Newsjacking is the practice of aligning a brand with a current event in an attempt to generate media attention and boost the brand's exposure. Companies create related blog content and social posts to instantly reach a wider audience. While newsjacking began as a PR technique, it has expanded into inbound brand marketing and digital content practices.

The term was popularized by David Meerman Scott's book, Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. In the book, Scott emphasizes that the old PR model of sending out press releases or pitches doesn't make sense in our era of instant communication and constant news updates. With news breaking and spreading so quickly, he explained that jumping on a news story at the right moment, with the right content strategy, can generate free media coverage for a business.

Newsjacking can be planned ahead, based on predictable events in sports, politics, and so forth, or it can be a reaction to breaking news. The second approach requires close monitoring of the news media – even in areas that might not seem to be directly connected to the brand. Setting up news alerts is also essential here.

For newsjacking to work, companies must have Web content management and social media strategies that enable them to turn out new content rapidly – while ensuring that the content has an original angle that is specific to the brand and is also related closely enough to the event in question. Companies use keywords to drive organic search traffic to the content and promote it on social media -- by using a hashtag, for example -- as the buzz around the news story increases.

Newsjacking has some potential drawbacks. Feeding off a news story can seem insensitive or exploitative if done incorrectly – particularly when breaking news stories are tragic or controversial. Audiences will also balk if the campaign is too obviously promoting the company's products and services.

There's also the concern of stepping on other brands' toes – which in some cases can infringe on intellectual property law. Newsjackers must walk a fine line between the risks of jumping on a widely followed event and the potential rewards.

This was last updated in February 2015

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