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Newsjacking: How to Benefit From Virality? [With Examples]

Newsjacking_ How to Benefit From Virality_ [With Examples]

What do you do when you hear viral news? Most people probably talk about it with friends, some start sharing memes, others couldn’t care less about it.

Meanwhile, clever brands opportunistically use these moments to hijack these trending topics for their own gain. In other words, they are newsjacking them for their own benefit.

But what is the point of doing so, you might ask?

Well, let us find out together.

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What Is Newsjacking?

Trending news comes hand in hand with rising keyword volumes, and search traffic, respectively. Additionally, social media websites like Twitter, and Facebook highlight such stories, giving them extra exposure, and Google regularly features posts about trending news at the top of the SERPs.

Here lies the potential of newsjacking. Brands can use this viral material in their own marketing campaigns, putting themselves amidst the popularity of the topic. Of course, there are some factors to be taken into consideration, but the benefits usually outweigh any potential drawbacks.

More about that in a bit. First, let us see…

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How to Start Newsjacking?

The first step towards starting to hijack news is to be able to establish which are the trending topics that provide the best opportunities for your brand.

But before you venture into taking advantage of hot news, it is essential to understand the lifetime value of such.

The Lifespan of News Stories

The Lifespan of News Stories

  • Breaking news. New information arrives regarding an event that occurred and/or is currently developing. This is not just any type of news, it is typically something that is important to many people, if not everyone. For example, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the outbreak of COVID-19, etc.
  • Additional information. After the initial report of the news, journalists start to gather and present additional information. The attention of the media regarding the particular event rises.
  • Interest grows. Both the interest of the public and the media regarding the topic continues to grow steadily. Everyone is looking to obtain more information and details about the event.
  • Pique of interest. The news story is at its absolute peak. Everyone is talking about it, it is trending on social media, and it is, practically, the hottest thing at the moment.
  • Old news. Does anyone remember and still talk about the Oscar slapping incident, involving Will Smith and Chris Rock? A lot of trending news has come and gone over the course of the last 12 months. That is how things are. What is trending today is old news tomorrow, and there will always be something else that will catch the attention of the media.

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Alright, so now that you know the overall lifespan of news stories, let us proceed to provide you with some essential tips on how to start newsjacking.

How to start newsjacking

  1. Choose the right story for your brand. You must choose wisely, since not every story will be beneficial to your brand. Select one that is most relevant to you and your brand.
  2. Act quickly and double-check the facts. As we’ve concluded, trending news is a time-sensitive matter. The later you start talking about trending news, the more voices you will have to compete with. However, while you should definitely act fast, you should not forget to double-check your facts. This will avoid any serious, blows to your own reputation.
  3. Be unique, but also careful. You will not achieve much by simply publishing the same news everyone else is covering. You need to be unique to stand out from the rest, and present the story from your own perspective. Yet, you must also be careful not to aggravate your audience.
  4. Promote and measure. Once you publish your post, you will want to promote it and try to grab the attention of people. You can share your post on social media, contact journalists that might be interested, and so on. Of course, it is also important to track the performance of your campaign, so you can take the necessary lessons learned, and use them in future campaigns.

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Interesting fact: The term “newsjacking” was established in 2011 by marketing strategist, entrepreneur, and investor David Meerman Scott. He described the process in his book “Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas Into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage”.

What Are the Benefits of Newsjacking?

Now, onto reviewing the advantages that hijacking news can bring to your business.

  1. Increased visibility. When you create content related to a current event, it can help your brand increase its online visibility and reach. If the news is already trending and people are searching for information related to it, your content has a higher chance of being seen, as well.
  2. Higher credibility. By providing your own perspective or insights on a news event, you can establish yourself or your brand as a thought leader or expert in your industry.
  3. More engagement. A well-executed newsjacking can help you generate interest and engagement from both your audience, and people who have never heard of you before, as they are more likely to engage with content that is well-timed and relevant.
  4. Bigger chances of going viral. If you manage to create a unique, insightful and/or funny piece of content around a current event (like a meme), there is a big chance that it could go viral. This could lead to increased brand exposure and awareness, as well as, a wider audience to connect with your business.
  5. Cost-effective marketing. This is a low-cost marketing strategy that can help you gain exposure and reach without spending a lot of money on advertising. In fact, you can conduct the process totally money-free, depending on how you decide to approach it.
  6. Quick turnaround. It can also be a quick way to create content and get it out to your audience. By responding to breaking news or current events, you can create timely content that resonates with your audience.
  7. Improved SEO. Newsjacking can help you improve your search engine optimization (SEO) by creating content around trending keywords or topics. If you are able to create content that is properly optimized for search engines, it can help drive more traffic to your website.
  8. Increased brand awareness. It can help you increase your brand awareness and reach a wider audience. By making content that is related to a trending news event, you can tap into the larger discussion, and get your brand’s name in front of more people.
  9. Opportunity to be creative. Newsjacking can be a fun and creative way to develop new content ideas for your brand. It allows you to think outside-the-box and come up with unique perspectives on current events.
  10. Leveraged social media engagement. Newsjacking can help you generate social media engagement by creating content that is shareable and relevant to your audience. This can help you build deeper relationships with your followers, as well as, attract new ones.
  11. Better audience targeting. By creating content around a current event, you can target your audience more effectively. If you are able to identify a news event that is of particular interest to your audience, you can create content that speaks directly to them.

However, it is important to note that newsjacking can also have negative consequences if not done carefully. It is essential to be respectful and sensitive when commenting on a news event, and to ensure that your content is still relevant, while not being offensive.

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What Are the Risks of Newsjacking?

Unfortunately, the process of newsjacking can also be disadvantageous to your business.

  1. Potential backlash. Negative brand reputation can be a serious issue. Furthermore, it could take a long time to repair the damage. To make matters worse, it is very easy to get things wrong by posting content that is insensitive, biased, and hurtful.
  2. Bad timing. As we’ve established, proper timing is of the utmost importance for newsjacking. If you are too late for the party, you will have little-to-no benefit from the process. After all, if people have no interest in what you have posted, it could even have a negative impact on your brand awareness.
  3. The wrong audience. Connecting with your audience is always great. However, reaching the wrong audience can be detrimental.

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Newsjacking Examples

Snickers and Luis Suárez

Luis Suárez bit Giorgio Chiellini during the Uruguay vs. Italy World Cup clash during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. It was a topic that exploded, and Snickers cleverly used the moment to craft this Twitter post:

The tweet was hugely successful, getting over 32,000 retweets, which led to other brands using the opportunity to get themselves involved in the buzz. For instance, Nando’s tweeted this:

Verdict: Snickers was fast, clever, and fun. A great example of newsjacking done right.

Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Scandal and Durex

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal was a huge topic back in 2018. It had a worldwide impact, and even sparked the #deletefacebook movement.

This is when leading condom brand Durex stepped into the action with their smart post:

It was definitely “trolling” at its finest, and users appreciated it.

Verdict: Durex unquestionably knew their target market would appreciate the post. It was smart, right on time, and fun, all while increasing their brand awareness.

Sears and Hurricane Sandy

Of course, not every attempt to leverage your brand using a new story works as expected. Sears, for instance, got it very wrong with their attempt to promote their products, amidst a natural disaster that killed hundreds, and left thousands homeless.

Their post came out as absolutely offensive to many. While the original idea might have been to help those in need, in reality, the image of the brand did not gain anything from the execution.

Verdict: Sears did not manage to benefit from their attempt to hijack the news. This is a great example of why you should always double-check and rethink your campaigns/posts before publishing them.

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Newsjacking can be an awesome, cost-effective strategy to make your content go viral, and reach people worldwide.

However, it is important to be careful when attempting to newsjack, as it can also backfire if not executed properly. Businesses need to ensure that their comment is relevant, informative, and respectful of the original news story or trend.

Successfully doing so can allow you to boost your brand’s visibility and credibility in the eyes of your target audience, while also gaining a boost in search engine rankings.