Public Relations

5 Tips for Respectable Newsjacking

By Caitlin New

Amplifying your brand’s message requires consistent and meaningful touchpoints with media. To keep up with the news cycle, communications teams need to balance two main factors: 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?

Newsjacking is when a company or spokesperson offers a quick but quality quote or interview during a breaking news story to give journalists, and their audience, additional insight or expertise. Despite its off-putting name, newsjacking can be a successful strategy for building your brand’s credibility and visibility. It’s also an ideal strategy for companies working with limited resources or without a steady of a flow of hard news announcements.

While the resulting coverage of your newsjacking will focus in the news at hand, a quote from your spokesperson helps establish them as experts in their field with unique insights. 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. In other words — the more successful newsjacking you do, the more journalists will learn to come back to you when they need great commentary.

Preparation is key to successful newsjacking. Both the communications team and company spokespeople should be ready to 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.

Predicting the next breaking news story may sound unlikely, but it isn’t as impossible as you might think. While media pros can’t predict the future, they 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.

Some news stories are even scheduled in advance, especially when it comes to corporate or government regulation. Just as corporate earnings reports are set for scheduled times of year, many major public policy initiatives will have a pre-planned agenda. For B2B technology and energy companies that are impacted heavily by government regulation and funding, knowing when these policy announcements are going to happen, and how they might affect your industry, are crucial to effective newsjacking.

Determining specific topics for your spokespeople helps solidify your thought leadership ideas and identify the opinions that can help your company generate media attention. 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 viable newsjacking opportunities.

Tip #2: Prepare spokespeople to give insightful and timely commentary.

Choosing spokespeople who are not only knowledgeable, but willing to offer analysis, soundbites, or data quickly is key. First, to prevent bottlenecks, ensure everyone on your roster is media trained and feels confident.

While journalists need answers as quickly as possible, fast requests can put strain on your top executives with packed calendars and inboxes. The best media teams bridge these opposing realities by balancing the frequency and intensity of the requests they bring to the table. Furthermore, setting the expectation of speed with your spokespeople before a response is needed will help everyone work together efficiently and avoid delays when it’s go-time.

Tip #3: Plant seeds with members of the press well before any breaking news event. 

The savviest communications teams will offer value during every touchpoint with media. While newsjacking conversations 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 #4: Ensure quotes are meaningful and, above all, helpful.

In news cycles that begin, end, and come back to life in what seems like just hours, you company should offer real insight rather than 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 commentary or 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. Just make sure you’re personalizing them for each reporter and story.

Tip #5: Make it happen.

A trending story hits, and it’s go-time. Tap into those pre-drafted quotes and your ideas cache, then 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) 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 the coverage some legs with other marketing efforts, like a blog post or sharing the piece on your social media channels.

Newsjacking in an Integrated Communications Program

Newsjacking can’t be your only media tactic. Cultivating relationships with media outlets and developing a strong media presence requires a diverse blend of strategies, including 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.