Clara Mathews

Newsjacking Can Be Good for Your Brand if Done Right, or it can be tragic!

Newsjacking for your brandThe term Newsjacking, coined by David Meerman Scott refers to the act of leveraging a big news story or popular event to draw attention to your own content, product or brand.

Newsjacking Done Right

Oreo’s did it right with their Facebook post during the 2013 SuperBowl blackout. Within minutes of the blackout, they posted a photo with the caption “Power Out? No ProblemYou Can Still Dunk in the Dark.” The post has received over 19,000 likes, over 700 comments, and over 6,000 shares.

Events like the recent World Cup, the World Series and the Academy Awards are perfect opportunities for newsjacking.

Ellen DeGeneres actually crashed Twitter with a celebrity packed selfie at the 2014 Academy Awards which has hit over 2.5 million retweets and 1.5 million favorites.

These are just a few examples of successful newsjacking. But when it is done wrong, newsjacking can be disastrous.

Newsjacking Done Wrong

Hurricane Sandy and Other Natural Disasters

Newsjacking during a tragedy is almost always a bad idea. Brands who tried to use Hurricane Sandy to promote themselves by capitalizing on a natural disaster was a disaster.

The Gap, Barney’s New York and InStyle Magazine posted updates on social media to promote everything from cosmetics to fashion. The Date Report, a dating website posted a blog titled “18 of Our Favorite Hurricane Sandy Date Ideas followed by another post, 4 Important Survival Tips for You and Your Hurricane Boyfriend .

Valentino at Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Funeral

There is no shortage of opportunities to find a celebrity carrying a designer handbag. Even so, Valentino’s marketing team released photos of actress, Amy Adams carrying one of the designer’s handbags with a press release stating: “We are pleased to announce Amy Adams carrying the Valentino Garavany Rockstar bag from Spring/Summer 2014 collection on Feb. 6 in New York.

This caused an uproar on the internet, accusing Valentino of poor taste, as well as a negative backlash from Amy Adams and the media.

DiGiornos Pizzas Hashtag Fail

Using hashtags is a common practice on social media. But you should be careful when you piggy back your brand on a popular hashtag. The #WhyIStayed hashtag was created to show support for Janay Palmer, wife of Baltimore Raven other victims of domestic violence.

DiGiorno Pizza committed a major ‘hashtag fail’ when they used the #WhyIStayed hashtag to promote their brand.

Controversy Can Backfire

Political pundit, Anne Coulter learned how hashtag hijacking can backfire. Her attempt to make fun of Michelle Obama’s support of the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign turned into an Internet meme with hundreds of negative comments.

Before you tweet with a hashtag, make sure you understand what the hashtag means. Some controversy is good, but you must do it the right way.

How to Avoid Newsjacking Disasters

In his book, Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story, Meerman Scott says “You need to balance the need to be quick and bold with the imperative to be in tune.” He also advices you follow a few simple rules when you are considering newsjacking a tragic news event, such a well publicized death, war or a natural disaster:

  • Don’t get too cute, witty or clever—especially where human suffering is involved.
  • Be upbeat and positive, never mean or vindictive.
  • Write articulate text in full sentences, without chatty slang, corporate jargon or social media shorthand.

Newsjacking and other types of real time marketing can be like walking a tightrope between a viral success story and a PR nightmare. Newsjacking when done right can earn your brand thousands of new followers, retweets and shares on social media, as well as send droves of traffic to your website. Have you tried newsjacking or hashtag hijacking before? Did it work? Comment below and let’s discuss.


Clara Mathews

Clara Mathews is the owner of Clarabela Media. She is a Content Marketing Strategist, Copywriter & Social Media Manager. She lives in Dallas with her sock-stealing terrier, Huckleberry.

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