many local governments shutting down and health groups recommending social distancing, COVID-19 slows down the sporting world. Fans were left wondering how this controversial shift would affect the sports they knew and loved. Sports organizations felt they had to pivot in order to stay within these guidelines while also keeping athletes and audiences safe. As it became clear that many sports organizations were beginning their seasons with zero or reduced attendance, there was confusion as to how people would react on both sides. After all, players are in a state of constant flux, and sports is just as much an emotional event as it is physical.
Microsoft’s Team’s Together Mode has seen this situation as a newsjacking opportunity and used it to promote its new model which is “Together mode”. You can see a commercial for Together Mode of Microsoft Teams below.
To create a closer context for the NBA and postponed games, Microsoft Teams used an basketball stadium for promoting the Together Mode as below.
7. AeroMexico NewsJacking Example
AeroMexico is an airway company that performs flights between Mexico and US Cities. During the Donald Trump administration, constructing a metal wall has been discussed widely. And, AeroMexico has found a new way to generate attention and humor with newsjacking for constructing a wall on Mexican border discussions.
AeroMexico has published a commercial that shows they perform a DNA test for every interview, and how much the attendee is Mexican in terms of DNA test results, AeroMexico offered a discount at the same proportion for flying to Mexico. This commercial showed that people from the South Border of the United States have many descendants from Mexico and they also might want to go to Mexico. Newsjacking example of AeroMexico has increased ticket sales by 33.7%. Also, they have won the 2019 Clio Award. Below, you will see that how this commercial has increased the search volume of AeroMexico thanks to Google Trends.
AeroMexico has increased its brand value and ticket sales thanks to this Newsjacking example. As a related guideline, you can read how to use Pytrend article to learn how to take topical and phrase search demands in scale.
8. Calm Newsjacking Example
After the stressful US Elections, Calm which is a meditation app for mobile phones published an ad with CNN without giving any political or election-related news. Watchers across the U.S. watched CNN’s election coverage, which featured a Calm advertisement. As well as the Calm sponsorship, Calm made several 30-second advertisements leading up to Election Day. Calm’s mission is to “make the world happier and healthier,” and what better way to do that than position its product during a time where people are feeling anxious? In this campaign, Calm did not use any election-related messaging but showed calming ads that served as a stark contrast to a rather stressful election season.
You can see the Calm Newsjacking ads example below.
Based on an interview with Ad Age’s Katie Shill, Senior Director of Brand Marketing at Calm, the campaign is a success. Her conclusion is that it was a “super smart media buy” that sparked social conversation and PR coverage. She says, “We showed up when we needed to with the right message, and it paid off.”
9. Gilette “MeToo” Newsjacking Example
During 2018 and 2019, the #MeToo movement led to numerous high-profile men coming under fire for committing harassment and sexual assault. Examples include Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer, two prominent men. The #MeToo social media movement provoked responses, starting with civil rights activist Tarana Burke. It engaged women to spread awareness of how widespread sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault was by sharing their own personal stories along with the #MeToo hashtag.
Gillette decided to reposition its take on masculinity as “the best a man can be” as a response to the #MeToo movement. They achieved this by airing the Super Bowl commercial which explored toxic masculinity and the stereotypes related to manhood. You can see the Newsjacking example of Gilette with its commercial video.
With images of men talking to themselves, the commercial begins with sound bites related to bullying, toxic masculinity, and the #MeToo movement. “Is this really the best a man can get?” is a question posed by a narrator in the ad when a young boy breaks through a screen showing an old Gillette commercial while running from male bullies taller than he is. Below, you can see how Gilette’s search volume has increased during this newsjacking example.
Gilette has acquired a Brand Image that goes against toxic masculinity. Newsjacking can improve a brand’s trustworthiness and also SEO Performance along with its authority for its own industry. Below, you will see the most searched queries and topics for Gilette for the same period of time.
Gilette’s most related queries and topics are about “controversy”, “masculinity”, toxic masculinity” and “me too movement”. This shows how a newsjacking example can improve brand perception for a long time.
Last Thoughts on NewsJacking and Holistic SEO
With newsjacking, news can be used to draw public attention “through the back door” to your own content. The PR measure is usually quite inexpensive and often has a long range, but the selection of the right message is sometimes very difficult. There is also the risk that newsjacking will be perceived as disruptive or presumptuous, so that appropriate measures must be carefully considered.
Best examples of newsjacking include the main features of newsjacking such as a trending topic, relevance, and humor. Newsjacking can change a brand’s image, authority, and trustworthiness. A Newsjacking campaign can generate search demand and also natural backlinks for a brand and its website, it can generate news stories that have a place in Google Discovery. Thus, newsjacking and SEO are the terms that connected to each other. In 2021, newsjacking is still a strong SEO and Branding tool with the help of public relations and digital marketing. Using Newsjacking can help Holistic SEOs to generate a better brand authority, PageRank flow, and mention frequency with a positive sentiment.
Newsjacking guidelines and examples will be updated in the light of new information.
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