Beyond PR

Mar 10, 2012

The Ultimate in Agile Engagement: Newsjacking Basics #sxsw

The time to newsjack is right after the story breaks. It's the ultimate in agile engagement - paying attention, and responding quickly and contextually.

Newsjacking – defined by David Meerman Scott as the practice of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story – might be the ultimate form of agile engagement.  The topic was widely discussed at SXSW this year – Scott had a book reading from his latest work, and a panel, which featured the Bronx Zoo Cobra, discussed the topic at length.


Newsjacking starts with paying attention, and at the same time, being prepared.  In order to take advantage of the “news hole” around a specific story angle, your organization has to move quickly.  This may mean rethinking your processes.  If your usual press release requires days (or even weeks) of re-writes and approvals, now is the time to revisit that and do some streamlining.  Newsjacking works only when your message is deployed immediately after the news breaks. If you’re hearing about it on mainstream media, chances are good that it’s already too late.

The message medium

You can also think about how you deliver a newsjacking message.  Videos and infographics, for example can be incredibly effective – both in terms of capturing attention and developing socially active pass-along value (read: viral sharing.)  But first and foremost, it’s a good idea to think about your audience.  Focus on the group that is most likely to react to (and run with) your message.   Think about where they live, and what sort of content is most useful, attractive and sharable to them.

  • Journalists pay attention to sources – they check them out because they don’t want to end up being hoaxed or having to retract a story.  It’s important to remain (and convey) credibility when you newsjack if the media are your target.
  • If your target are consumer audiences, think about channels like Facebook and Pinterest – and use visuals.  You’ll capture more attention with a compelling visual on these networks.
  • Twitter is where news spreads like wildfire.  However, if you’re going to newsjack, you need to have a link to share.  A blog post, press release or landing page are good assets to which you can point your tweets.
  • Press releases (and newswire distribution) can be especially effective in newsjacking, because they deliver your message with speed and authority.  Use a press release to deliver expert commentary on an industry merger or trend, or build immediate visibility for visuals, such as a video or infographic.

Key tactics:

While your message and medium will vary depending upon the opportunity and your organization’s degree of preparedness, there are some basics to adopting newsjacking as a strategy.

  • Listen.  You need to be dialed into industry news in order to identify the opportunities for newsjacking. That means finding stories very close to their sources.  Follow key players on Twitter – that’s probably the most immediate source of information available.
  • Know your audience. Some of the most successful newsjacks I’ve done personally have been piggybacked on issues I know are important to my audience.  When a major social network launches a new feature, or the search engines deploy changes to how search works, I jump on those stories and decode them for the public relations crowd.  The “What this means to you” angle is always a good one, and forces you to keep your audiences’ interests in mind.
  • Focus your language.  Use the keywords in the breaking news story in developing your newsjacking messages and landing pages. People will search the most prominent terms, and to be successful, your message needs to be found right along side.
  • Pre-identify your influencers, and cultivate them.  Newsjacking efforts (heck, all of your communications efforts) will be aided if you can get the attention of folks who are influential within the areas your organization operates.  Credible and focused inflentials (thought leaders, bloggers, end users) are often the sources reporters turn to for commentary, and they can be a vehicle for your message.
  • Be ready to rip. I’ve already mentioned the importance increasing the clock speed of your internal communications processes. Get your communications, marketing, legal, social media and visual design teams on the same page, and build common understanding of newsjacking and what’s required to take advantage of real-time opportunities. Don’t forget to loop in sales, customer service and, if necessary, your vendors.

Communicating in real-time essentially forces an organization to synch its communications with the market – and the audience. Once you get systems and processes in place, though, we think you’ll agree that that agile engagement is a new communications best practice.

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR.

Image courtesy of David Meerman Scott

4 Comments on Blog Post Title

David Meerman Scott 08:48 EDT on Mar 13, 2012

Sarah, thanks so much for writing about Newsjacking. One thing that I do talk about is that sending a media alert via services like PR Newswire is a great way to get content into the search engines so journalists find it. But you’ve got to be quick!

Sarah Skerik 08:58 EDT on Mar 13, 2012

You certainly got everyone thinking about upping their clock speed, David, with the concept of newsjacking. Re-wiring your PR department’s internal processes to enable newsjacking and truly agile communications will challenge some organizations, but once they have developed these new muscles, their communications will be incredibly powerful. For our readers – David has quite literally written the book on Newsjacking.

David Meerman Scott 10:06 EDT on Mar 13, 2012

Indeed. Sadly, most PR firms and client side pros work in campaign mode, not real-time mode. But we can fix that.

Sarah Skerik 14:48 EDT on Mar 13, 2012

…and start working in audience mode. Audiences don’t think along campaign timelines. People make buying decisions independent of marketing & PR schedules, and there’s the opportunity. You’ve just given me an idea for another post, David. 😉

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