News of Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open has dominated recent headlines. However, it’s not the actual withdrawal but its implications, especially regarding the mental health of athletes, that generated this buzz.
Because conversations about mental health have increasingly gained importance throughout the pandemic, even non-sporting organisations and prominent figures – including President Halimah Yacob – have taken this opportunity to chime in with their own thoughts and opinions.
We call this newsjacking.
A term coined by David Meerman Scott in 2011, newsjacking is the process of adding your perspective to the conversation surrounding breaking news stories. It is a valuable tactic that can help you secure media exposure, strengthen media relations and position your company’s spokespeople as key thought leaders.
Newsjacking hacks for success
While effective newsjacking can be very fruitful for your organisation, it’s important to proceed with caution. Below are some tips to keep in mind to help to increase your success rate.
#1. Stay on top of the latest news
The proliferation of news published everyday makes it hard to keep track of what’s happening. Make it easier to stay plugged in to breaking news and crucial stories by using monitoring platforms (such as Google Alerts and Meltwater). You can set up alerts that will notify you of relevant news as they’re published – but be sure to establish criteria for the types of news you want to focus on by specifying key terms, especially those relevant to your industry.
#2. Pick the right news to jack
If the stories you leverage do not have a connection to your business or personal brand, you risk confusing your audience and even discrediting your work in the eyes of your readers. Ensure that there is a legitimate link between the news and the message you want to convey. If you think that it’s a stretch, your audience will pick up on it as well. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Will your message be misinterpreted?
- Does this newsjacking effort offend anyone?
- Will this opportunity boost your brand at the expense of another’s mishap?
- Will you come across as simply trying too hard?
The recent Circles.life fiasco is a very clear example of newsjacking gone wrong. For context, following a viral video on racism, the brand tried to jump on the topic to talk about their own positive racial values via social content.
While I’m sure the post was created with good intentions, it unfortunately was executed in a way that seemed tone deaf to many. The backlash was harsh and immediate – thousands of netizens criticised the company for being tactless and opportunistic. Their brand image has taken a strong hit and they are now in damage-control mode. The takeaway here?
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
#3. Do too many cooks spoil the broth? Not always
In addition to serving as a cautionary newsjacking tale, the Circles.life example also highlights a very important insight – get multiple people with differing perspectives and experiences to proofread your content. This especially applies to sensitive topics you are trying to newsjack. Make sure that you get several pairs of eyes to look over your content before you post it to catch any potential red flags.
#4. Time is of the essence
Newsjacking can only be effective if you get in on the conversation at the right time.. So once you get a news alert about a story that you believe is ripe for your comments, you need to act fast as you have a very brief turnaround time (usually within 24 hours) to draft your commentary and share it either via your own channels or with journalists who are also working on a tight schedule.
There is therefore usually a very short window of opportunity and it is important you are one of the first to be heard. Plan ahead by taking early note of confirmed events that will be happening such as the Singapore Budget, Chinese New Year, the Olympics, Christmas, etc.
You can even reach out to your media contacts weeks prior to the actual event to gauge if there is any interest in doing a story and, more importantly, check if there is an opportunity for you to be part of the conversation. This will help you secure early interest and will give you sufficient time to prepare a fluid outline of your statement to ensure that it carries the right messaging.
You are now four tips closer to having newsjacking as a powerful tool in your PR arsenal. So, go forth and be bold – while also being smart. Or, you could write to us at [email protected] if you need a hand!