Content marketers fight the daily battle of staying timely and ultra-relevant. Newsjacking is the process of injecting your brand into the day’s news, creating a twist that grabs eyes when they’re open widest. The term recently found notoriety from David Meerman Scott’s book of the same name.
To be fair, the concept of newsjacking isn’t news — public relations professionals have done it for years. However, content marketers now have their own opportunity to turn the news to their advantage — and many of you are already doing so.
Why should you newsjack? Benefits include:
- Boosting SEO
- Drawing in readers with ultra-timely commentary
- Sharing a new angle for branded content ideas
- Leading your market in thought leadership.
You walk a fine line when you newsjack. So, what’s the right way to do it?
Brands doing it right
A Mashable community manager once explained to me how newsjacking fits into their website’s editorial process. “We’re finding digital angles to every major news event,” she explained. “Take Regis Philbin retiring, for example. It’s not a tech story — but people reacting to the news on Twitter is. You find that digital angle and run with it.”
For content marketers, newsjacking is about aligning breaking news with your brand and the content you create for it. Take a look at a few examples of brands that have done it the right way.
1. Spirit Airlines’ newsworthy email promos
Say what you will about Spirit Airlines, but the marketing team is working overtime on drawing in return customers through email promotions. Over the last year or so, the discount airline has made headlines for its edgy, sometimes irreverent, subject lines and branded email content.
The airline newsjacks some of its most eye-catching promotions. A recent Spirit email subject riffs on Congress’ “fiscal cliff” debacle, for example. (“So, about that cliff everyone’s talking about…” reads the subject line.)
In the past, Spirit newsjacked other notable events like the General Petraeus scandal, the presidential debates and election, the NFL replacement refs, and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial and conviction.
2. The NFL watches the throne
Even the National Football League maintains an active content marketing program through blogging and other channels. Granted, the NFL has no shortage of content to share with its audience —but it goes above and beyond anyway.
The NFL’s Sidelines blog does its job covering your typical football-related stories. Recently, the NFL.com staff sidetracked its usual coverage to newsjack a hot topic — the announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s new baby. The blog post showcased the NFL’s most royal baby names.
3. Save the Children reaches out after Sandy Hook
The recent Sandy Hook tragedy left many parents shocked and confused. Save the Children, a nonprofit focused on helping children in the U.S. and beyond, took the opportunity to provide valuable, relevant help in the wake of the shootings. As a result, the organization sent out “10 Tips for Helping Children Cope.”
You walk a fine line dealing with negative news stories (especially tragedies). Save the Children offered help through its branded content in a graceful way. But many brands have stumbled, trading thoughtful decisions for ultra-relevance. You can learn from their mistakes.
Tips for your own newsjacking strategy
Ready to jump in? Hold on a second. There are things you need to know before you start newsjacking. Mistakes have been made, and best practices have been defined. Here are a few tips to get your program started on the right foot.
- Stay tuned: You have to know what’s going on in the world if you want to newsjack. It’s crucial to plug in.
- Be very discerning: A military coup, the death of a celebrity, a natural disaster — these are not events of which you should take advantage. Newsjacking requires enhanced sensitivity — a characteristic that some major brands have demonstrated they don’t have.
- Act fast: To get the most traction, hop on news as soon as you can. You aren’t the only content marketer out there looking to find a news angle.
- Make a natural connection: You wouldn’t typically cover a topic outside of your audience’s interest. Why would you force a news story to fit your brand?
- Take a constructive angle: Especially in the case of a disaster or tragedy, newsjacking requires a positive spin.
- Include keywords: One of the primary goals of newsjacking is ramping up visibility for your content. Make sure to include relevant keywords to improve search rankings. These keywords may relate to the news story itself if it’s a smaller trending item, perhaps relevant to your industry only. As you do with other branded content, it’s also smart to focus on the keywords you’re trying to dominate for general search ranking.
When performed properly, newsjacking becomes a subtle yet eye-catching tool in your content marketing arsenal. But the practice has caused quite a bit of controversy. Do you think there’s room for the practice in your content marketing? Share your thoughts with us in the replies.
Looking for more info on the latest trends in content marketing? Read the CMI Book, “Managing Content Marketing” by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi.
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