Communications Strategy

5 Tips for Respectable Newsjacking

By Caitlin New


In marketing communications, two main factors can make or break your plans for media coverage and visibility: speed and the quality of the news story you bring to the table. Of course, these two factors are often at odds. Rush to think through a compelling angle for your target audience and you’re unlikely to pitch media outlets successfully. But sacrifice speed and you miss your chance to capitalize on a current events opportunity. How do we reconcile the irreconcilable?

The answer – newsjacking.

What is Newsjacking?

Despite its off-putting name, newsjacking can be a successful strategy for building your brand’s credibility and visibility. Specifically, it’s when you offer a quick but quality quote or interview during a breaking news story. The end goal, as always, is to secure timely and relevant media coverage, and perhaps, some sales leads in the process. Plus, by acting as a fast and knowledgeable resource, you can solidify relationships and build trust with media who face tight deadlines and need expert insight on speed dial.

The key to successful newsjacking is plenty of prep work so you can react quickly without sacrificing the quality of your insights to media. Here’s how to do it well.

Tip #1: Develop a list of topics your brand and your spokespeople can (and are willing to) speak to on a quick turn. 

This is an opportunity to solidify your thought leadership ideas and think critically about the opinions that can help your brand generate media attention.

Choosing spokespeople who are both knowledgeable and willing to offer analysis, soundbites, or data quickly is key. Setting the expectation of a speedy reply before a response is needed will help everyone work together efficiently and avoid delays when it’s go time. Choosing spokespeople who have been media trained in advance will also help to prevent a bottleneck.

Your communications team should be immersed in the media landscape using media monitoring tools and social media to understand the trending topics that could result in a breaking news story. It’s important to continually align with your team on what topics and ideas are on and off the table, so they’re ready to flag prime newsjacking opportunities that are right for your company and spokespeople.

Tip #2: Confirm that your communications team is planting seeds with members of the press well before any breaking news event.

It’s important to offer value during every touchpoint with media. While newsjacking conversations will focus more on sharing industry information and expertise as a reputable source instead of promoting your brand, they are beneficial to reporters covering complicated topics.

Frequent interactions with media where you comment on their work or offer your spokesperson’s take on their analysis helps build relationships. It shows you’re not solely promoting your brand but also reading their coverage.  

What news outlets should your communications team target? Mass press targeting for newsjacking is not ideal. Since commentary should be tailored to a publication’s readership and reporter’s coverage area, the pool of go-to press should feel intimate. Journalists won’t turn to just anyone for a breaking news comment; they’ll rely on those they trust. So it may only be a handful of trade and national reporters who are on your initial round of breaking news outreach.

Tip #3: Make quotes meaningful and above all, helpful. 

In news cycles that begin, end, and come back to life in what seems like just hours, it’s important to offer insight from your brand rather than simply adding to the noise. Think about the topic at hand, and 1) what those less familiar with it might want to understand about it, and 2) what those in the industry can learn from your unique expertise in the field.

Meaningful content that advances the public’s understanding of a hot issue is much more likely to entice reporters on short deadlines. For some foreseeable developments or anticipated news cycles (think: politics, trade issues, cybersecurity breaches, tech giant acquisitions, etc.), pre-drafted quotes that can be easily updated are a great way to mobilize around a breaking news story quickly.

Tip #4: Use your company network.

Your brand’s partners often have industry connections and are in the know of what’s brewing in your space. A two-way dialogue with these people can give you a leg up before breaking news hits.

Tip #5: Make it happen.

A trending story hits and it’s go time. Tap into those pre-drafted quotes and your ideas cache and pinpoint where your expertise is most valuable and needed to get media attention, both from a “what to say” and “where to pitch” perspective.

Finalize what you’ll be offering to the media (quote, interview, unique data, etc.) and get it out the door within two-to-three hours of the news breaking, if possible. The more seamlessly you can connect your brand’s message to the media, the better.

Finally, once you’ve landed a quote or interview with a publication, don’t forget to give your content some legs with other marketing efforts, like a blog post or sharing the piece on your social media channels.

Successful Newsjacking

Newsjacking can’t be your only media tactic. It should be layered on top of an ongoing, structured, and proactive media relations program. After all, a reporter may need to know you and trust that you’ll provide thoughtful commentary in the moment to use you as a resource.

Cultivating relationships with media outlets comes in two forms: proactive, planned media outreach with company news, and meaningful reactions to industry trends (on both long- and short-lead news stories).

It all boils down to this – do the prep work, stay plugged into the news cycle, and when you sense something is brewing, don’t hesitate to take action.