Is Newsjacking Helping or Hurting Your Brand?

By Jesse Baines. Content Marketing
Who stole my chips?
Is newsjacking helping or hurting your brand?   Credit:  Tim Wang via Flickr  License: CC BY-SA 2.0

When newsjacking is used for good, it can help position you for content marketing success. But when it’s used for evil, it can be ugly.

While the term “newsjacking” may sound a little smarmy, it doesn’t have to be. Originally a slightly lazy content marketing tactic for improving SEO, we marketers have figured out that responsible newsjacking can position your brand as a relevant thought leader contributing to the conversation. More on that later.

So, what is it?

Newsjacking is the process of leveraging trending news to elevate your brand’s message. That’s a pretty broad brush, so consider these examples:

One of the most famous real-time newsjacking tweets comes from Oreo during the 2013 Superbowl. During a painful twenty minute blackout, Oreo sent out a short tweet with a simple pic. “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” The post went gangbusters on social media and enjoyed post-game hype for days after. But if you’re Oreo and you’re already investing $4 million in your Super Bowl ad, you’re probably also accounting for the 36% of Super Bowl fans on their mobile devices during the game. In fact, Oreo had a fifteen person social media team on edge and ready to respond to anything that might or might not happen during the big game. That tweet wasn’t a fluke.

More recently, when the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, making same-sex marriage legal across the nation, hundreds of brands large and small were ready with rainbow-themed celebratory messages on their social media profiles. Now, they’re following up with more in-depth information about what the announcement may mean in their industry: For instance, employment law specialists Ogletree Deakins published a brief covering what the new ruling meant for employers in terms of employee benefits.

Why is it important to be relevant?

Newsjacking serves a very specific purpose. If done correctly, it keeps your brand in the all-powerful Conversation and therefore drives traffic to your social and your website. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, this is important. While good SEO is made of good content, it’s still important to make sure those who visit your site are finding timely, relevant content. If your most recent blog post is last month’s news, you’re not portraying an innovative and thoughtful brand, but a brand who can’t keep up.

What NOT to do.

First, don’t assume that newsjacking will work just because you’ve decided to latch on to something like the Super Bowl. Take a step back and put your spin on topics that make sense for your industry. Remember that the goal is to portray yourself as a thought leader. Thought leaders don’t waste their time on news that doesn’t matter to the industry. Bring the topic back around to how it relates, specifically, to the services you offer.

Don’t be tacky. Recognize that natural disasters and celebrity mishaps are likely not appropriate topics to connect to your brand. Yes, they might be the most searched term that day or even week, but it’s never worth it to risk coming off as opportunistic and thoughtless. Be a good person and don’t capitalize on someone else’s tragedy with a sales pitch.

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On the other hand, Marketwatch utilized a really popular TV show in a playful way to illustrate an on-brand topic in their post 7 Management Lessons from the Walking Dead. I hope you see the difference, because that Sears post is absolutely terrible.

How we do it.

First of all, we’re journalists at heart, and we love a great story. Our goal is to create well researched, newsworthy and shareable content. We love seeing good work, fun videos, inspiring news and cool technology spread over the internet. In fact, we love it so much that we have this little (big) pet project site called Gimundo. Here’s what we like to share at

Articles: We also like to take time and create thoughtful, original and uplifting articles that cover topics from camping to inventions to parenting and more. This is our evergreen content. In some cases, we focus on seasonal content tied to certain events—a story rounding up cool factoids about fatherhood for Father’s Day, for example, or a story on how to celebrate teachers at the tail end of school. As these events recur year after year, we’ll re-share them with our social followers and see a rise in organic traffic for related terms.

Videos: Fun and inspiring viral videos from all over the Internet. As the world makes them, we try to post them.

Stuff we like: All kinds of goodies like books, movies, cool tools, events and anything we just think is pretty awesome lives here.

It’s a mix of thoughtful evergreen articles and timely stories and stuff from around the web. Gimundo is fun and it’s relevant, but still shares thoughtful evergreen content with an ever growing audience.

While Gimundo targets a general audience, most of our content marketing clients are in the B2B and education sectors. So how does newsjacking benefit their content specifically?

Let’s say you’re a bike rental company, with a fleet of two hundred bikes in each of three cities in your tri-state area. You market to cruise line companies, human resource departments, and travel agents. Your blog content often covers topics like the importance of wearing a helmet, great city attractions, and maybe even the health benefits of cycling. This is all great evergreen content.

You went to a bike conference last week and learned about all of this really cool connectivity technology that’s all over the news. It’s called the Internet of Things and it could potentially help you manage your fleet. You’re no expert on IoT yet, but should you present what you learned in your blog? Of course you should.

Follow that post up with another one about the process of implementing this new fleet management tool into your company. Once you’ve done that, write another article that showcases your results. Become an example of how this new technology can work within the bike rental community. Just like that, you’re hitting new markets, because you were willing to take a stab at incorporating a hot, new and timely topic into your web content.

Newsjacking isn’t just taking the topic of the moment and flipping it. That can work, but good newsjacking digs a little deeper. It provides you a platform for discussion and demonstrates that your brand is up to speed and innovative. Contribute to the conversation, and add something new from your own perspective.

Jesse Baines

Jesse Baines

Jesse is an experienced writer and social media strategist who loves finding the good in the world. She serves as a client account manager here at Eucalypt Media. A lifelong Mainer, Jesse is an avid cook, outdoor adventurer, and lover of a good beer and a great story.

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