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How to use newsjacking to support brand awareness and engagement

By Lindsey Chastain

Effective newsjacking can increase your visibility and boost sales, but it requires careful execution.


A newscaster.Newsjacking is a method used to link your company to a prominent conversation or trend in the news or social media. Since marketers must stay up to date on trending topics, this piggyback PR strategy “newsjacks” viral stories to bring attention to your company and support engagement. 




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The goal of newsjacking is to earn media impressions and coverage through a quick response to a news hook or trending headline that captures public attention. When done correctly, newsjacking inserts your brand into the broader cultural conversation and creates an authentic association between your products/services and the trending topic. But, it requires careful execution to avoid appearing exploitative. 


When former president Barak Obama went to visit Australia in 2011, the northern territory’s chief minister Paul Henderson teamed up with a local insurance company to present coverage against crocodile attacks. In this case, the insurance company was able to insert their brand into the cultural conversation of the arrival of the Obamas. As a result, this newsjacking method went viral and earned mainstream media coverage. By aligning itself with the news hook of the then-President of the United States visiting Australia, both the chief minister and the insurance company were able to earn enormous exposure and widespread media coverage.


In 2013, Oreo newsjacked the Super Bowl power outage with their “You can still dunk in the dark” social media advertisement. Again, the company inserted their brand into a national event and aligned itself with a real-time experience for viewers at home through timely and creative messaging. The ad generated enormous media coverage for Oreo, with over 15,000 retweets on X (formerly Twitter) and praise online.


How can your company use newsjacking?

Marketing teams should monitor trending stories in real-time using tools like Google Alerts, Feedly, BuzzSumo, and Talkwalker. Use these to set up customized alerts for your brand name, relevant keywords, competitors, and news topics related to your industry. Join forums related to your topic and monitor trends to identify viral stories and trending hashtags as they emerge across various platforms. 


The key is to plug in. Pay attention to trending headlines that spike interest and shares online so your company can respond with timely newsjacking initiatives.


10 tips for effective newsjacking


1. Consider brand fit. 

Assess whether the unfolding event or topic is a good match for your brand identity and audience. Don't force an awkward connection.


2. Provide a unique angle. 

Offer a novel perspective or insight versus just echoing the same sentiments. Share data, analysis, or point out the humor in the situation. 


3. Create value for the audience. 

Position your commentary, content, and ideas as useful, not just promotional. Offer entertainment, information, or assistance.


4. Remain sensitive. 

Avoid insensitive or opportunistic messaging. Some tragedies require solemn brand responses, not a marketing ploy.


5. Have a creative ready to roll. 

Develop a template with brand assets that can be quickly adapt for timely newsjacking.


6. Repurpose your newsjacking.

Do this across social posts, blog content, emails, graphics, and videos.  


7. Make it shareable. 

Incorporate engaging elements like hashtags, polls, and quizzes to fuel social sharing. 


8. Time articles strategically. 

Monitor when a story is peaking in interest versus fading.


9. Link it back to brand purpose. 

Connect the initiative to your core mission and values. 


10. Develop a workflow. 

Designate team members responsible for monitoring trends, brainstorming creative concepts, securing approvals, and executing campaigns. 


While newsjacking can be an effective PR strategy, brands must be thoughtful to avoid appearing exploitative. Ethical newsjacking provides unique value to audiences without capitalizing on misfortune or trivializing serious issues. Brands should carefully assess whether inserting themselves into a trending story aligns with their core values and social responsibility. 


When done strategically, newsjacking allows brands to capitalize on trending stories, increase visibility, drive website traffic, grow social followings, and boost sales. Savvy marketers stay plugged into emerging topics across social media and news outlets, ready to ride each viral wave.


For more information about how we can elevate your PR strategy, contact us today or book a one-on-one consultation.


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Photo by cottonbro studio

Topics: earned media, news media

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