5 lessons for newsjacking the media

The concept of newsjacking is very much what it says on the tin: hijacking breaking news with commentary that shares additional information or opinion. And when done right, it can reap huge benefits in terms of brand awareness and positioning by engaging with the topics that matter most to your customers.

While it may sound straight-forward in practice, there is a thin line to tread between adding to the conversation and adding to the noise. A media strategy is needed to navigate this environment, helping brands to identify which topics to engage with, how they will add value to the conversation, and – importantly – where to draw the line.

So when WaddsCon hosted a session on newsjacking and responsible marketing, we joined to hear from other comms pros around how they are approaching it.

Here are our five top takeaways:

ONE: newsjacking isn’t breaking news…

After delving into the British Newspaper Archives, Andy Barr of 10Yetis found the earliest example of newsjacking in the UK appears to be in 1909. A spokesperson from The AA was asked to give their opinion on a proposed road tax, and with it, created what would become a critical tool in the comms arsenal.

Connecting the media with subject matter experts is at the heart of building brand credibility and showing companies understand the topics that matter most to their customers.

TWO: news comes along fast

The media must react quickly when news breaks. In fact, Clara Kelly of Legacy says that many outlets will expect the news (a headline initially) to be published inside of a minute from when it is heard. It is then updated periodically when more information is available.

This kind of high-pressure environment calls for one thing: speed. For a newsjacking to be successful, it needs to land in a journalists inbox while they are still looking for commentary. The importance of reacting quickly to the success of a newsjacking cannot be understated.

No matter how great your comment, send it too late and you’ve missed the boat. That doesn’t mean that you should just throw any commentary out there in the interest of speed. Instead, it’s about preparing your key messages on the topics you want to engage with in advance, so you can react quickly when news breaks with confidence.

THREE: global topics still need local flavour

You can’t treat all markets the same and apply a blanket approach to newsjackings. A comment that lands in one country may not always land as expected in another – and a brand that tries risks finding themselves in hot water, says Paul Maher of Positive Marketing.

Awareness of the cultural context is critical for guaranteeing the relevance of your comment to that market, and for navigating any local sensitivities. To be on the safe side, brands should draw on local media expertise to navigate these challenges.

FOUR: decide which side of history you want to be on

Brands need to decide what kind of company they want to be, commented Kate Hartley of Polpeo. As the world becomes increasingly polarised, brands must decide how they are going to approach the social issues that are important to them and accept that their stance may not reflect all of their customers’ views.

Sitting on the fence for important topics and attempting to appease both sides will not fly any more. Consumers are looking for brands to make a stand on the big issues.

As an example, in the wake of Roe vs. Wade, many brands have proactively come forward to say they are financially supporting employees who will now need access to out of state abortions. Some customers will have actively opposed the responses from these brands and may now be looking for alternatives. But it undoubtedly mattered immensely to others to see these brands take a stand for their employees on the matter.

That being said, brands can’t and shouldn’t take a stance on everything. It needs to be in line with the company’s values, should be authentic to the brand, and – in many cases – be supported by action. As we explored in our blog on boosting your ESG creds to attract investment, actions speak louder than words and just posting a black square on your Instagram is not enough.

FIVE: building blocks for success

When it comes to newsjacking, getting the foundations right is key. Start with a topic that your brand has a genuine perspective on – one relevant to your industry or your values – and only comment if you have something insightful and authentic to say.

Establishing a media strategy which helps you determine what topics you want to comment on, what your key messages are around them, and what types of events you want to look out for will help you get that critical balance between acting fast and delivering valuable commentary that truly adds to the conversation.

And if you want help building a media strategy for agile, value-add newsjacking, get in touch at [email protected].

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