February 24, 2020
Want a fast entry into news coverage with relatively little effort on your part? Enter newsjacking.
Newsjacking (sometimes called newshacking), is a coin termed by author David Meerman Scott, who wrote, “Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.”
While it’s not the most consistently reliable way to get your brand featured, newsjacking offers a unique opportunity to make your brand or your expertise part of a larger narrative. It helps impart instant relevance and credibility to what you do, what you sell, and your authority in your industry.
So how do you make the most of a breaking news story? Read on.
There’s a small window when it comes to a breaking news story, so you need to keep up with the news cycle and be prepared to move when you see an opportunity.
Let’s say news breaks about a study proving gym workouts are more effective than home workouts. You own a gym, so you’re thinking, “Hot dog! This is my window!” If you wait two weeks before you pitch your local TV station or news site, you’ll miss your opportunity. Instead, you need to pitch quickly. Ideally, reach out within a few hours, and for most news stories, wait no more than 48 hours.
Because breaking news means extremely tight deadlines, you also need to be prepared to respond quickly if the reporter reaches back out to you. They may only have an hour or two to get the piece ready, so if you want this coverage, keep monitoring your phone and email.
Need inspiration? You probably remember this all-time classic newsjack:
In this case, speed, cleverness, and a big dose of fun won the 2013 Super Bowl, without a cent spent on advertising.
I know, that sounds contrary. How do you plan ahead for unexpected news?
Remember what Zig Ziglar said, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.”
First, stay on top of the news cycle, especially in your industry. Chances are likely you might spot a news story before it happens.
There’s always an opportunity to see a trend and be the one who breaks the news first. Let’s say you’re a stylist and you notice lots of embroidery coming down the runways this year. You can be the first to pitch the story about ways to style your outfits with embroidered touches. Providing the news is a great way to stay in it.
When you pitch, know that a reporter will do some very quick research on you and your business, so your web presence needs to be as legitimate as your business. To be prepared for media attention, you’ll need a ready-to-pitch press kit. This means having your professional bio, credentials, head shots, and other bits and bobs ready to go when an opportunity pops up. I’ve got a free training for you that will quickly take you through an overview of what you need to get a simple press kit up and running.
Your story is not about your business or what you sell. Instead, you’re looking for a hook–some interesting and specific angle–that connects your expertise with the news that’s breaking, and serves both the reporter and their audience.
Most importantly, you need to add value to the discussion.
Before you pitch, consider whether your target audience is familiar with the news story, and if your take will resonate with them.
Here’s my process for uncovering potential stories:
I start with a few prompts, like “how-to,” “expert take,” “unexpected effects,” etc.
Then I set a timer for 10 minutes and idea-storm.
For instance, let’s say you sell fresh eggs on your farm, and a study just made the news that homegrown eggs are the single best food for health and longevity. Here are some potential (totally made up and not scientifically derived) ideas you might jot down:
Then narrow down your options, keeping in mind that you want to
While it’s great if the story gives you a positive connection to your business, don’t forget reporters also look for controversy.
If you’ve got an opposing viewpoint that adds value to the overall narrative, aligns with your brand messaging, and supports your goals, toss your thoughtfully crafted hat into the ring!
Back to our egg example, a couple of (completely unresearched, totally made-up-off-the-top-of-my-head) hooks might be:
Here’s another example: let’s say a story breaks saying the color of the year is pumpkin, and decorators everywhere are talking all things orange in every space in the house. Why not pitch a story with some alternatives to orange that give the same feel, but are easier on the eyes? Or perhaps a story on how to get the effect of the trend without redecorating your entire house?
And while we’re in the pumpkin vein, if you own a coffee shop, please consider pitching an anti-pumpkin spice latte story to your local news station during the next PSL season. Talk about all the other great fall flavors your shop features for the less pumpkin-inclined.
Make sure the outlet (and reporter) you pitch covers the kinds of topics you’re pitching.
Consider the reach of the news outlet, as well as your goals. For instance, if you can only sell your product to a local audience, then focus your energy on landing local coverage.
Even if your story doesn’t get picked up, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the loop. Share your take on your blog, YouTube, email newsletter, and social media channels. Use relevant hashtags and jump into the conversation, and you may find you end up with media attention after all.
Newsjacking can be a creative–even fun–exercise that gets lots of eyes on your business really fast. Because the window of opportunity is so brief, It’s important you’re prepared to take advantage of breaking news opportunities when they arise. To get your website pitch-perfect before you reach out to journalists, grab the free training: Before You Pitch.