Newsjacking: Real-Time Linkbaiting

There is a symbiotic relationship between news media and the growing internet population. Both parities continuously raise the bar for instantaneous modes of communication and commerce. The pressure from the consumers is on, but those on the other end have adopted, becoming just as responsive and dynamic. This exponential trend has kept online marketers and PR specialists on their toes, crouched and ready to spring at the next chance for the media spotlight to gain exposure to those consumers. The fluctuating nature of media and consumerism has revitalised the traditional methods that once made media coverage possible. Resultantly, the blueprint for online PR has evolved into what is known as newsjacking.

Most importantly Newsjacking can help you generate the high quality links that Google loves. When you position yourself right, and properly implement a real-time PR strategy, you could be looking at a formula for overnight success. Now isn’t that just music to your ears?
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 What is Newsjacking?

The term was coined by David Meerman Scott, marketing strategist and bestselling author. In his own words, he describes newsjacking as:

“the process by which you inject ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”


Journalists, bloggers and reporters are always in search of quality content that their audiences will find useful or interesting. Businesses are on the other end of the spectrum, seeking ways to increase their exposure and, of course, generate new leads that could potentially turn into customers. When those from both sides merge, a story is born, creating news for the media and even better news for the businesses who have gotten the coverage.

Online marketers and anyone with a significant web presence cannot afford to overlook newsjacking. It holds a key that could help manifest the type of success that internet-based entrepreneurs only dream of!

If you have a strong understanding of link building and PR already, then you may have an idea of the benefits of media coverage.  Effective newsjacking occurs when you get media coverage by pitching (in real-time) a fresh idea that infiltrates breaking news.

You might already be incorporating similar techniques into your normal marketing tactics. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned linkbait expert, you should exercise caution before you dive in and develop your newsjacking strategies. Wonderful as it may be, if you’re not careful newsjacking could backfire and undermine your efforts completely.

How to Newsjack

1. Timing – Newsjacking opportunities can turn up in unlikely places. But you’ve got to be quick when the opportunity arises. It is important to remember that unlike many forms of content, newsjacking is short lived & your timing is critical.

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2. Monitor and research keywords and hashtags closely. Double check to make sure no one else has already covered what your pitch angle is about.

3. Don’t Copy directly from articles you find about the breaking news you want to pitch about. The point is about infusing your unique perspectives with the stories, not stating something that has been said before.

4.  Carefully select what stories you wish to cover as well as what media outlets you want to align yourself with. Ideally, you should aim for media sources that have a presence online because their format will be most compatible with your own. In addition, many of these sources communicate to their audiences through social media with Twitter being the top platform. Once they cover your message, you could be looking at instant traffic pouring in from their tweets alone!

5. Don’t take advantage of tragic or controversial events. This encompasses deaths, genocides, environmental catastrophes, wars, and heated political debates. If you find, however, a philanthropic opportunity that you want to publicise, make a quick call to your lawyer or anyone who can give you sound legal advice.

6. Build relationships with journalists who cover beats and topics related to your industry. When the time comes, you will have the rapport that makes them more receptive when you reach out to them.

7. Don’t mass email, spam or follow up with journalists after the heat of the event. Newsjacking is about taking immediate action and so waiting a week once all the hoopla has died down will defeat the purpose of newsjacking.

8. Don’t pass up opportunities when the inspiration hits. If you can balance foresight with quick, spur of the moment action, newsjacking is going to help your business hit the jackpot.

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A Word of Caution

Standard business ethics should apply to newsjacking and the method does not differentiate too much from conventional linkbaiting strategies. Even so, some of the most trusted companies have failed to adhere to such principles. This resulted in campaigns that not only failed but also risked tainting their brands and reputation for good. Lesser known bloggers, affiliates and small businesses based on the internet don’t have as much on the line. Needless to say, there are many fine lines that you could just as easily tread and ruining your brand should only be one of your concerns.

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Take one of the recent and controversial failed newsjacking attempts for example. When Superstorm Sandy wrought havoc along the East Coast, Sears responded by recommending their appliances to the victims who were impacted. It spurred a lot of debate and mixed reactions. Nonetheless, the consensus was that Sear’s ploy exploited the tragedy for their own benefit. Such behavior is treading the line, and those who tread that line are begging for retaliation from the public. Laying out parameters for your marketing campaign initially, knowing when and how to respond, and targeting key events will help to ensure that your newsjacking efforts flourish and don’t flop.

Great Newsjacking Examples

Newsjacking has been recurrently successful for businesses that tapped into its core method.

Should Have Gone to Specsavers

Should Have Gone to Specsavers

When Olympic officials mixed up the Korean flags last year, Specsavers moved quickly to cash-in.

Felix Baumgartner’s Space Skydive

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Before his space skydive last October, Felix Baumgartner had been delayed on several occasions. Waiting for the go-ahead, Kit Kat sent up a four fingered balloon to the edge of space with its infamous instruction: “have a break”.

Prince Harry’s Las Vegas misdemeanour

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Less than three days after the photos of a naked Prince Harry at a Las Vegas party appeared online, Lynx responded with a parody of the ‘Keep calm and carry on’ posters. It’s message? “Sorry Harry if it had anything to do with us”.

But you don’t have to be a big brand with a massive budget to have newsjacking work for your clients.

Free bongos for Bongo Bongo Land MEP

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Rainbow Music in Dundee scored links and press mentions by sending a free set of Bongos to Godfrey Bloom a Yorkshire MEP who had made some derogatory remarks at a speaking engagement. By broadcasting it across their social media profiles they have secured links from numerous high profile sources. More details can be found here.

If you want to learn more about Newsjacking then I recommend picking up David Meerman Scott’s books and if you want to receive alerts on potential stories your business can utilise to earn links and make the news then you can sign up to newsjackingalerts.com

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  • victorpan

    Wow. Thanks. I didn’t know about newsjackingalerts.com – I’ve been a huge fan of this technique for building links – high risk, high reward, and you certainly need an agile team to pull it off.

    Oh what? It’s $150? Maybe I’ll go back to monitoring Google News and using my free alerts…

    • ChrisLDyson

      The service provides content ideas and PR stunts that a business can utilise rather than just a list of the Top 3 stories you should be trying to newsjack.

    • http://www.magneticwebcontent.com/ Lyndon Antcliff

      Really, you think $150 is too much, if you think that then absolutely do not sign up, it’s aimed at those who drop $2k on a piece of content without blinking.

      You are right about it being high reward though, but high risk? Not so sure. Nothing risky about putting a bit of content about Jeremy Paxman’s beard.

      A team is obviously of great help, but this can be pulled off solo.

      I have to ask what niche you are operating in though, because if it doesn’t pay enough to justify that tiny expense, maybe it’s the wrong one.

      • victorpan

        I hear you Lyndon on price, and you’re spot on about the niche analysis.

        About risk: The risk comes from the amount of preparation you do beforehand. Sometimes they just don’t pick up and resources are wasted.

        About teams: Timing is everything, and hence it’s hard for one person to do everything – especially when you’re trying to create a dominos effect amongst news agencies.

        • http://www.magneticwebcontent.com/ Lyndon Antcliff

          I don’t think you need that much time to prepare the actual thing that goes out. I think you need a lot of time to train and hone your craft, but to hop on a bit of news with a bit of content can be done very quickly.

          As the Oreo newsjack has been mentioned, that didn’t take much time at all.

          The recent Bongo newsjacking I did was about 1 hour of straight work, maybe 1.5 a picture was taking, a press release and a letter written. I wrote them very quickly, about 15 mins.

          My point is, a team is nice, but you can do this solo, you simply need to invest the time to get the ability to do it. It’s really not hard once you have that. it’s why I set up linkbait coaching, so people can learn how to do this and then keep laying Golden Eggs.

          I think having a tribe that supports you is important, I mean look what we are doing here in the comments. This is the tribe at work. Your team can be a loose association of people who have a common cause and help out when needed.

          Like an Amish barn raising

          • ChrisLDyson

            What Amish Barn Raising taught be about Content Marketing :)

            But in all honesty and I can attest to what Lyndon says here is that your tribe is critical to launching anything you do online. Those first few shares and links are going to mean the difference between success or failure.

  • http://blog.paulgailey.com/ Paul Gailey

    Oreo during the superbowl blackout.

    • ChrisLDyson

      Yeah that was a very good one – but I think we’ve all seen it :)

      • http://blog.paulgailey.com/ Paul Gailey

        SmartCar usa bird crap one? (ok not exactly a newsjack but not far off)

    • http://www.magneticwebcontent.com/ Lyndon Antcliff

      I think that was so mainstream it’s the one everyone gets.

      But this stuff has been going on before it had a name.

      The guys on Madmen use it a lot, (hmmm, now there’s an idea for a post Chris)

  • http://www.perfectlyplausible.com/ Iain Bartholomew

    The toughest part, it seems to me, is getting the information in front of the right media people at the right time. That’s the stage of the process I’d love to learn more and more about.

    • ChrisLDyson

      Thanks Iain I’ll add this to my list of things to write about.

      Essentially it comes down to speed, utilising paid content promotion and knowing the target audience, I see a lot of people struggle with promoting content – especially with Social Channels.

    • http://www.magneticwebcontent.com/ Lyndon Antcliff

      I’m trying my best ;)

      Although what is trending on Twitter is a good example.
      Plants v Zombies 2 this morning, as our chat reflected.

      Bloggers love that zombie stuff.
      Even questioning whether a zomnbie’s hair grows or not ;)

      • http://www.perfectlyplausible.com/ Iain Bartholomew

        Indeed!

  • http://robduckers.com/ Rob Duckers

    Timing is sooo important, even if you’re not Newsjacking to get coverage in Media, but simply linkbaiting on topical news. I’ve written up a “Failed Newsjacking” story but decided not to publish, the TL;DR version of which was “we got our timing wrong”…

    I do think there’s scope for some sort of ‘Evergreen Newsjacking’ with stories that do the rounds on a regular basis…

    • http://www.magneticwebcontent.com/ Lyndon Antcliff

      Timing is crucial, which is my my alerts are in real time and need to be implemented in hours.

      Your right about the terminology, Newjacking is kinda linkbait with a news hook. But so what! The results and what it does should be the focus, not semantics.

      I agree about the Evergreen aspect, you just know there are going to be certain stories at Christmas, or when it’s a hot summer in England etc.

      but that’s the low hanging fruit of any content marketing campaign

    • ChrisLDyson

      I’d love to see that Rob – even if you post it in Link Club – it’s soooo important to analyse what succeeds and what doesn’t and something that Lyndon talks about a lot in LinkBaitCoaching

      • http://robduckers.com/ Rob Duckers

        okay great, I’ll tidy it up a bit and push it out somewhere

    • http://robduckers.com/ Rob Duckers

      I’ve published that post here – http://bg-seo.com/newsjacking-content-timing/

      I made some mistakes, so you don’t have to!

  • ronellsmith

    I have to say, as a former newspaper reporter, you did this topic justice. I love the strategy you laid out, too. Sound and thorough.

  • http://sidvirtual.azurewebsites.net/ Sid Virtual

    Great article. This market does suggest this. You just provided the instructions on how to use this concept.

  • http://www.sktthemes.com/ Professional Wordpress Themes

    Great way to get quality links but i am still at my wit’s end how to create some breaking news for industry related to ours…

  • http://blackhatpwnage.com/ igl00

    nice one! jacking and baiting is always cool ;)