How to Newsjack: A Guide for Content Marketers

Newsjacking is a boon for content marketers because it helps them to get media attention with little effort: it lets you leverage the power of breaking news to generate brand mentions, links, social shares and customer trust for your business.

Not many content marketers use newsjacking on a regular basis and instead rely on old strategies like producing content on a topic based on the focus keyword. But we are entering 2020 soon and your content marketing strategies needs to be updated.

Newsjacking is one of the best content marketing strategies that every business, no matter small or large, should use in order to capture the maximum attention of their target audience.

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What Is Newsjacking?

In the words of David Meerman Scott, who pioneered the term back in 2011:

“Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.”

The idea behind newsjacking is to generate a lot of media attention for your business. This happens when you are able to tie in your ideas within a few minutes or hours of a breaking news story becoming public.

This is what Oreo did, back in 2013 when the Super Bowl blackout happened. This is perhaps the best example of newsjacking in play because the entire world was already watching and talking about the Super Bowl blackout and Oreo capitalized on this window of opportunity to attract the attention of the audience:


The Newsjacking Life Cycle

Every newsjacking campaign has a particular life cycle which consists of the following steps:

  • Breaking news comes into existence.
  • Businesses apply their ads to the breaking news and start to newsjack.
  • Journalists try to grab the attention of the public by publishing content on the breaking news. They get in touch with businesses who have already capitalized on the event.
  • Public excitement grows and people share, link and engage with breaking news content on social media, media sites or other platforms.
  • The story reaches its peak.
  • The story grows old and ultimately stops receiving attention from the public.

The newsjacking life cycle is also explained in this graph:

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The most important part of the newsjacking cycle is: when do you newsjack the story? It should be after the news has broken but before journalists start looking for more information. Timing of the story is crucial to get you engagement.

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Advantages of Newsjacking

Newsjacking is extremely valuable for your content marketing efforts. It keeps you in the spotlight when stories go viral. Here are the top five advantages that newsjacking can offer your business:

1) Public Attention

Content marketers are always looking for attention for their content. Newsjacking is based on a breaking news story. This means that people are already looking for stories based on the trending topic. Getting your website or brand featured as a headline in the breaking news story can easily get you lots of public attention.

2) Convert More Leads

The ultimate aim of content marketing is to get more leads. When people start visiting your website from a variety of sources such as direct, referral, social and organic, then you have greater chances of converting more leads.

3) Customers See You as a Reputed Source

When brands leverage the power of newsjacking to promote their story, they are featured in reputable media publications. When customers find the business mentioned or linked to by authoritative media agencies, then the trust factor automatically increases.

4) Get More Links and Brand Citations

Content marketing is a powerful way to earn more links to your website. When you apply the strategy of newsjacking to your existing content marketing efforts then you increase your chances of acquiring trustworthy links to your website. It’s no wonder that earning links from the top media sources is a hard nut to crack, but intelligent newsjacking makes this possible.

5) Get New Email Subscribers and Lots of Website Visitors

When your business appears in a trending news story, then people start visiting your website, resulting in an immediate increase in traffic. A rise in quality traffic automatically increases the number of new subscribers for your newsletter.

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Best Examples Of Newsjacking

In order to learn more about how to apply the power of newsjacking to your content marketing strategy, let’s have a look at some of the best examples of this:

1) Kit Kat

When iPhone 6 Plus came on the market, controversy surrounded its launch. People complained that the phone would bend when they kept it in their back pockets:

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People started sharing their comments on social media and soon the hashtag #bendgate started trending. Kit Kat immediately jumped on board and took a humorous stand on the issue by tweeting “we don’t bend, we break” with the hashtag:

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The tweet received over 26K retweets and over 13K likes. Amazing, isn’t it? This example suggests that you can take a humorous stand on any story (depending on your niche), as people like to read and share content that is humorous in nature.

2) DiGiorno Pizza

Frozen pizza brand DiGiorno used Twitter to reach the fan base of NBC’s The Sound of Music Live broadcast. The link between pizza and a musical may not be obvious, but DiGiorno Pizza used creativity at the highest level to add a fun mix to its message by live tweeting:

“#TheSoundOfMusicLive Can’t believe pizza isn’t one of her favorite things smh”

People quickly reacted to the tweet and the results speak for itself. There were 710 retweets and 598 of them marked it as a favorite. This was an intelligent way to grab the attention of bored viewers.

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3) Virgin Holidays Limited

The same-sex marriage bill was passed on February 5, 2013 in the UK and it was a hot topic that had people discussing it, since it was a such a historic decision for the people of the United Kingdom.

Virgin Holidays took to Twitter to share a picture of two champagne glasses with the message “Same sex marriage bill. Passed. Time for a honeymoon.” The trending hashtag was #equalmarriage:

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The tweet was able to acquire 256 retweets and 54 people marked it as favorites. The story was relevant to the brand —though it wouldn’t be relevant to all brands — and it came just at the right time, which is the real essence of newsjacking.

4) Channel 5 News

The UK’s Channel 5 News was absolutely brilliant in their approach to creating a very punny Star Wars weather report. The forecast was presented by Sian Welby in 2015 when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out (and, incidentally, the following year she was shortlisted by the Radio Times in a poll to be named Great Britain’s best ever weather presenter).

The video received more than 4 million views, 46K likes and over 80 comments, and her weather forecasts for Channel 5 starting going viral with her straight-faced inclusion of movie puns (see more of them here). This is a prime example of popular culture newsjacking done by a news channel and proves that newsjacking can be done via both micro content like Twitter or macro content like videos.

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How to Relate Your Brand to a Trending Topic

It is important to choose a trending topic that resonates well with your brand values, as in the example of Virgin Holidays. There should be a connection between the chosen topic and your business or else your attempt will come off looking inauthentic and desperate.

You should avoid trying too hard to match the topic with your business values and your customers. Instead, choose a topic that can easily go with the flow of your brand. Make it easy for your fans to recognize your brand’s style.

Creativity plays the most important role in relating your brand to a trending topic because if you don’t have a super creative team, then all topics might look unrelated. Creativity is the ability to establish a seamless connection, like Sian Welby’s Channel 5 weather report: “If you are forced to awaken early tomorrow it will be on the dark side, but there is a new hope for some sunshine.”

Let’s understand this with the help of an example. Snickers was both creative and timely in sharing its own twist to the World Cup Football 2014 controversy when Italian defender Georgio Chilleni was bitten by Luis Suarez. Just in the nick of time, Snickers shared this tweet with the trending hashtags #luissuarez and #worldcup:

The tweet received around 40K retweets and 19K likes. This tweet is a good example of presence of mind and how you can relate your brand to a trending topic. A brand needs to be creative enough to look for opportunities like this to reach audiences via newsjacking.

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A 5-Step Process to Successfully Newsjack

Follow these five steps to start newsjacking your way to content marketing success:

Step 1: Set Automatic Alerts to Receive the Latest News

You need to have a news source in order to create your own story, so start by setting up alerts to receive breaking news  right on your phone or laptop. Here are some of the services that allow breaking news tracking:

Google Trending searches

If you wish to newsjack on a specific theme, use a keyword monitoring tool like Hubspot Social Media Monitoring Tool to set up monitoring of specific keywords of interest to your business.

Bonus Tip: Do not force your story. Just because everybody else is jumping on it, doesn’t mean that you have to. Wait for the right time and the right story that perfectly resonates with your brand.

Step 2: Choose Your Platform

After identifying the news item to use, the next step is choosing the best platform to publish your story. The choice of platform will depend on the type of content you have because every platform works best for different types of content.

For example, Inc. created an article based on “leadership lessons learned” from the show Game of Thrones because the show was immensely popular in 2011-2012. Entertainment or humor can be a great way to educate, and clearly this writer was a fan of the show using plot points and characters to draw in a new audience:

Inc - Game of Thrones

Step 3: Research Some Good Keywords

In order to give a boost to your story, you need to power it up with good keywords along with the trending hashtags. This will amplify the overall reach of your news story.

Think of long-tail keywords that journalists would use to find your news story in a Google search. Remember, news stories are picked up really fast by Google and they start ranking in as little as one hour.

Last, but not the least, check out the search volumes of head keywords because they are the ones that can really drive up traffic to your website.

Step 4: Create Your Story (Quickly!)

Now that you have your news source, a list of keywords and the platform to publish your story, you need to start creating your story. Fast.

Remember the newsjacking life cycle we discussed earlier in this article? You should have your story ready before  journalists start scrambling for more information.

If you publish your story after all the trending stories have come out, then you won’t receive the same kind of mileage on yours. This story about Google rolling out the Knowledge Graph was published by Corey Wainwright of HubSpot the same day that Google announced the Knowledge Graph. This is how you should be doing newsjacking!

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The bigger media agencies are really fast in picking up a story, so you need to be quick, too. Your team that’s working on newsjacking stories should be intelligent and creative enough to take this project on without having to wait for approval from.

Bonus tip: There is no need to create a new story every time. You can even recycle your existing content if it correlates well with the trending news. Think of the Oreo or the Kit Kat stories.

Step 5: Promote Your Story (Get the Media Attention)

When you have your story ready to roll then the real effort begins. Now is the time to promote your story so that it receives the much-needed media attention. Here are the things you can do to push your story:

  • Get in touch with your old media contacts and inform them about your news on the breaking story that they might want to feature in their next article.
  • Reach out to journalists directly by via platforms like Help A Reporter Out and Just Reach Out.
  • Send an email broadcast to your email subscribers informing them about your story because they are six times more likely to read your story and spread the word.
  • Engage with your community on social media. Cross share your content on every channel where your business has a presence. Even a single share can do wonders in order to make the story go viral.
  • Put your content in front of social media influencers using platforms like Viral Content Bee. This will amplify the reach of your story and generate more engagements.
  • Get the help of content curation platforms like and Quuu because they have the power to attract tons of relevant traffic. Moreover, people will automatically re-share the content when you curate your main story on these platforms, thereby increasing the chances of generating more visibility.

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What to Avoid When Newsjacking

There are certain things that you must avoid while newsjacking. Successful content marketers know their limitations because jumping on a negative story can ruin the existing reputation of a business. Let’s read the things to avoid while newsjacking:

1) Do Not Newsjack Tragedies

Do not promote your brand in a negative manner. Newsjack only when it makes sense. Don’t do it just for the sake of PR because, contrary to popular belief, negative PR is even more harmful than no PR at all:

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Urban Outfitters is a prime example of such a brand that received a lot of flak from audiences when they tweeted “this storm blows (but free shipping doesn’t)!” and used the hashtag #frankenstorm during Hurricane Sandy that killed about 100 people, left 30K-40K homeless and did major damage:

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They tried to gain publicity from an emergency event when they should have been using their clout to ask people to help out. Instead, they promoted their free shipping feature at a time when hurricane victims and others around the area had more things to worry about. The result was that the tweet had to be deleted due to a public outrage.

Kenneth Cole was another brand that used a tragic event to their advantage: They tweeted this:

Kenneth Cole tweet

Footwear fashion brand Kenneth Cole was referencing the ongoing Syrian Civil War in which at least 400,000 people have been killed and 5 million have sought refugee status in other countries – when they flippantly newsjacked it to sell more shoes.

As usual, this kind of tweet didn’t go over well in the Twittersphere and people started posting negative comments about Kenneth Cole. Unlike other brands, Cole did not issue an apology.

2) Do Not Take a Negative Stance on Your Competitors

Don’t take a negative stance on the competition when trying to newsjack an item or event. Not only is badmouthing another company or person juvenile, but this will actually help promote your competitor and put your brand in a negative light. Furthermore, this technique usually doesn’t even add anything significant to the story.

There are, of course, always exceptions to the rule, like the Wendy’s Twitter roast of McDonald’s:

Wendy's Twitter roast

This happened to succeed for Wendy’s because A) they were truly funny, and B) they weren’t really mean. They simply responded to facts. For the most part…

Wendy's roast

But overall, unless you’re a professional and good-natured stand-up comedian, when it comes to newsjacking, I suggest not badmouthing your competition.

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3) Do Not Plan for Newsjacking

Newsjacking happens in real time and therefore you can’t plan for it. In fact, if you try to plan for your newsjacking story in advance, then it isn’t really a newsjack at all.

Take a look at all the examples we’ve included here, like the Oreo one. Their tweet was shared just as the blackout happened. If it had been shared after careful planning, it might not have received the same response or it would have been “a dollar short and a day late.” In newsjacking, real time means “right now”.

Click here to download your free guide right now!

Final Thoughts

You can’t newsjack every story that goes viral. What you should be prepared to do, though, is choose a story or event that goes well with your business’ values and helps your audience see you in a positive manner. Be quick to create and share your story, because if you wait until after journalists have already jumped on it, then the entire purpose of newsjacking will be defeated. Think creatively, start early and promote extensively!

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