Newsjacking – 21 Ways to Be Sure You’re Doing it Right

Friday, August 14th, 2015

There is one thing we never run out of us – news.

There is always something happening in the world, and there are always marketers looking to capitalize on it.

After all, going viral is one of the best ways to generate traffic.

Enter newsjacking.



While the name sounds like a shady exchange of gossip in a back alley, newsjacking is actually an authentic means of generating traffic and continuing meaningful conversation.

It’s authentic if you’re doing it right, that is.

Surf Trending Topics

If you’re going to use the news to your favor, you have to know what the news actually is. Keep tabs on trending topics so that you can hop into the fray at the critical moment. That critical moment is the slot of time after the news has broken for the first time and before the news media writes a follow-up story with more details. If possible, you want to be the details the major news outlet provides.

You can only do this if you are absolutely in tune with the media and know how to smoothly hijack the news for your own purposes in a way that others will appreciate as well. It’s very much an art form.

Set Up Notifications

As a beginner in the field of newsjacking, you can start by simply setting up some notifications through Google or other social media monitoring sites. Watching the media can be a full-time job, and it’s one that a lot of professionals can’t handle without help. Enter the alerts. Every day you can get alerts on what’s trending as well specific alerts about keywords related to your industry.

Of course, the easiest newsjacking is done within your own industry simply because things fit together in the minds of readers. The news is about new healthcare guidelines and you sell healthcare supplements. It’s an easy pairing for you as you build on the news and for readers who want to make the connection as they read.

Digiorno Pizza

Digiorno Pizza


Expand Your Horizons

That being said, the easy way out is not always the best. Don’t just stick to your obvious industry. Once you have the feel for newsjacking under your belt, it may be time to expand out of your obvious industry and try something a bit more attention getting and entertaining.

For example, DiGiorno Pizza decided to live tweet the live television production of The Sound of Music. Pizza doesn’t have much to do with musicals, but thanks to a clever media manager, DiGiorno tweets were one of the most enjoyable parts of the production for many viewers. Among the most tongue-in-cheek, DiGiorno wondered:

Be Discerning

The DiGiorno example above worked only because the media specialist making the tweets was able to tap into the minds of those watching the show. It was like the pizza company was one of the regular viewers who also just happens to sell pizza.

When you choose news to hijack, it is important to work within an appropriate zone or your attempts will fall flat. Worse, your hijack can take on a life of its own, but certainly not in a good way. Godiva learned this the hard way when they tried to force a connection between Thanksgiving turkey and luxury chocolates. Hint: They don’t go together no matter how much you try.



Check Your Keywords

Newsjacking is a form of internet marketing, and as such it should be treated with the same approach as your other marketing. You’re writing an article, it should contain relevant keywords and links. Be careful to include those keywords naturally, of course. After all, the point of newsjacking is to have your article or tweet be read, enjoyed and shared. Keyword stuffed nonsense isn’t going to be enjoyed by anyone. Be thoughtful about hashtags as well, especially if you’re on Twitter – those hashtags can take on a life of their own and propel your posts and hashtags into viral territory.

Read the Rest of the News

You’re not going to be a very good newsjacker if you’re the second or third to hijack a particular story. At least it would be embarrassing if you took what you thought was a bold approach and found out you were the second or third to do so.

For example, Kate Winslet rescued Richard Branson’s elderly mother in a fire a few years ago. The event made the news and the London Fire Brigade hopped on the thread. The Brigade offered Kate firefighting training publically. News outlets caught the story and the firefighting training became a bigger story than the actual rescue because it was well timed and clever.

Read the Rest

Read the Rest

If any other fire brigade thought to offer Kate course or congratulations we don’t know. Those tweets and posts never made the news because London Fire Brigade beat them to the punch. The lesson here for you is simple: When you want to newsjack, work quickly to be first, but keep checking the news. If you get scooped, your efforts are for naught.

Add to the Discussion, Don’t Interrupt It

The Kate Winslet fire discussion above is a perfect example of a natural connection. The newsjack actually made the original story more interested and added to the natural discussion around the event. The mass media picked up on the new caveat to the story, and suddenly the free lessons were in every story about the event and the exposure for the fire brigade was huge and positive.

There are many excellent examples of companies making a natural connection and improving the discussion. There are just as many examples of companies making themselves look foolish when they caused discussion to come to a screeching halt while everyone scratched their heads and tried to figure out what was going on.

This disconnect often occurs in articles where a tie is simply too stretched to make sense. Robin Williams didn’t teach anyone about career transitions and Nelson Mandela had absolutely nothing of value to say about internet marketing. Trying to force topics together that don’t make sense makes you look ridiculous. Don’t do it.

Force Topics Together

Force Topics Together


It goes without saying that newsjacking isn’t a leisurely pursuit. If you’re going to do it and do it well, you must quickly to hit the sweet spot after news breaks and before the more in-depth articles appear online. If you’re late to the table, you may still be able to hop into the discussion, but move carefully so that you’re offering something new and meaningful, not out of touch and ridiculous.

Skip the Nit-Picking This Time

In the interest of time, this is a good time to skip your perfectionist tendencies. Yes, the article you’re writing or the tweet you’re preparing is going to be part of your overall brand marketing strategy, but no, you don’t have time to agonize over details and send out the article for proofreading and phrase analysis. Write it, post it, and hopefully enjoy the results of your efforts.

Pop Culture v. Politics

Savvy newsjackers know that the best topics are those associated with pop culture, or the topics that are trending right this minute with the critical “in-the-know” demographics. The worst topics to try and newsjack are those with highly divided readerships.

For example, when the Super Bowl experiences a blackout, the world knows. It’s a collective part of our pop culture now. Oreo hit the mark by letting us know that you can still dunk in the dark via Twitter. It was timely, clever and not at all divisive.



If you tried to newsjack something from the recent Republican debate, on the other hand, you’re going to be playing with fire as there are so many strong opinions. A newsjack will almost certainly be considered choosing sides, which isn’t a good marketing move for most companies.

Treat Tragedy Delicately

Dark stories deserve special treatment. Emotions run high in a tragedy such as the Sandy Hook shooting or the wide spread destruction of a hurricane. When Cairo was rioting, Kenneth Cole thought to hijack a bit of news for marketing reasons.

Treat Tragedy Delicately

Treat Tragedy Delicately

Their assertion that the political riots in Cairo were about the new spring collection of Kenneth Cole fell decidedly flat and the public was not amused.

Use an Appropriate Angle

When newsjacking, the angle you take to the news is as important as the timing itself. As we stated previously, you must make a natural connection to your news in your post and you must also try to create a new buzz. In many cases this is simply a new angle you’re taken.

Save the Children did this well in the immediate follow-up to the Sandy Hook school shooting. While parents were numb with fear, Save the Children could have made a huge misstep, but instead released a list of “10 Tips for Helping Children Cope.” The approach was novel, helpful and resonated with parents. It was a huge help not just for the parents trying to process the tragedy, but created a tremendous bit of positive exposure for the non-profit as well.

Save the Children

Save the Children

Stay Positive

Save the Children did it well. Stay positive in your newsjacking. While readers may enjoy commenting on negative stories, negativity in the news reflects poorly on your company. Being clever, amusing and even mildly sarcastic are considered a great thing in newsjacking. Being critical is not.

We don’t slam the Super Bowl committee for losing power. We dunk Oreos instead.

We don’t mock how uninspiring The Sound of Music turned out to be. We wonder about pizza instead.

Positive, classy and amusing wins every time.

Know Your Vehicle (Hashtags, etc)

If you’re going to newsjack, it’s important that you know how to do it. We don’t mean the steps here, we mean actually knowing how to work with Twitter or post articles correctly with keywords and categories.

While they seem like an afterthought, hashtags can be a huge part of a post for either positive or negative reasons. A clever or meaningful hashtag inspires others to post using your hashtag, growing your influence. A badly placed hashtag, on the other hand, can spell doom.

Ask Kmart how badly this can work. After a meaningful tweet about their thoughts and prayers following the Newtown shooting, they used the hashtags #PrayforNewtown and #Fab15Toys. Accidental or intentional, it went over like a ton of bricks.

Know Your Vehicle

Know Your Vehicle

Market Your Marketing

It’s not enough to post your clever message or tweet and hope that the world will notice. Like so many things in internet marketing, you’re going to have to force people to notice. You must market your marketing.

Use social media channels, keywords, networks and any other vehicle you can find to get the word out. Hopefully after an initial marketing blitz, your message will get picked up and spread on its own, but never leave campaigns to chance.

Clever Wins Every Time

As so many of the previous tips have shown, being clever means being appreciated by the right people in social media. Social media users expect amusing, intelligent banter and fun online.

As you are contemplating what to write, skip the more traditional, educational message and go with the more tongue-in-check message with a bit of a virtual nod to those who will hopefully appreciate your astuteness to pass it on.

Keep it Relevant

As more people newsjack, it’s easy to see the messages and topics start to skew so far off topic that they no longer make sense and companies just look silly. Keep your message relevant and connected well enough that nobody is going to wonder what you’re doing.

If a particular news item has been beaten to death, don’t add to the madness. Just skip that news story and wait for something new to come along where your message can be heard more clearly and you don’t run the risk of going too far away from relevancy.

Brand Development not Sales Materials

The vast majority of successful newsjacking is done for brand recognition, not direct marketing. The Kenneth Cole Cairo riots over clothing lines, the Kmart Fab15Toys in the wake of a tragedy as well as many other examples show that the public is not interested and will become hugely uncomfortable when companies try to sell things through newsjacking.

If you do mess up this cardinal rule, you’ll be doing some serious brand clean-up online.

Hugely Uncomfortable

Hugely Uncomfortable

After reminding us all how important it is to stay inside and shop for new clothing in the midst of a hurricane, Gap then had to explain that their messages were more about safety and less about online sales.



The explanation barely got noticed. The misguided original tweet is still famous as an example of what not to do.

Consider Transparency

With newsjacking, your audience almost certainly knows what you’re doing, embrace it. This is where the self-depreciating sense of irony comes into the tweets and articles. Newsjacking is an art form and the vast majority of jacks are done around pop culture stories where savvy internet users are waiting and amused by companies and other entities posting purely for their entertainment.

This is not an audience of sheep and barely savvy users. Newsjacking reaches a more discerning audience and you should embrace this as you create and post. Trying to slip in some sales speech or market directly will likely make your audience feel betrayed and uncomfortable. This is the opposite of your goal here.

Stay Consistent

If you’re going to newsjack, you must continue to newsjack. You can’t do something clever once and then never do it again. This isn’t to say you must comment on everything out there under the sun, but a savvy marketer knows that when the opportunity presents itself, he must strike. If you’re not striking at least with some frequency, nobody is going to pay attention anymore and you will cease to be relevant.

Build Evergreen Content, Too

Finally, while newsjacking is fun and can be hugely successful, it is a form of brand marketing – not direct marketing. Those impressed with your cleverness will follow you or visit your site wanting more. This is why you must continue to build meaningful site content and other articles as well. Newsjacking may get you noticed, but your evergreen content will make those new readers stick around.

Newsjacking is becoming an increasingly common means of brand development and marketing. Of course, like anything, some companies are newsjacking well and others are creating disasters that will be discussed for years as what not to do.

The big question is simply: Are you ready to take on newsjacking?

29 responses to “Newsjacking – 21 Ways to Be Sure You’re Doing it Right”

  1. Hey Uttoran,

    This is a great article, i loved reading it and definitely learned something new 🙂

    I hadn’t thought about setting up notifications to jump on the wave in real-time, so that’s quite smart! Great example of DiGiornio Pizza.

    Assuring that there is relevance is key here, and the chocolate bar definitely missed the mark. Kenneth Cole probably lost a lot of symphathy..awful tweet. London Fire Brigade on the other hand took great advantage of the opportunity when it arised.

    I agree on the hurrying part, shipping fast is important or the wave may have already passed.

    Clever does win and Kevin makes an excellent point. If you can make people laugh, they’ll be more interested and like you more.

    Another thing you can do is be controversial. It’s hard, but when done the right way can result in massive reach.
    WordStream does this well, by regularly challenging Google’s statements and backing it up.

    Thanks a lot for sharing Uttoran!

    – Jasper

    • Uttoran Sen says:

      Hey Jasper,

      Thank you for the comment,
      Glad you liked the article,

      I did a longer list of social media fails for a Guest Post on Kiss Metrics, the link is available on the post, do check it. You will find a lot of really awful tweets! Kenneth Cole’s tweet was a bit too bad, Gap tried to get some business out of Sandy – not good either.

      In the past when I used Google Trends heavily for running a news blog, it was all about speed. Being the first one to come up with the article on the trending topic means hitting a jackpot and you don’t want to miss out on that. Now it is a lot more difficult, due to the competition. The same thing applies to NewsJacking – if we are the first, and the trend is on the rise – that is pretty much the best time to jump on it.

      Love Kevin’s humor, it is almost impossible to beat his brand of humor.

      Uttoran Sen,

  2. Sunday says:

    Well, its good to learn of the 21 ways to do newsjacking right. I have learned from it, and most especially, the idea of discerning the news to determine the appropriateness. I guess its time to further implement the rules shared here 😀
    I left the above comment in as well

  3. Hey Uttoran,

    First time here on this blog. I came here via Theodore’s link after he left a comment on my blog. Thanks Theodrore!

    I love this post on newsjacking. I had not heard of this as a means of marketing before today, but I am happy to learn of it. What a clever way to get your content to go viral and generate traffic in a split second.

    One things for sure is you better dot your i’s and cross your t’s before implementing newsjacking or else I can see it going bad quiakly.

    A key takeaway here whether it be newsjacking or anything else you need to make sure whatever you are talking about or comparing is relevant.

    Kevin Duncan is really good at adding humor to his writing. Thanks for sharing.


    • Hello Kurt,
      Welcome to Guest Crew community. I’m really pleased to have you and hoping you’ll be visiting often :). Indeed, I love what you’re doing on your blog, do keep it up.

      I’m also happy that you found the post helpful and I’m certain that you’ll get good result if you implement the strategies nicely.

      As for Kelvin, he’s really very good and I enjoy his writing too. He sure knows how to write with empathy.

      Thanks for coming Kurt.

  4. Rachit says:

    Awesome post,

    What I love is the clever and beautiful use of tweets you’ve done. The post was information stuffed as usual.

    I liked what neil and david said on this topic.

    Thanks for sharing, will surely implement this hot shots.

  5. Hello Rachit,

    I’m glad you like the post
    Don’t forget to let us know the outcome after implementing it.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Theodore Nwangene
    Guest Crew community manager

  6. Debbie says:

    Blogging offers endless possibilities.
    I have never tried working this way, but it can be a great addition to any content for sure.
    Thanks for sharing these awesome tips!

    • Thedore Nwangene

      Hello Debbie,
      Welcome to Guest Crew community. It’s really good to have you around.

      Blogging really offers endless opportunities and i bet you that there are lots of other things we don’t know about blogging yet :).

      Thanks for coming Debbie, looking forward to seeing you around more often.

      Theodore Nwangene
      Guest Crew community manager.

  7. Hi Uttoran

    I am glad I got to this post through Theodore’s link on my blog.

    Very interesting article with some very clever marketing strategies and ways to make your blog/post go viral. I have never heard of news jacking before until I am reading it here. You made good use of the tweets to articulate your points and your ideas. I especially loved the one from Rebekah.

    Thanks for sharing these great tips with your audience.

  8. Thedore Nwangene

    Welcome on bored Yvonne,
    You’re really doing an awesome job on your blog. Please do keep it up.

    News Jacking is really a new language to lots of people and thats why we can never know everything.

    I’m glad you found the post useful.

    Thanks for the visit.

    Theodore Nwangene
    Guest Crew community manager.

  9. H Uttoran,

    What a wonderful article, “Newsjacking-21 Ways To Be Sure You’re Doing It Right. Trending topics to keep up with whats going on in the world today and writing your article around that.

    This is a method professionals use and one that I am learning through your article.

    This is the first time I’ve heard of Newsjacking and am simply amazed with your article.

    Thanks for sharing, Uttoran and you have a wonderful night and week ahead!


    • Hello Linda,
      Welcome to the Guest Crew community. I’m glad you took the time to pay us a visit and also left a wonderful comment.

      Its also good to hear that you like the post.

      Thanks for the visit.

      Theodore Nwangene
      Guest Crew communiy manager

  10. Hi Uttoran/Theodore,

    Interesting and unique post, indeed! 🙂

    It is undeniable that I learn new things here. This is the first time I knew about newsjacking (I even browsing it for more understanding about newsjacking). 😀

    To be honest, I have not thought about it yet. I think if newsjacking done right, we can get a lot of traffic to our site. It is a great idea.

    Maybe this time I only knew about newsjacking. But someday I will learn it and use it for my business needs. 😉

    Thanks for sharing this with us.
    Have a great day for you!


    • Welcome to Guest Crew community Nanda,
      I’m happy to hear that you found the post interesting. Just try and practice the tips on Newjacking and I’m sure you will like the outcome.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Theodore Nwangene
      Guest Crew community manager.

  11. Abhilash PS says:

    Informative article!!! This blog looks amazing in design and work. Well Done! Thedore, You earned it. Thank you for your informative article. keep posting these type of useful articles for other bloggers or your blogging friends.

  12. Mairaj says:

    Hi Theodore,

    This post is the real proof of your hardwork, that who much time and effort you spent for writing such and amazing post.

    Right now i bookmark this piece of information and read it thoroughly once more time for batter understanding.

    Thanks for wonderful sharing 🙂

  13. Sue Bride says:

    Mainstream media constantly newsjacks doesn’t it? I didn’t know the term for it before reading this though.

    With breaking news in newspapers, print and online, information is often almost identical. They have to get the content out there, however little detail they have. Later they’ll post more and add opinions. Social media is often used for their initial announcement, together with letting us know there will be more to come. Their first source of info often comes from Social Media too, particularly Twitter.

    One of my favorite TV shows was The Newsroom with their frantic efforts to be the first to break the news – occasionally getting the facts wrong.

    I’ll have to think more on how to apply the technique myself. Thank you Uttoran.

    • Hello Sue,
      Thanks a lot for the visit and for leaving such a lovely comment here, you’re so sweet :).

      I’m glad you like the post and don’t forget to let us know the result if you eventually try the techniques.

      Theodore Nwangene
      Guest Crew community manager

  14. Joy Healey

    Hi Uttoran/Theodore,

    Very interesting article thanks – I’d never really thought about newsjacking before, so I learned a lot from reading it.

    Some of the examples were dreadful (GAP) – really, doesn’t anyone use a little thought process before puting their corporate feet in it so badly?

    And of course some were delightful – like the Sound of Music / Pizza.

    A risky business I guess, but very effective if done intelligently.


    • I agree with you Joy,
      I usually wonder on that as well. I’m glad you learned something from the post.

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion 🙂 and do have a lovely week.

      Theodore Nwangene
      Guest Crew community manager

  15. Hey Theodore, thanks for bringing Uttoran to the table.

    Epic post, Uttoran.

    There’s many ways to get people’s attention and following and newsjacking is a really interesting (and hot) one.

    It’s a great way to put out relevant and trendy blog posts, also to spice up your emails and get people interested in opening them 🙂

    Wonderful case studies, here, as well as technique.

    Definitely will share this out!

    • Uttoran Sen says:

      Hey David,

      welcome to Guest Crew and thanks for your comment,
      Glad you liked the post,

      Newsjacking has worked out extremely well for us so far. I guess in the past when we used to take benefit of trends and sort of used it for our own content promotions – we never really used a term like Newsjacking, we just did it without giving the technique a name.

      Uttoran Sen,

  16. Rana irfan says:

    really very interesting new about these persons. from these personalities i know about Ana Hoffman and Rebekah Radice. these are very nice and likely pesonalities. i like them and their work. i apprecite their work. any way thanks for these good news about these persons.
    Rana irfan recently posted…Happy new year greetings for daughterMy Profile

  17. i am agree with the saying of David Leonhardt
    If you’re going to newsjack, you must continue to newsjack. You can’t do something clever once and then never do it again. This isn’t to say you must comment on everything out there under the sun, but a savvy marketer knows that when the opportunity presents itself, he must strike. If you’re not striking at least with some frequency, nobody is going to pay attention anymore and you will cease to be relevant.really very interesting article.thanks for nice sharing.
    Muhammad jamshaid recently posted…Love quotes for husband from wifeMy Profile

  18. […] Highly Recommended: NEWSJACKING – 21 WAYS TO BE SURE YOU’RE DOING IT RIGHT […]

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