The art of newsjacking, piggybacking and news hacking

Breaking news and high-profile stories can provide great opportunities to smart businesses who are brave enough – and quick enough – to jump on the back of the headlines and land their brand in the limelight.

‘Newsjacking’ is not for the faint-hearted or risk-averse. Requiring more speed and less haste, it can only work if you move fast. Timing is everything – firstly, to ride the crest of the news wave and secondly to beat your competitors to it.

Humour and poking fun at others are the most common newsjacking tactics and therein lies the risk with humour being both personal (and cultural). One person’s joke could be another person’s insult.   Did you see the Innocent Smoothie newsjacking of Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy? Course you did!

rebekah vardy and coleen rooney innocent

They were really quick off the mark and what made this even smarter was the breaking news itself was all about social media. It wasn’t universally popular – some people ticked them off for being insensitive.  But it got noticed, shared and liked 2.8K times so not a bad result.

If newsjacking isn’t for you, don’t worry.  There are two other great ways to amplify your brand or business.

Piggy Backing

This is the art of tagging your brand or business to a popular story, event or trend. The difference between this and newsjacking is you can plan ahead a bit more – thus giving you thinking time and your client/boss approval time.  An example was M&S rebranding as Markle and Sparkle for three days to celebrate Harry and Meghan’s wedding.  The timing for this was precise and designed to dovetail with all the wedding build-up news, but it would have been planned in and approved.

Essentially a success – it got coverage and plenty of chatter online – it wasn’t perfect as Meghan’s nephew also piggy-backed on the wedding frenzy and developed a blend of cannabis called Markle Sparkle which came to light shortly afterwards.  Squeaky clean M&S got a bit more than they bargained for.  But they got more chatter too if you want to look at it that way (and with newsjacking and piggybacking you have to look at it that way).

Markle and Sparkle

Prepping for piggy backing is important – and the best way is to look ahead to big events such as a Royal Wedding, the Olympic games, general election, Brexit…. you get the idea.  Looking ahead gives you time to plan ahead – but keep alert to changes and updates in the run-up to such events to ensure your piggy backing message and activity remains aligned.

News Agenda Hacking

A third option for amplifying your brand to a like-minded audience is that favourite PR tactic of linking to awareness days, weeks and months.  There does seem to be a day for everything but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater – there are some excellent awareness days and weeks that can be tagged. This month alone we have World Mental Health Day, World Osteoporosis Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.   The organisations behind these welcome – and anticipate – brands piggy backing on their campaigns to boost the awareness and bring wider audience engagement as a result.

A word of warning: be sensitive to what the awareness campaign is aiming to do and be supportive.  Share their links and messages and keep yours carefully in line.  Charities and important causes use their awareness days to drive home serious messages: this is NOT the time or place to poke fun.

Check out inspiration.  Coming up in November you have International Stress Awareness Day (7.11)

World Kindness Day (13/11) and Road Safety Week (19-25/11). And, hey, it’s National Blog Posting month too.

Feeling inspired?

If you’re inspired to try newsjacking, piggy backing or news agenda hacking here are some things to think about:

  • Keep on top of breaking news and headlines – watch news alerts, keep track of threads and topics trending on Twitter and Facebook
  • Be quick and be creative
  • If you can’t be funny, be smart – but don’t try to be ‘too clever’. If people ‘just don’t get it’, you’ll miss the mark and confuse them too.
  • Use social media to host/share your newsjacking
  • Avoid all negative connotations to avoid it backfiring
  • Share your idea with others to get their views before sending it live

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