What is Newsjacking And How is it Being Used in Branding

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What is newsjacking? 

Newsjacking is a term that has been around since the early 2010s. It’s the process in which a brand picks a trending topic in the news or pop culture at large and incorporates it into its marketing strategy. 

Breaking news stories generate public interest, which can result in millions of people searching the web for more information. By tying an event into its marketing strategy, a brand can receive enormous exposure and thus conversions for nothing more than a bit of research and post on social media. Social media tends to serve as the primary platform for the most effective newsjacking, thanks to its huge user base and ability to get involved so quickly. 

When is newsjacking being used? 

Timing is key when it comes to successful newsjacking. Too early and the story could progress in a very negative direction, too late and the hype (and traffic) is diminishing, and a brand could appear stale.

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The graph above perfectly illustrates the lifecycle of a news story, although it can be applied to many pop culture trends. When a news story breaks, interest soars as everyone (including the media) rushes for more information. As more news outlets cover the story, the public interest continues to grow until it reaches its peak and slowly fades into obscurity. 

Of course, for maximum exposure, the best time to newsjacka story would be immediately after it’s broken. It’s worth noting, though, that sometimes waiting a while to gauge public perception is a safer course of action, particularly if the subject matter isn’t well understood by the brand’s marketers. Brands aim to employ newsjacking while interest in the topic is still growing quickly. 

Monitoring trends

Newsjacking simply isn’t possible for brands who don’t keep tabs on the latest breaking stories. It is vital that developing trends are monitored to be ready to take advantage of a story that can be easily tied into marketing. 

There are a few easily accessible sources that brands keep an eye on to watch for the next trend to newsjack. 

Social media (but mostly Twitter)

Social media is a great tool to monitor current trends and watch for emerging ones. While all platforms have varying degrees of usage in terms of newsjacking, Twitter takes the metaphorical cake. Over the years, Twitter has geared its user experience toward trending topics and events. Their homepage currently even features a “What’s happening?” widget that encourages its users to interact with current events and news stories. With an estimated 329 million active users, it’s one of the best traffic sources for affiliate marketing. It will come as no surprise then that the noteworthy examples of newsjacking over the last decade have been on Twitter. 

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Other means to track trends 

Another way that brands are keeping track of new trends is thanks to Google Alerts. Users input a topic, or topics, that they want to keep on top of, and Google Alerts will give them notifications when news breaks regarding that topic. This is a powerful tool for brands as it allows them to choose which topics, notably ones their product/service relates to, they want to align themselves with. 

Reddit is another source for keeping informed about upcoming and current trends. Its “popular” page displays topics that are increasingly engaged with, often breaking news articles. Brands are also keeping tabs on how the Metaverse continues to pump out related news stories with a potential following i vn the billions. This is especially true for brands targeting Gen Z and Millenials more prominently. 

Finally, another way brands stay up-to-date with emerging trends is by being a part of the affiliate marketing community. Sites like BlackHatWorld and WarriorForum have such large user numbers that trends are often discussed in their forums before topics emerge in the wider media. 

How newsjacking can affect a brand… for good

Everything up to this point will point to newsjacking being a smart choice for brand marketing. And it is! So long as it’s done correctly. 

There’s a multitude of ways that a brand can benefit from the correct use of newsjacking. A few of them include:

  • Huge exposure – depending on the trend, a brand can be exposed to a mind-boggling number of potential customers. Super Bowl LVI for example attracted 112 million viewers earlier this year. Newsjacking the event could reel in astronomical exposure numbers.
  • Amazing ROI – for the cost of a little research and a 280 character tweet, the return on investment for newsjacking can be astronomical.
  • Relatability – a brand can come off as much more relatable and in touch with its target audience, particularly through stories that are lighthearted and non-controversial.
  • Gain new following – brands that appear humorous and in touch through newsjacking are very likely to gain a type of following they previously didn’t have.

…For bad

If newsjacking isn’t executed correctly, brands can end up worse off as a result. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the news in general, most stories aren’t positive or lighthearted, and these topics should be avoided. 

Anything deemed controversial isn’t something a brand wants to be associated with unless they feel strongly that it aligns with their key target audience. The main ways newsjacking can negatively affect branding are: 

  • Appearing stale – brands that decide to newsjack too late seem stale and out of touch. Continuing with the Super Bowl example again, if a brand newsjacks a few days after the Rams victory, its reception would fall flat.
  • A potential PR disaster – worse than appearing stale, bad newsjacking can make a brand seem totally immoral. Attempts have been made by brands to newsjack natural disasters, which is a big no-no! 

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Do it right, or not at all! 

The bottom line of newsjacking is that it’s kind of a gamble. Brands that get it right can get fantastic exposure and all the positivity that comes with it. Brands that get it wrong can end up taking a beating, which in itself can go viral. 

Measuring the success of newsjacking, like any other marketing strategy, should undergo the appropriate testing methodologies to build on what went right and remove or fix what didn’t.Brands that opt for non-controversial topics get in early and can link the topic back to their product clearly get the most from newsjacking. Do it right, or don’t do it at all. 

Bio:

Samuel O'Brien
Sam O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affise—a Global SaaS Partner Marketing Solution. He is a growth marketing expert with a product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology.

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