Nothing creates online engagement like breaking news. We all have an innate interest in what is happening in the world around us, and sometimes we need that to be explained or interpreted.

Like a Formula 1 car sitting in a cosy slipstream before overtaking, newsjacking is a subtle yet highly effective art that can elevate your brand story into the wider public discourse.

Essentially, newsjacking occurs when brands take advantage of a news event to send a message to customers and prospects.

It can dramatically increase engagement with your content and the positive perception of your brand. It can also help to establish your business as a respected specialist voice in your industry while improving SEO. As such, it should form a crucial part of your content strategy.

But it has to be done right – the timing, the tone and the angle you take. Otherwise it can send your brand spinning off into the kitty litter.

To begin with, you need to stay abreast of the news cycle and visit the leading news websites regularly. Guided by analytics, they refresh their content often – to keep engagement high.

It’s worth trying to think like a journalist. In strategising how you might attempt to ‘jack’ the news, note how the stories are being covered. What slant are they taking? How are they moving the story along? What is the new point of view?

It doesn’t have to be breaking news or even hard news. Issues that continue to bubble on, day after day, present a great opportunity. 

The angle or ‘sell’ of the story can change regularly as editors attempt to get readers clicking and coming back to read the latest updates. This is the crux of newsjacking.

How to get into the story

Target the news that relates to your brand. Dig down into the website subsections that concern your business and sign up to the enewsletters that are specific to you. That way you’ll be across everything that’s going on and be ready to pounce when the time is right.

You don’t have to be a breaking news expert and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time. You might visit news websites or enjoy the TV news in your spare time. If so, try to imagine how you could leverage the content you are consuming to your brand’s advantage. 

If not, you should dedicate a small amount of time each day, even as little as 15 minutes, to stay abreast of the topics you want to be across.

Before you decide to enter the discussion, make sure you have considered:

  • The message you want to send
  • The angle you could take
  • What your brand adds to the conversation
  • How it aligns with your brand values
  • Who might be able to act as a spokesperson
  • What you have to say that’s valuable for the audience you want to reach
  • How it is likely to be received, especially in the unforgiving world of social media

It’s worth brainstorming this last point and asking, ahead of time, ‘What could go wrong?’.

Shifting into newsjacking mode

After Sydney was hit by ‘the worst hailstorm in 20 years’ on December 20 last year, Mahlab swiftly shifted into newsjacking mode for insurance client Steadfast. 

The storm trended on social media, was leading news bulletins the next morning and was very much the watercooler talk of the office.

We knew we were onto a winner but we had to act fast. It was the last day before the Christmas break, and interest in the story would wane in a few days.

We interviewed Steadfast’s Michael White. He gave his take on the extreme weather event as a crucial reminder of how important it is to protect your business against potentially crippling damage.

Thanks to his availability, and an agile creation and approvals process, the story was up by lunchtime (a peak time for engagement) when the issue was still very much the talk of the town.

The article Lessons learned from Sydney’s ‘catastrophic’ storm and the angle we took was on brand for Steadfast and provided practical and informative advice for its audience.

It was one of the best performing pieces for Steadfast. Page views were four times that of previous articles and the cost-per-click through social media was a third of most other articles. This was because the story fitted snugly into the slipstream of mainstream media coverage, and we reacted quickly while the intended audience was still engaged in the topic.

 

This article was written by James MacSmith.

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