By Carl Friesen published December 15, 2013

The Narrowcast Approach to Newsjacking: Creating Content for Niches

power lines, towers, against the skyCreating content that’s tied to a specific news event — sometimes known as newsjacking — is an established way to give content a boost in the search rankings. Done correctly, it can be like being in a glider that hits an updrafting thermal. Searches for information about the news event bring your content to the attention of people you may want to reach.

But news-relevant content can also be a powerful way to show customers and prospects that your organization understands their world and can help them with issues they’re facing. This builds trust, so they’re more likely to prefer you as a vendor. 

Do this through what I call the “narrowcast” approach to newsjacking. It works best for highly targeted products and services, and is particularly relevant for B2B content for businesses like professional services. However, it also works well in B2C — particularly for big-ticket or high-involvement categories — because the news that matters to these audiences generally isn’t the type of information that gets shouted from the rooftops of Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, or Yahoo News. Because it’s relevant only to a small number of people, it tends not to be carried by media obsessed with the latest OMG!!! about ScarJo, JLaw, and JLo.

People in tightly defined markets want to know about new government regulations, legal judgments, laws, disruptive technologies, the results of studies and surveys, and other information that’s relevant to them. Because this kind of focused information is hard to find amid all the celebrity gossip, if you tell them about new developments that may affect them, you’ll win their long-lasting attention — and, likely, their gratitude.

Case study: New EPA regulations

For example, consider a case I was involved in on behalf of a client. The narrowcast news in this case was about a regulatory change, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about the allowable levels of emissions from some diesel engines. At the time, the EPA had announced that exhaust emission limits would start to be calculated based on the engines’ hourly emissions averages, rather than their annual averages (as had been the previous measurement standard).

This seemingly small announcement, which got little media coverage, left hundreds of power producers (such as municipal utilities) aghast. With one stroke of a pen, the EPA had rendered their current business strategies useless, as they would now face new expenses in meeting demands for “peak power” — morning and afternoon times, when demand for energy is particularly high.

My client, an engineering firm, asked for my help in creating content that would highlight the value it provides in helping utilities find and implement the best solutions to help them meet the new EPA guidelines effectively and cost-efficiently.

The resulting content described the new EPA rules, analyzed their expected effects, and offered suggestions on how utilities could adapt to the change in regulations. While the text was informative overall, it particularly highlighted the role that the engineering firm could play in addressing the specific concerns brought on by the news announcement. The content was published in a national power-sector trade publication, as well as being placed on the firm’s website, ensuring that it reached the right audiences.

The lesson learned

While the EPA announcement wouldn’t necessarily qualify as newsworthy to mainstream media, it was a huge deal for some utility companies — exactly the market my engineer clients were pursuing.

The strength of narrowcast newsjacking comes from exclusivity. While any number of bloggers will prepare content around big news events, capitalizing on topics of niche interest give your organization a chance to show its ability to offer real-life solutions that directly pertain to your target’s business challenges.

It’s powerful positioning. Customers want to know that their suppliers have “got their back” and will be able to protect them from new developments that have the potential to harm them. They will also appreciate that they can count on your company to alert them to new opportunities to cut costs, work more efficiently, or comply with the latest industry standards. Using content creation to demonstrate your organization’s understanding of the audience’s world — and of the issues its members are facing — is a strong way to show that you care about their business, and are able to achieve results that are tailored to their specific needs.

Building your narrowcast newsjacking machine

Start by getting clarity around three kinds of questions:

  • Whom do you want to reach? Within your target customer base, for example, is the decision-maker you need to reach the CEO, the Director of Operations, legal counsel, the marketing department, or human resources?
  • What issues and concerns are relevant to them? For example, the head of staff development might be interested in new training technologies; the environmental compliance people want to know about new environmental regulations, and IT people may want to know about new ways to make a trend like bring-your-own-device-to-work the standard in your company.
  • How will you plan to learn about new developments that might interest your target markets in those fields? Some information-gathering methods will be what military intelligence systems call “human intelligence” — networking with colleagues, customers, vendors, and others to find out what’s happening. You will also want to personally scan relevant trade and business media, social media, and traditional news channels. And some information may come to you through alerts you’ve set up on your favorite media channels for targeted industry keywords.

Creating effective newsjacking content

There are several points that should be covered in the news-related content you create in order to provide the right information that will also move your audience to take action:

  • What’s the news? You need to define the news event and summarize it — as well as provide any additional background information that will help clarify the situation, and how and why it came about.
  • Why does it matter to your audience? Here, you may need to deal with what salespeople would call “objections.” Prospective customers may think that the news development you’re describing won’t affect them, so your content should point out exactly why it’s relevant and may impact their business. Alternately, prospects may be thinking, “It’s no problem; even if this news does pertain to us, it won’t impact us negatively.” If there are reasons you believe otherwise, make sure to discuss why in your content.
  • What’s likely to happen as a result of this news? If you’ve explained the event, given some background, and shown why the audience needs to pay attention, prospective customers will want to seek out expert opinions on how the situation is likely to develop. For example, if the news is about a new disruptive technology, you might want your content to discuss the potential impact it will have on your industry’s marketplace.
  • What are your recommendations? Here is where you provide your organization’s real value-add in terms of moving the prospective customers to take action. This might involve outlining some steps that they can take themselves, or offering links to resources they can use to stay informed — such as your company newsletter, your Twitter account, relevant social media discussion groups, white papers, or contact information for your company’s sales representatives.

News analysis content is also a good way to improve a firm’s Google rankings. If the content you create contains relevant keywords and key phrases, it is more likely to come up when your target audience searches for more information on the newsworthy item. Because of the time-sensitivity of searches on news-related items, getting your content out there quickly is particularly important in newsjacking.

In cases of tightly-defined markets, where the relevant news is scarce — and recommendations on what to do about it are even scarcer — narrowcast newsjacking can help your company prove itself to be a true friend, and trusted resource, in your industry.

Looking for more ideas and inspiration for creating content around news? Read CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook: 24 Epic Ideas for Connecting with Your Customers.

Author: Carl Friesen

Carl Friesen uses his background in journalism to dig for “the story” to develop content that will show his clients in their best possible light. Many of his clients are business professionals who need to show their expertise to people in their market. Carl is Principal of Global Reach Communications, based in the Toronto, Canada area. You can follow him on Twitter @CarlFriesen.

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  • Nisha Salim

    Really useful and practical way of positioning yourself as the go-to resource in the industry. I will definitely be trying this with my clients.

  • ronellsmith


    I’m excited to see you tackle this. As a journalist/researcher for most of my professional career, it’s been disheartening to see how marketers have co-opted and mismanaged the newsjacking angle, often making content that’s more about the sensational than the substantive.

    I mean, you can only compare twerking to SEO so many times. Jeez….

    I call newsjacking “localization,” for it’s what my newspaper editor asked of me when he desired to make a national story relevant to a local audience (e.g., a large business in the area that might be impacted by government changes made at the national level).

    As you make clear, with stories such as this, there is far less competition, making it easier to see expansive reach. What’s more, content such as this can put your entity on the map, simultaneously enhancing visibility and viability.

    Thanks for taking me back to my newspaper days, Carl..


  • Don Nanneman

    Excellent and timely topic. We B2b marketers are quickly realizing we’re all now in the publishing business and finding or creating relevant content for our prospects is now job 1. Might I suggest you make this a series?

  • Carl Friesen

    Ron, as a recovering newspaper reporter myself, I’m familiar with the need to spin a local story out of a larger news event. As marketers, we can develop a different spin on a story for another market. I my own environmental-sciences work, I’ve written similar stories for different markets. A story on new contaminated-soil remediation techniques, for example, can be done from the point of view of a municipal government, a property investor or a real estate lawyer, depending on the market the client wants to reach. It’s a different definition of “local” — not just geographically, but by industry, occupation, interests etc. So yes, use those journalistic skills — maybe by getting really good at taking basic content and customizing it for various markets?

    Don, Excellent idea to make this a series. It’s pretty much what I’ve been doing — describing various themes — the how-to, the case study, what I call the how-to-work-with, and a few others.

    Nisha, I find that the challenge is in getting my clients to move quickly. But that can also be a good thing, in that you’re able to point out the need to get content into the news cycle. Maybe find out the relevant Twitter hashtags and use those?