How To Newsjack With Class

Sep 23rd 2016

How To Newsjack With Class

A guide to referencing current events in your marketing – without being annoying.

If you’re like me, there was one thought at the front of your mind the day Pokémon Go was released: “How long is it going to take every marketing blog to write about how to use Pokémon Go in your marketing plan?”

It took about 3 days for Forbes to write about it, and within a week it seemed like everyone had jumped on the “How to Use Pokémon Go for Marketing” bandwagon.

Yes, all of these article were posted within a week of the game’s US release, and there were many more where these came from.

Now if you genuinely have some unique data or an original idea about how a marketer can use Pokémon Go I don’t care if you write about. In fact, I encourage you to write about it.

Unfortunately, all of these articles said pretty much exactly the same things. It is hard not to get the distinct impression that they were writing about Pokémon to jump on a trend rather than to actually provide any sort of insight for their readers.

This example perfectly sums up why I am getting tired of newsjacking. Don’t get me wrong, newsjacking can still be a great tool, but only when you do it with class.

What is ‘Newsjacking’?

If we’re going to talk about newsjacking, we have to talk about David Meerman Scott. David literally wrote the book on newsjacking and pioneered the term.

According to David, it is easy for journalists to get the basic who/what/when/where of a news story. What isn’t as easy is the why, and the implications of the event. If you can answer that question, and react quickly enough, you can be rewarded with an insane amount of media attention.

What makes newsjacking such a compelling marketing tactic is the fact that any business, big or small, can benefit from it. You don’t need a big budget to newsjack, you just need to be quicker and more and strategic than your competitors.

Where it Went Wrong

With all the potential for traffic and links it is no wonder so many businesses and brands have tried to make newsjacking a part of their marketing strategy.

Unfortunately, as has happened with many other trendy marketing strategies, it can easily go wrong when too many people carelessly try to copy the same results.

Somewhere along the road, the strategy and creativity at the heart of newsjacking was misinterpreted.

Rather than finding a news story with a legitimate tie to your business and finding a way to provide value, brands are writing about news with no relevance to them and offering little insight.

This has lead to an insane amount of articles from all kinds of industries trying to leech attention every time a major news story comes out.

Pokémon Go is not the only example of tasteless newsjacking. Whether it be about a national holiday or even the death of a beloved musical icon, brands are constantly inserting themselves into conversations where they don’t belong.

“The best newsjacking is when you or your company have a legitimate tie to the news story. When you do, your comment on the news will be welcome. If not, it is just nonsense.”

– David Meerman Scott, founder of the newsjacking movement.

Newsjacking is still an incredibly powerful way to drive traffic to your business and gain new customers. Lets look at a few examples of newsjacking done the right way, and the very, very wrong way.

The Good

Hootsuite’s Taylor Swift Tweet

If you haven’t heard about the recent T-Swift and Kimye feud then I envy you. I’ll spare you the whole story, but it ended with a now famous Instagram post from Taylor Swift herself:

T Swift Insta


Whether you care about celebrity gossip or not, this was a major news event that quickly took the internet by storm.

While articles about the feud quickly popped up on every major celebrity gossip site, one brand managed to (in my mind) provide a perfect example of classy newsjacking. Observe:

HootSuite T Swift

Look familiar? Source:

When you’re releasing 8 (much anticipated) app integrations the day after such a big event on social media, and you’re a social media company, why not use it to your advantage? This is exactly what Hootsuite did.

Would I have noticed a tweet about Hootsuite’s new app integrations (and thought about it enough to blog about it later) if they hadn’t included the perfectly parodied image? No, probably not.

The Oreo Tweet

You might remember Super Bowl XLVII for the Baltimore Ravens impressive win against the 49ers, Beyoncé’s amazing half time show, or the blackout that suspended play for a whole 34 minutes, but if you’re a marketer you probably remember it for this tweet:


While advertisers paid a record $4 million dollars for a 30 second spot during the game, a single tweet from Oreo is the branded content that was talked about most the next day, and is still brought up frequently as an amazing example of newsjacking to this day.

No one knew that the power was going out during one of the biggest televised events of the year. By planning ahead and being prepared to react to anything that might happen, Oreo was able to win the Super Bowl (or at least the Super Bowl of social media).

The Bad

Spaghetti ‘Uh Os’

On Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in 2013, SpaghettiOs sent out a (since deleted) tweet that has gone on to live in bad newsjacking infamy:


What exactly does a smiling piece of pasta holding a flag have to do with Pearl Harbor? You guessed it, nothing. When will brands learn that using a tragic event to promote their product is never a good idea?

SpaghettiOs took the tweet down the next day and issued an apology, but not quick enough to stop word from spreading about the tasteless image.

The Ivanka Trump Dress

As the founder of her own fashion collection, it makes sense that Ivanka Trump chose to wear one of her own designs when announcing her father at the Republican National Convention. What made less sense? Her decision to tweet a link to buy her outfit at Macy’s the next day:


No matter your political opinions, I think we can all agree that using a political speech in order to try and promote your personal brand is in extremely poor taste. David Meerman Scott warns to “Never cheapen your speech with a blatant sales pitch.”

This tweet gets even worse knowing that Donald Trump has called for a boycott of Macy’s in the past. You never want to send mixed messages in your marketing, especially in a campaign as high stakes as a presidential race.

Stay Classy, Newsjackers

Newsjacking is a great strategy to bring attention to your brand, but if you’re not careful you will end up with the wrong kind.

With a lot of creativity and a little class, you can make yourself a part of a news story, and enjoy the benefits.

What are your favorite examples of great newsjacking? What newsjacking fails have you seen?

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