Newsjacking is one of the new hybrid words we’ve created for the digital age. We’ve heard about it, but do we really know what it is? I asked what came to people’s minds when they heard the word “newsjacking.” In response, I received several very similar answers.
The majority of those questioned stated that it was essentially plagiarism when you steal a news story from someone else. I also received “#fakenews” and “taking over the news” as replies. While the guesses come close to what it is, none of these responses got it completely right. Newsjacking can be a great tool, especially if you are looking to get exposure, most importantly exposure for free. Let’s look at what this practice truly is and how it can benefit your nonprofit.
What is it?
Simply put by David Meerman Scott, the man who coined the term and process:
“Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.”
It is perfect for the age of digital marketing with hashtags and social media. When newsjacking, you essentially hijack a major news story and use its wave of popularity to your benefit. You can create news without actually having to create news. If you have ever tried to garner free media coverage you know how hard it can be to “create news” and how important a process like this can be.
How do you use it?
It is not a press release: If you’ve been around long enough in the non-profit/marketing game you’ve probably written a press release or two. When you had little money for advertising and needed exposure this was a go-to approach. Not anymore. With social media, you can now go “viral” and get even more exposure, online and in the mainstream media. When newsjacking, realize this is not a press release with your who, what, when, where, and why; you are tying into the news. Be witty and concise, think writing for Twitter. Instead of trying to write a piece that can fit right into a news report, research trending topics and hashtags so you incorporate the right tag at the right time.
Ethics: Newsjacking is all about taking the hot topics of the day and making them your own. Within reason–just because something is a headline does not mean you should automatically try to use it to your advantage. It should be common sense that if the news is tragic and causing suffering you should stay away, but apparently, some brands have missed the point. Several retailers like Gap, Sears, and Urban Outfitters tried to newsjack Super Storm Sandy with poor results. My tip is stick with lighthearted new stories and pop culture events/trends. If you want to post about a tragic event, make it solely about the event; don’t try to promote your group unless you are offering assistance/relief for those affected.
Make unlikely connections: You may think that your non-profit has nothing to do with some of the topics trending on Twitter, but you’d be surprised where connections can be made. Just because your organization works with children doesn’t mean you have to only focus on “childish” events. Or, maybe you have an outdoor event coming up–invite others to #catchmeoutside and turn a negative news story into a positive for your group. Be creative and think outside the box.
Be subtle: When creating a newsjacking post be mindful of how you promote yourself. You want your contribution to the viral news to be seamless. Don’t force your message, you want to add to the conversation, not place and ad. If the online community feels you are “selling” something to them, your post will not have the intended result.
It’s an arch: Timing of newsjacking posts is important. News moves fast and consumers have a short attention span so you need to time things right. The best time to capitalize on newsjacking a story or trend is just as it breaks. Much like timing a wave to ride is important. Stand up too soon or too late and your ride will be short lived.
Newsjacking can be an effective tool for non-profits that allows them to garner attention online, and if they go viral, maybe even some television and/or print exposure. It does take some planning but requires little if any use of your budget. If done in an ethical, and timely manner, you can ride the wave of a news story to greater exposure.