Amy Stern - 08/05/2021
Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into breaking and trending news stories so your brand and experts get noticed. It’s an effective media relations strategy that can create thought leadership opportunities – if done properly. Here’s how.
Marketing traditionally involves pushing your brand messaging to key target audiences. Most of the time, the impetus involves a product launch, new hire or other brand-centric content. Yet, some of the most successful media placements are the result of newsjacking rather than trying to become the news. This is a great way to achieve public relations results because when your message aligns with existing breaking news and/or trending topics, the media have exactly what they need to affirmatively respond to your pitches: RELEVANCE.
Gold Medal Coverage
Take for example the 2021 Olympic Games. There is no doubt that the Olympics are always big news. In fact, the media stories surrounding Olympic competition have stemmed from a variety of news angles beyond sports. We’ve seen food stories that highlight the menu options available in the Olympic Village, architectural features about new building products used to construct the athletes’ residence halls and technology content about the latest apps to help fans get up-to-date event results for select competitions.
A sports psychologist client has expertise with major league sports teams as well as local student athletes. The breaking news regarding Simone Biles’ withdraw from the gymnastics competition provided just the entrée we needed to garner media attention on his behalf.
The media focus on mental health and sports began with Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from Wimbledon, but the Biles situation added fuel to the fire of interest. Informing the media that we had an expert who specifically focuses on mental health and sports, and currently has eight athletes in Tokyo, was a much easier sell against the recent backdrop of news than had we pitched his expertise at a different time of year.
‘Tasty’ Super Bowl Placements
Similar parallels can be seen with the Super Bowl. Sure, it’s about the game and the teams competing for the Lombardi Trophy. Yet some of the most prominent media placements I’ve secured related to food stories placed in conjunction with the Super Bowl. In representing food brands, as well as chefs and cookbook authors, I often pitched local and national media who had traveled to the host city to cover the game.
One particular year, NBC had the rights to the game. I was assured that all the Today Show talent would be in Tampa for the Big Game. With a need to develop a host of lifestyle content and extended airtime to fill, the producers were looking for ideas. I offered the producer the ability for my client, a restaurateur who owned several successful sports bars, to create a custom game day menu featuring his personal twist on the local food specialties reflecting each Super Bowl team.
That meant we had some homework to do, researching each city’s popular pub grub and then ramping it up to make it visually appealing for TV audiences. Our willingness to customize a menu meant last minute work for the chef and our food stylist, as the playoffs concluded only two weeks before the Big Game, but when the lights when up on the field and my client was standing shoulder to shoulder with Al Roker cooking up his signature chili, we scored big. Not only did the segment reach over 6 million viewers but it continued to garner attention via the show’s website. In addition, we posted the clip on the client’s website and pushed it out through social media.
Successful Newsjacking Strategy
These media placements may sound easy, but that’s due to a proven method. Here are some key factors to using newsjacking successfully:
- Act Fast
When these stories break, like the Naomi Osaka announcement, it takes only a few hours and sometimes minutes, for the media to seek expert commentary. You need to be right there, at the right time or the opportunity will be quickly lost and you’ll be lamenting about your competitor being quoted regardless of who is a more knowledgeable industry expert.
Two elements can help you move quickly. One is to have a proven media relations specialist with experience in newsjacking and established relationships with key media outlets. The second is to have an existing public relations campaign in place. Outlets prefer to work with people and brands they know.
- Support Your Placement with Additional Content
If a topic is hot, it’s hot, so supporting your successful media placements with additional content like a blog, video or an e-guide on your website. This additional content can help to amplify your reach. For example, “mental health & sports” or “sports psychology” will register different results due to the number of searches surrounding individual online behavior. Taking the time to research keywords and create content to support them, will help more people find your owned media properties.
- Do Your Homework
Make sure you have a good handle on what has already been published regarding the topic. As mentioned, it’s important to act fast if you’re pitching a story connected to breaking news because as we know, it doesn’t take much for a single headline to be bumped from the leaderboard when another hot story breaks. I’ve often seen clients drag their feet responding to a request for information or critical visuals that were an integral part of bringing the story to life. As a result, the opportunity to impact breaking news was lost.
Take the Super Bowl food campaign I successfully created. I reached out to the producer weeks before we even knew who was playing. Had I delayed until the conference champions were crowned, you can be sure another celebrity chef or restaurateur would have secured the coveted spot on air.
- Stand Out from the Crowd
You can be sure that there are tons of sports psychologists who are capable of speaking on the topic of performance anxiety and sports. Not all of them had eight athletes competing in the Olympics, though. That was our ace in the hole, an industry expert who had not only worked with MLB and the NFL, but with eight clients currently in Tokyo we had something others might not. Still, if we waited too long to pitch the media, we could almost guarantee that another performance consultant working with Olympians would have been interviewed.
Want to learn more on how to use newsjacking to build your brand and thought leadership? Contact me.