What is Newsjacking?


Newsjacking is not new when it comes to marketing. Companies often link up with holidays or other significant events. Everyone knows about President Day sales or Memorial Day BBQ promotions. Nothing new.  The only new thing is newsjacking sends out an immediate marketing message as an event occurs.

Real-Time Marketing

Popularized by David Meerman Scott’s book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coveragenewsjacking is about getting your thoughts and ideas tacked onto current events.  Attempting to do real-time marketing is dangerous to say the least. It requires speed, creativity, and tact.

Several brands attempted newsjacking during winter storms which turned out poorly from them. American Apparel tried to promote a Hurricane Sandy Sale which failed and had a backlash against the brand. Tact is important. The last thing a brand should be associated with is trying to make money on the suffering of others.  When the nation’s funniest newspaper, The Onion, published an offensive tweet relating to the young actress Quvenzhané Wallis it found itself in a position of apologizing. Tactless newsjacking can become a public relationship headache.

Oreo put newsjacking on every marketer’s radar by cleverly taking advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime power outage at the Super Bowl.  With a well-timed tweet, Oreo arguably garnered as much attention as those brands that spent $3 million for 30 seconds of ad time. The tweet that set nation talking about Oreo cookies is below.

The Academy Awards offered an opportunity for brands to take advantage of newsjacking. Charmin toilet paper had it’s tweets ready for the big event, showing that real-time marketing can be preplanned.

Chobani had a more tactful and funnier canned response to the young actress Quvenzhané Wallis than The Onion’s crass tweet.

Planning won’t allow a marketer to take advantage of those spontaneous moments like the Super Bowl power outage or Jennifer Lawerence’s stumble – though there isn’t any record of anyone taking advantage of that memorable moment.  Being tied to a memorable moment, or even a historical moment is one of the main reasons to even attempt newsjacking.

Old Spice had its cake and ate it too when it created news and marketed Old Spice at the same time with the personalized videos in reaction to tweets, like this one sent to Kevin Rose.

The best newsjacking comes from capitalizing on those unique moments. The unique moments are the ones people search for over and over. They are the moments that generate memes. They are the moments people want to tell other people about the next day.  Getting your brand, your ideas, your message into that search stream has the potential of driving a lot of extra traffic to your website.

One of the many valuable bits of information presented at a  content strategy seminar put on by Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media was one that stated all traffic is good traffic. If a visitor doesn’t want what your site is offering, that visitor will bounce out. No harm, no foul. Some visitors will find the content compelling and sign up for your newsletter. That is a win.

Is newsjacking right for your brand? 

Ultimately only you know what is right for your brand, but like any attempts at creating viral content or ‘tapping into the next biggest thing’ newsjacking does not guarantee success. It can’t be done half-heartedly, either. People can see through weak efforts. Your brand needs to connect with the people who are interested in the event being ‘jacked’.  Your team needs to be able to respond rapidly and produce quality content. This means being able to not only write great copy but also deliver compelling design.

If you are going to attempt newsjacking for an event, assemble a team early and go through a few trial runs before turning them loose on the public.