What is Newsjacking?

By Robin Carr

What can an organization do to keep its brand top-of-mind when there’s no news? One technique has an entertaining name, but it’s nothing to laugh about and relatively easy to pull off. The technique is newsjacking. Here’s the pitch:

Award-Winning Newsjacking

In 2019, Landis Communications Inc. was honored by PRSA San Francisco with two “Foggies:” Small Agency of the Year and Campaign of the Year.

Baby wearing crotchet crown
Baby wearing crotchet crown. Photo courtesy of Sutter Health.

For Campaign of the Year, we had a great time working with our client Sutter Health to open their new CPMC hospital on Van Ness Avenue. A highlight of that campaign was crowning the first babies born at CPMC after the birth of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s “royal baby,” Archie.

By mid-April of 2019, we realized that the baby would most likely be late. So, we had time to plan and initiate an opportunity highlighting a nurse whom LCI encouraged to crochet crowns for babies born the same day as Harry and Meghan’s baby. As the anticipation of the Royal Baby Birth reached a fever pitch, LCI worked closely with hospital staff to promote CPMC’s own “royal babies” the day the news broke.

LCI escorted reporters from the Associated Press and San Francisco’s KPIX (CBS) to meet these new “royals.” Stories were picked up nationally by “Access Hollywood” and “Inside Edition,” and more than 100 news outlets from around the U.S. ran the story over the next two days. ABC News shared the news on its webpage and Twitter account, as well. The video achieved more than 200,000 views in the first 24 hours. PR Week highlighted this work as a case study.

Do you see what we did there? We newsjacked!

Newsjacking is the practice of aligning a company or brand with a current event in an attempt to generate media attention and boost the company/brand’s exposure. The term was popularized due to David Meerman Scott’s 2011 book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage.

David Landis, the founder of Landis Communications, posted a blog, How to Create News When There is No News. In it, he offers some key tips for what makes a good newsjack:

  • Plan upfront (whenever possible)
  • Act fast
  • Spread the news wide and fast

Towards the end of 2020, when COVID-19 vaccines were becoming available, LCI was able to offer up Dr. Matt Ashley, from LCI client Centre for Neuro Skills to the media. He was interviewed on several TV morning shows about details on the approved vaccines and explained in layman’s terms, how the process of getting vaccines works. He was able to alleviate any concerns about the vaccines, as Dr. Ashley offered perspective based on his broad base of knowledge.

Earlier this year, we tapped into Dr. Ashley’s expertise again and he appeared on several television programs to discuss long-haul COVID and its effects on brain health.

The holidays provide great opportunities for newsjacking. Take our client,

"Straight from the Heart" cocktail from Graton Resort & Casino
“Straight from the Heart” cocktail from LCI client, Graton Resort & Casino.

Graton Resort & Casino. We worked with them for fall and winter holiday recipes (food and beverages) that were fun and easy to prepare for those long-awaited family gatherings of 2021. We created a ‘Tis the Season! Graton Resort & Casino “Holiday Special Recipes” Food & Beverage Video Series that garnered widespread social media and influencer/blogger coverage.

This was so entertaining that we created a cocktail photos series for Valentine’s Day, Super Bowl and St. Patrick’s Day which received coverage in key food, beverage and travel outlets. We’re currently working on videos for spring/summer cuisine and poolside beverages.

Become the News

Newsjacking can sometimes be a fairly risky public relations tactic (hello April Fools’ Day). Yet, when done right, your PR and overall marketing strategy have much to gain from it and the PR practice of newsjacking can have an unexpected boost to your brand reputation.

Related articles:

5 Brand Marketing Efforts That Took Newsjacking to the Next Level

A Social Media Guide to Newsjacking

The Inbound Marketer’s Complete Guide to Newsjacking