“Newsjacking” is how public relations people secure reactive coverage by jumping on a story that’s already in the news. Unlike proactive pitching, where we push out client data or offer a company announcement, reactive pitching leans on the news cycle to maximize coverage.
Today’s news cycle is ultra-fast, and the number of unfolding stories, like the presidential primaries or the spread of Covid-19 Coronavirus, is almost dizzying. It’s challenging to find a place for a business story, and one way to do that is by newsjacking. For us in the B2B tech space, riding a news wave can be very successful. The year has already brought huge changes in many digital technology categories, like the news that Google will end cross-site third-party cookie sharing. The announcement may mean nothing to most consumers, but for our clients in media, ad tech, data privacy, and digital security, it’s a big deal. It’s also an opportunity to communicate a strong point of view and offer insights about what it means and what business customers should do. Here’s how to take advantage of newsjacking for B2B companies.
Have a plan in place
Advance planning will streamline the newsjacking process and shorten reaction time. It’s best to make sure that key players are aligned ahead of time on which types of stories are relevant, and which exec will be offering quotes and availability for interviews when news breaks. We can’t anticipate when a relevant story will break, but having to track down the right expert in another country, or reach someone who is unprepared to speak is a good way to lose opportunities. It’s useful to create a spokesperson matrix involving several SMEs (subject-matter experts) who can be tapped on short notice.
Stay alert for B2B technology changes
Being able to identify which stories to jump on is a key skill for PR pros. Even with strong quotes and a speedy reaction time, it will not be an effective newsjack if you’re not working with the stories that flag reporters’ interest. Google alerts and news apps are a great way to stay on top of important industry-related news, and it helps to monitor tech pubs like TechCrunch and WIRED on at least a daily basis. It’s also helpful to keep up with reporters on Twitter, to see what they are interested in right now and which industry events they plan to cover.
To work as a newsjacking opportunity, a piece of news must be relevant, and the media outreach around it must happen within hours. The nature of the news cycle is that it’s constantly changing and if you’re late to a story, the cycle will move on without you. To react in a timely manner, after identifying a cycle, immediately flag it to relevant clients and begin implementing your newsjacking plan.
Build a library of prepared content
A working library of client quotes that hits home and is media-ready once a story is out speeds up the newsjacking process, making commentary readily available. Ask your clients in advance for general quotes that can be tailored later to be more exact to the breaking news you’re jumping on. For companies in cybersecurity, for example, where reacting to security breaches or commenting on hacks might happen on a regular basis, it helps to have pre-approved language to describe the nature of various threats and solutions. Or, if you know your client is attending a conference like SXSW, be sure to get quotes well before. Then after the conference, you can get more “canned” quotes by working in takeaways from the event.
The point, of course, is to be quoted, so you must be quotable. As with pitching in general, newsjack pitches should grab reporters’ attention by leading with a punchy subject line and including short and sweet content and commentary that adds value, color, or insight to a story. Pitches should be easily digestible and generally limited to 100 words or less. Also make sure that you’re pitching relevant reporters at a relevant outlet, of course.
In the rush to position a client as relevant to the day’s news, some people become overeager. If a story involves death or injury, it may be wise to steer clear, unless the expertise offered is truly helpful. For example, an emergency services provider might legitimately offer information or assistance to businesses in the wake of a severe weather event, but simply promoting products while people are suffering will draw justifiable criticism. When in doubt, don’t jeopardize brand reputation by seeming to take advantage of a crisis or tragedy.