Newsjacking: Experts Share Strategies for Success, Tips and Tools Live

By Stephen M Zorio

Newsjacking, in a certain sense, is akin to a dance craze: A lot of people do it, but not everybody does it well.

So what is the difference between those who master the steps and those who flail about and look foolish? ScribbleLive gathered a panel of experts on the topic of newsjacking to ask them that very thing. We were joined by Rachel Hahn, a reporter who has written a guide to newsjackingDoug Haslam, a Media and Communications expert; Steven Shattuck, VP of Marketing at Bloomerang; and Tara Urso, Social Media and Marketing Strategist at insight180.

We chatted about the emergence of newsjacking; why it isn't really new, what it takes to do it right, who has done it wrong and much more. You can view the newsjacking chat in its entirety here, but we've condensed it to the top five moments below.

1) What is newsjacking and what separates it from real-time marketing?

I try to think of it this way: all newsjacking is RTM, not all RTM is newsjacking. It also seems like newsjacking is a short-term, tactical activity, whereas RTM is more of a long-term strategy (responding to customer feedback, live events/streaming, etc.) -- Steven Shattuck

To me, newsjacking is about actually injecting your brand into the news, so in a sense it's a step beyond just real-time marketing or quick response marketing. By responding to an event you become a part of it, if you do it right. -- Rachel Hahn

Newsjacking 101: Definition, Examples, Tips and What Not To Do

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One thing I like to point out: It is NOT NEW: PR standard practice has always been to consider responses to news events. A great example is cyber-security companies, who monitor the latest threats -- if they aren’t breaking the story themselves -- and putting themselves up as the solution. -- Doug Haslam

It's like content marketing. Brands have been doing content marketing since the late 1800s. It's the delivery mechanism that have changed. -- Steven Shattuck

PR has always had calendars of expected events, and good PR has always reacted to relevant news. Social media and self-publishing are probably the best examples of the evolution, of course. -- Doug Haslam

2) What does successful newsjacking look like?

I think it's successful when it’s relevant to the brand/voice, when it’s thoughtful, engaging and serendipitous (not contrived or put through a lot of planning). Like yesterday, for example, gay marriage was legalized in Indiana. A lot of brands jumped on it -- those involved in arts, humanities, some nonprofits, advocacy groups, etc. -- because it was on-brand for them. Some for-profit businesses tied it back to recruiting. It's all about relevancy. No one said "hey, gay marriage is now legal, come on in and check out our shoe sale to celebrate.-- Steven Shattuck

My favorite everyday example is the Google Doodle. Google has it easy, because everything is relevant. The doodles are always topical -- some are easy to plan around events, but if a major figure passes away, they often cover that as well. I'm loving the World Cup Doodles they are doing. -- Doug Haslam

World Cup 2014 #35

See more doodles at!

I think that a successful newsjack requires you to not talk about yourself or your brand directly. Rather than trying to pull the audience’s attention away from the moment to focus on you, keep the spotlight on the moment. If you’re able to include your brand in an organic way, that’s great. If it just doesn’t make sense to talk about your brand, it could be detrimental. -- Tara Urso

3) How important is it to be first? How can you stand out if a lot of brands are circling the same event? 

I think that newsjacking can get done to death and it becomes old really fast. I think that being quick should be a factor, but if you do it better than everyone else, being a little late may not matter so much. Depending on your message, the medium could be what makes you stand out. If one brand just posts text, and another posts an image or a vine, it would be way more engaging. -- Tara Urso

It's about timing. Something can be really popular and there can be a lot of buzz around it, but if you're not out of the gate early enough you miss the opportunity to become a part of the event. -- Rachel Hahn

If you're successful in tying it to your brand and your community's wants/desires, it should stand out automatically, even if others are newsjacking it to death. And you don't have to stand out above the crowd, necessarily, you just have to reach YOUR intended community. -- Steven Shattuck

4) How do you position your team to newsjack successfully?

You need to have people and processes in place. Monitor every day, and train people to make good decisions. It starts with designing the entire fabric of your social/comm's organization to know how to find things, and how to react. What resources do you need? When do you escalate decisions? What are your standard messaging guidelines? -- Doug Haslam

To be ready you must must must have a thorough understanding of your brand identity, tone and audience. It's a balancing act -- but you need to have the material to work with. Good material opens opportunities for creativity. -- Rachel Hahn

Getting ready to do great newsjacking for an event requires planning for what could or may happen. For the Oscars, knowing the nominees and having something to say ready for each so that when one wins you're ready to post. -- Tara Urso

by Brennan Reid

Have a killer graphic designer on-hand. And really understand your audience - their wants, personalities, engagement habits, etc. -- Steven Shattuck

5) How do you know a newsjack has been successful -- what are the appropriate metrics?

They should be measurable goals. So, are you hoping to increase customer engagement - what does that mean? More unique visits to your home page? Clients always say they want something to "go viral" but it doesn't work like that. And, if your audience is affected by your marketing, why does it matter if you "went viral" or not? -- Rachel Hahn

It seems like "to go viral" is a bad goal, or at least an incomplete one. You should have goals in place before the campaign launches -- setting those goals is probably just as important as creating the content. In that sense, it'll be different for everyone. -- Steven Shattuck

It depends on the goals. Your goal could be to get as many retweets or likes as possible. Your goal could be to get 500 page views. Your goal could be to get more subscribers to your newsletter. -- Tara Urso


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