How to use newsjacking to transform your PR campaign

by | Nov 12, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

The way we consume and create social media is constantly changing. As consumers become producers, the line between what is the news and what is UGC has begun to blur.

How to use newsjacking to transform your PR campaign

(Image Source: Medium)

As over 71 percent of young people report that they consume their news on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, it’s no surprise that smart marketers have jumped on the bandwagon with marketing’s newest trend—newsjacking.

Read on to learn about the process of newsjacking and how you can introduce it to your content strategy for social media success. Firstly, let’s unpick the current state of our social media platforms, and discuss the trending digital activities that have blown newsjacking into the limelight.

The future of social media marketing

Social media as a marketing hub is ever-changing. With new viral trends surfacing by the minute and popular content creation platforms such as TikTok entering the game, the way we consume our content and most importantly our news has changed dramatically.

A third of people say that their primary news source is Facebook, overtaking traditional print and broadcast platforms use by a storm. With more citizen journalists than ever before, this wave of social media-based news projection has weakened the authority of traditional news sources and instead promoted the outsourcing of news based trends, skits and interpretations.

How to use newsjacking to transform your PR campaign

(Image Source: Hootsuite)

With Covid-19 increasing online and digital activities across the globe, consumers have taken to popular platforms such as TikTok and Instagram to recreate their own versions of the news. As some videos receive millions of views, it’s no surprise that brands have started to hop the trend.

The question on every smart marketer’s mind is whether Covid-19 has projected us into a new future of social media marketing. As 42 percent of users spend more time online post-pandemic, it’s time to start using one of the most viral social trends to your advantage.

What Is newsjacking?

So the question is, what exactly is newsjacking?

Known as a fairly new trend amongst social media marketers, newsjacking can be defined as the action of taking a piece of the news and recreating an interpretation of it that promotes or highlights your brand in the process.

When done well, this can skyrocket your brand into the centre of a trending topic, increasing consumer engagement and brand awareness. Conversely, brands that create content surrounding more serious pieces of news can also be thrown into a negative light, so it’s important to know your audience well and pick your moment.

How to use newsjacking to transform your PR campaign

(Image Source: NewsJacking)

As you can see here, the life of a news story typically falls into the shape of a curve. Once we see breaking news, you only have a small window of time before journalists start scrambling for information, social media begins trending the topic and interest reaches its peak. Once this peak is reached, there is often only a matter of hours or days for larger stories, before interest falls once again.

The key here is to strike when a story is fresh. This allows you to create a piece of content that could add to the story itself and therefore appear in consecutive articles as journalists scramble for additional information. If you strike here, you’ll not only find yourself at the heart of the peak but also have much more of a chance of receiving journalistic coverage about your brand.

The benefits of newsjacking

Newsjacking can be a risky process. Jacking the right type of story is vital if you want to see success, so we suggest that you stay clear of sensitive news and controversial opinion if you want to keep your brand’s name in the limelight.

However, when done correctly, there are an enormous amount of benefits associated with newsjacking as a social media marketing strategy.

  • Widening your demographic outreach

Quite possibly the most obvious benefit of newsjacking is the potential engagement you’ll receive. Newsjacking a viral story will shoot your brand into the limelight and therefore promote your business across a multitude of platforms, to a wide global audience.

For example, if your posts starts trending on Twitter under popular news-related hashtags, get ready to embrace a whole new wave of followers, post engagement and potential website conversions as you reach a demographic outside of your niche.

  • A free shot at a viral campaign

It’s time to ditch those paid social plans. Newsjacking could be your ticket to reaching a viral status without spending a penny.

If you act at the right time, your brand could easily become a PR’s paradise. Jumping on the viral bullet that is breaking news has great odds if you’re looking to take a shot at virality. When performed correctly, newsjacking can land you an abundance of positive press, social mentions and double the number of conversions that a paid social campaign could achieve.

  • Brand credibility

In order to appeal to a new digital-native audience, your brand needs to be in the trend loop and on top of a fast-paced social scene in order to stay relevant.

Jumping on a trending topic such as a piece of breaking news will not only increase brand awareness, but also brand credibility. Remaining ‘down with the kids’ promotes modern, credible values that a Gen Z audience is looking for.

The best brand examples of newsjacking

If you’re still unsure about the benefits of newsjacking, let us show you just how powerful this marketing tactic can be. Here are three of our favourite newsjacking examples that may give you some inspiration for future campaigns.

Oreo: The Super Bowl Power Cut:

How to use newsjacking to transform your PR campaign

(Image Source: Twitter)

As you can see here, Oreo took an opportunity to create a post based on the 2013 Super Bowl Blackout. Tweeting as soon as the breaking news story was released, their ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ campaign received over 16,000 retweets, and their comedic efforts shot them to the top of everyone’s news feed.

Burger King: The McDonalds Takeover

When McDonalds lost its ownership of the word ‘Big Mac’ in a 2019 legal battle, Burger King hopped onto the breaking news story and proved why newsjacking is a great way to stand out amongst your competitors.

How to use newsjacking to transform your PR campaign

(Image Source: Marketing-Interactive)

Rather than simply taking to social media, Burger King took it one step further with their ‘Not Big Mac’s’ menu, making use of McDonald’s loss for very much a viral gain.

How to improve your newsjacking strategy

Thanks to the evolution of social media, newsjacking has never been easier and never been harder. Standing out against your many competitors is a challenge, but with the right strategy in place, the sky is the limit.

Here are some easy steps to improve your own newsjacking strategy:

  • Set up those news alerts

Viral news can strike fast, so making sure you’re on top of it is vital if you want to create a successful campaign.

Make sure you subscribe to the major news platforms and set up a Google News Alert for specific types of stories that could possibly relate to your brand’s products, services or values.

  • Pick the right platform

For breaking stories surrounding your own niche, it might be time to do some research on the best platform type for your post. To do this, firstly perform an audience audit on webmaster analytics tools such as Finteza of Google Analytics in order to help you gather a better understanding of your demographic’s age range and consumer habits.

Once you have learnt about your audience, it’s time to translate that into platform distribution. For example, for a younger, interactive audience, your content production would be most likely to gain attention on TikTok or Instagram. Alternatively, an older audience may be more likely to appreciate your post on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Choosing the right platform could increase your chances of viral success, as your own demographic will drive the first hurdle of engagement as your post rises to the top of the trending board.

  • Use Google Trends to your advantage

Most businesses find it difficult to create newsjacks of national news stories, as their company may not relate to much of the news in circulation.

Instead, why not try using Google Trends to aid your search for newsjacking success. This clever tool can help you monitor the trending topics relating to our business, keeping you one step ahead of competitors.

How to use newsjacking to transform your PR campaign

(Image Source: Google Trends)

  • Get creative

The main aim here is to stand out from the crowd. We can bet that you won’t be the only brand jumping on to newsjack a breaking news story, however, you can make sure your content differs from the rest.

Get creative with your content structure and the message you want to send out to your audience. Why not incorporate humour or a specific company product or value that sets your apart from your competitors.

Rebecca Barnatt-Smith
Rebecca Barnatt-Smith is a UK-based freelance journalist and multimedia marketing executive.


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