Newsjacking: a fad or the future for marketing?

by Richard Gruner, University of Melbourne A newsworthy event is happening right now. And another, and another — it never ends.

This is vital not just for feeding our 24-hour news cycle and hungry media corporations, but increasingly also for marketers working for all sorts of brands. That’s because every news story has the potential to attract the same people firms wish to reach and talk to, and is therefore an opportunity to be “newsjacked”.

Newsjacking. It means injecting a firm’s ideas or angles into breaking news to generate media coverage for your brand. A prominent example of this is when officials at the London Olympics mixed up the Korean flags, and optometrist Specsavers moved in with their slogan: “Should have gone with Specsavers”.

Bestselling marketing author David Scott explains that these stories do not even have to directly relate to your business. When Kate Winslet was staying with Sir Richard Branson at a private retreat, lightning set their home on fire, and Kate rescued Branson’s elderly mother from the blaze. That’s not only a story that will attract attention and interest, but the London Fire Brigade saw an opportunity here to run a story on their website, offering the actress a chance to train with their firefighters. I don’t think she ever took them up on the offer, but with little or no investment, the fire brigade had unprecedented media exposure and interest in their work. Newsjacking on fire.

Newsjacking should happen in near real-time to be executed well. It demands a fluid, creative team that can go from idea, to concept, to market in less than 48 hours. Of course, social media can accelerate this process. It can take weeks or even months for a print ad to get published, but to inject content on your Facebook fan page only takes a few minutes. And yes, as Simms says, if you do it right it’s an easy way to build consumer affinity, affection and saliency for your brand.

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