Newsjacking and Content Marketing

Andrea Fryrear on Content Marketing

The idea of being “always on” and ready to pounce on emerging opportunities by inserting our brand into the conversation is an appealing but intimidating concept.

According to David Meerman Scott, however, there’s nothing stopping any and all of us from hooking our content marketing and social media efforts up to the hottest news of the day.

Known as “newsjacking,” this technique can be leveraged to great effect when done correctly. David compares it to exercise: you’ve got to turn it into a habit, and then it’s not an intimidating chore but a routine task that could potentially turn into a multi-million dollar opportunity.

What Makes for Good Newsjacking

While the Oreo tweet during the SuperBowl blackout is often lauded as an outstanding piece of newsjacking, David disputes its use as an example. The best alignment between content and news, he argues, happens around events that you weren’t expecting.

While the blackout was certainly not on the agenda for the day, the SuperBowl was. Marketers everywhere were tuned in and logged on to snag any emerging opportunities in real time.

Newsjacking, on the other hand, is most effective when it’s unique and unanticipated.

Free Crocodile Insurance

For example, when President Obama visited Australia in 2011, a local insurance company gifted him with free crocodile insurance during his stay.

They got 4,969 mainstream media stories written about their gift and their company, and it didn’t cost them a dime.

content marketing newsjacking and croc insurance


This is newsjacking at its finest because it was an unusual juxtaposition, but it was still in line with the insurance company’s product and brand (they had actually been offering the policy for over 20 years). It would have been weird for a marketing firm to offer President Obama an insurance policy, but for TIO it was perfect.

The CIA Masters Newsjacking

For those worried that internal regulations or legal concerns will derail their attempts at aligning content with breaking news, the Central Intelligence Agency is an excellent counterpoint.

clever tweets from the CIA

Their Twitter feed is a constant stream of commentary on current events, and there aren’t many industries that are more regulated than theirs.

If the CIA can get away with you, you probably can too.

4 Tools for Monitoring Newsjacking Opportunities

You need real time engagement opportunities, because right now is when news is interesting. As a story breaks, reporters will be looking for new angles to address and new avenues to explore.

You should be there waiting when they’re ready to diversify their storytelling (chart courtesy of David Meerman Scott):

life of a news story

To make sure you’re out ahead of not only the story itself but also your competition, you need to have monitoring and listening tools in place BEFORE a newsjacking opportunity presents itself. These four are easy to setup and take minimal babysitting to keep you on top of serendipitous events.

Multiple Google Alerts

You simply select the terms that you want to be notified about, and Google sends you an email when there are new and relevant stories around that term. Specifically, Google says they send out an alert, “any time we find new search results for your keywords.” 

google alerts for newsjacking

Keep in mind that this isn’t an exact science. For example, I have an alert set up for my favorite topic, agile marketing, and I routinely get alerts for results that are tangentially related at best.

Still, it’s a very efficient way to stay on top of what others are saying from around the web.

TweetDeck with relevant hashtags

Owned by Twitter, Tweetdeck is a nice and easy way to manage the firehose of data that is the Twitterverse.

using tweetdeck for newsjacking

You can have columns for direct messages, mentions of your personal Twitter handle, hashtags, etc. As with Twitter Moments below, monitoring topics on Twitter can give you an edge by letting you tap into topics that haven’t even hit the mainstream media yet.

Google News

Both Tweetdeck and Google News require your regular attention, as they don’t send out push notifications around particular topics.

David recommends checking them about ten times per day, which may seem excessive. But if you’re serious about newsjacking you have to be primed to act in real time, not when you’ve got a few minutes to kill at the end of the day.

Twitter Moments

Earlier this month Twitter launched a new feature known as “Moments,” which offers a curated list of what Twitter thinks is in important in that moment.

using twitter moments for newsjacking

The interface is reminiscent of Google News, but the beauty of Twitter is that not only are its conversations happening in real time, most of them are happening between individuals rather than the news media.

This means that you can get ahead of breaking news (and maybe even ahead of traditional media) by keeping an eye on what’s trending in Twitter Moments.

Inspiration for Newsjacking with Content Marketing

If you’re in a crowded niche or industry it can sometimes feel like you’re being left out of the conversation. But a great way to newsjack is to respond to a competitor’s announcement with your own media alert.

David’s example was Eloqua, which reacted to the announcement that its then-competitor Market2Lead had been acquired by Oracle.

Eloqua’s CEO, Joe Payne, saw the tiny news announcement (shown below), and decided to provide the information that the media would need that had been left out of this blurb.


His post included a highly quotable excerpt that talked about the broader implications of the purchase, and as an executive in the industry he was already positioned as an authority in the space.

Eloqua received mentions in BusinessWeek, InfoWorld, Customer Experience Matrix, PC World, and Customer Think, and ultimately wooed many of Market2Lead’s customers over to their software.

So don’t despair if your competitors seem to be hogging the spotlight. You can change the conversation with some well-timed content.

Speed + Agility = Competitive Advantage

In order to fully capitalize on the opportunities that you find by tracking your chosen topics with the tools above, David stressed that your company needs to have both speed and agility on its side.

It’s not enough to know that something’s happening that you could newsjack, you have to also be prepared to create content around it at a moment’s notice.

For those who know they’ll need some kind of management or executive approval, try to get it in advance. Make the case for newsjacking in general and get buy in, that way you’ll have broad power to create timely content in the right moment.

This also requires some serious agility from your team.

They’ll need to be ready to respond to upcoming news by writing high quality articles very rapidly, creating visual resources that might be distributed globally, and reaching a social audience instantly.

These are all skills that have to be mastered well in advance of a newsjacking event, and the same goes for the team-wide agility that will enable people to hone in news stories that fit your brand.

Have You Successfully Newsjacked a Story?

Were there times when you jumped on a story right when it blew up? What kind of results did you get?

We’d love to hear from real-life newsjackers in the comments (even if it didn’t work out so well).