What is Newsjacking?

News is all around us: we consume news whether we want to or not, from social media to the airwaves, and in day-to-day conversations. But there is so much news that it’s easy for digital PR content to get lost amid the noise. 

Worldwide, content teams try and tap into the news cycle that is relevant, interesting, and newsworthy (worthy of coverage). It’s always tricky earning media coverage, especially when you never know exactly what the news cycle will be looking for at any given moment.

That said, every now and then there’s a perfect alignment of current events that relate to a client’s field or expertise. When these opportunities arise, smart digital marketers can react with speed to seize the moment and harness the news. By newsjacking the news cycle, digital marketers can use current events for link-building and brand-building benefits.

Obviously, this process is wild and unpredictable, which is one of the reasons we love newsjacking. Riding the coattails of the moment’s biggest stories can produce massive benefits for a business’s digital PR efforts.

How do Newsjacking and Digital PR Overlap?

What is newsjacking, exactly? David Meerman Scott, who literally wrote the book on newsjacking, defines it as: “the practice of taking advantage of current events or news stories in such a way as to promote or advertise one’s product or brand.

Female news reporter doing a live shot when a man interrupts her.

Because you cannot predict when the news cycle’s buzz and your client or content will overlap, newsjacking is inherently reactionary

When done effectively, newsjacking PR amplifies media coverage, exponentially increases brand mentions or inbound links, and associates your client or company with industry thought leadership: all great things for your client.

While all of this is possible without newsjacking, it takes time. Newsjacking gets the work done in a fraction of what it would normally take AND keeps your client in the limelight of the moment. .

When should you newsjack?

The best time to newsjack is when current events are relevant to a client with related subject matter expertise OR when you have relevant content or research.

In the first scenario, newsjacking means interjecting your client as an authority on the topic at large. It often entails your marketing team leveraging your client’s expertise with responding quotes and statements, as well as offering opportunities for interviews to major outlets covering the story.

In the second scenario (when leveraging research or pre-existing content) newsjacking comes from media outreach. To do this, you must be “pitch” perfect in outreach: position your content and/or research as both relevant to the situation AND a value add to the writer or media outlet.

In these scenarios, you must convince journalists that your content about subject “Z” is extremely relevant for their follow up coverage. To do so, it needs to advance the narrative beyond what’s already been covered.

GIF saying, "let's dig a little deeper."

If your content is picked up by major news outlets or influential journalists, it can receive a flood of inbound links as an authoritative citation.

When newsjacking is done correctly, the benefits can be exponential. A normal piece of research that might get “x” amount of coverage may suddenly get “10x” coverage. This can be due to the widespread syndication that arises when the media focuses on finding any and all relevant information to the moment at hand.

Either newsjacking strategy, when done effectively, can position your content/brand as a place of authority. This will not only increase your relevancy, but it will also amplify media coverage, along with inbound links, brand mentions, and more.

How to Integrate Newsjacking into Your Content Strategy

Now that you understand what newsjacking is, it is time to explain how to newsjack. There are three simple ways you can easily integrate newsjacking into your content strategy:

  1. Keep tabs on relevant news alerts
  2. Produce content that is flexible
  3. Tailor your pitches to the news cycle

1. Keep tabs on news alerts

While we’d all love to read an entire newspaper every day, there’s a more efficient way to learn when you should newsjack: set up and use news alerts to your advantage! Integrate alerts for news related to your content and client’s theme to keep as up-to-date about the situation as possible.

Even if you’re not getting alerts, pay attention. Spend some time reading the news every morning and afternoon – see what is trending on Twitter and TikTok too. As you do so, think about the human interest side of the stories you’re reading and how your content might fit into the overall story.

GIF saying, "we are trending right now."

Put your digital PR skills to use in newsjacking: go one step further and do some keyword work. Dig a little deeper by checking keyword search volume to find out what, exactly, people are talking about when it comes to a specific event or topic. This will help you gauge when to newsjack and how to angle your content. 

2. Flexible content

As always, remain flexible in your content ideas and think outside the box.

If the event of the moment is a news story that has longevity, think about where you can add to the conversation. Consider data you can get from trusted sources such as Pew or the Census Bureau or even your own surveys; then think about how you can position this information to journalists as something adding to the conversation.

Doing so will allow you to differentiate yourself and your content from the thousands of others trying to harness the news along with you. The key is to not tell a story that’s already been told. The more you can add to the narrative, the better – and all the more useful for journalists.

If you time it right, your information can be ready for eager journalists before the news cycle resets. The most successful newsjacking examples master both subject and timing. 

3. Tailor your pitches to the news cycle

Let’s say you’ve already done your research, but another story angle pops up that you weren’t expecting. While you may not have time to change your data, your content may be a great source of supplemental information for that specific angle. 

To make sure you’re sharing timely content, find an angle that works well with headlines and pitch it appropriately.

For example:

Screenshot of an email

In this hypothetical pitch email in response to a “newsworthy event,” the author is positioning their content in a way that shows journalists how it can advance the narrative. This is much more likely to satisfy a journalist’s desire to dig deeper, explore nuance, and provide their audiences with valuable new insights and angles.

Predicting Opportunities for Newsjacking

Despite what we said before, not all newsjacking is 100% reactionary.

Not every newsjacking opportunity has to be a once-in-a-lifetime, unpredictable event: while these are incredibly newsworthy, they are also nearly impossible to predict and tend to happen in real-time.

Fortunately, there are events that we DO know will happen and that journalists nearly always cover. For example, we see coverage of Black Friday or ‘back to school’ every year. These, too, are fair game for newsjacking. Identify stories that are relevant to events and determine the data and angle that will play best in a news cycle.

seasonal events for newsjacking including New Year's eve, valentine's day, tax day, memorial day, etc.

For instance, we recently conducted a survey on how Covid-19 (once-in-a-lifetime) has impacted holiday shopping (routine). By using a seasonal event and a relevant story, we were able to newsjack in two different ways and advance the narrative for both story angles.

Benefits of Newsjacking

We get it: you might feel too busy to stay on top of the news, or you simply don’t think your client’s digital PR needs make sense for newsjacking. You might be asking, “What’s the point?” Simply put, the pros of newsjacking far outweigh the cons.

There are three clear benefits of newsjacking.

  1. The right timing means immediate media coverage. When you pitch a unique story at just the right moment (between a story breaking and journalists looking for more information), it guarantees media coverage – and quickly.
  2. Media coverage leads to your company being deemed a subject matter expert. Overnight, you’re a go-to source who knows what they’re talking about and Google loves an authoritative source.
  3. Syndication. If you’re lucky, you could see one media placement turn into dozens through syndication. This is because local news outlets that share a single syndication hub also share their stories with those in their network.

    [Related: How Content Syndicates Across Local News]

Proof Newsjacking Works: Successful Newsjacking Examples

In early 2020, we newsjacked a New York Times report about food delivery drivers. The Times article was going viral and every major news outlet was talking about it.

It just so happened that we just published a client’s digital PR campaign that dove deep into Americans’ relationships with food delivery apps. Our outreach team newsjacked the article’s publicity and saw hundreds (literally) of links citing our client’s research in the onslaught of supplementary media coverage. Newsjacking works!

Could the campaign have earned a successful amount of inbound coverage without newsjacking the Times article? Probably, the data was solid and interesting in and of itself. 

But would it have been as widespread? Probably not. Or in the same 2 week time period? Definitely not. This is the power of newsjacking.

For more cyclical newsjacking, our recent campaign on popular Super Bowl snacks was pitched just ahead of Super Bowl LVII, and earned hundreds of links. Not to mention annual pieces on package theft, tax procrastinators, or even holiday shopping trends each year… all of these campaigns are timely and advance the narrative, which makes them great examples of successful newsjacking.

The payoff of newsjacking – riding the coattails of a huge story – is immense. But at the end of the day, newsjacking is just one part of a successful content strategy that will earn links for your client.

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