Even if you haven’t heard of the official term newsjacking, you probably know what it is, because you’ve seen it.
Companies take a newsworthy event and find a way to join the conversation, which benefits their business.
If you’re looking for a way to get yourself out there, newsjacking is one method to consider.
What Is Newsjacking?
Newsjacking has been a PR tool for as long as media has existed. However, David Meerman Scott takes the credit for making it a popularized, modern marketing tool when he published his 2011 book, Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas Into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage.
The idea is that journalists are always looking for more information for their news stories. The basic information goes in the first paragraph, but the rest of the story – well, that’s where newsjacking comes in.
David explains, “The challenge for reporters is to get the ‘why’ and the implications of the event. All this is what goes in the second paragraph and subsequent paragraphs. That’s why the newsjacker’s goal is to own the second paragraph.”
This method also applies to non-written media, such as radio, podcasts, and television.
The Two Types of News Stories
In general, I’d say there are two kinds of news stories:
- Breaking news
- Pre-planned news
An example of breaking news might be a school shooting or flights cancelling due to a storm.
Pre-planned news might be holiday-related news stories or coverage of an inauguration.
The first is much more difficult to manage – you have to get to the right people quickly, because news dies quickly, and it can be old news in a matter of days.
David explains that a news story follows a pattern, similar to that of a story arc. The news event happens, journalists scramble to report it, people get interested in it, the story peaks, and then it’s old news, and you’re too late.
The ideal time for you to “newsjack” is when the journalists scramble to report the event. That, my friends, is really hard. Not impossible, but hard.
The latter is much easier to plan for, but you’re up against more competition in the space. The journalists are going to have more time to weed out potential guests, meaning if someone else has more credentials than you, you’re out of luck.
The only way you’re going to successfully newsjack a story is by stepping in at the right time, and having credible information to offer.
Theoretical Examples of Newsjacking
To give you a few ideas of how newsjacking works, here are a few made-up examples. (I’ll go through real ones in the next section.)
Let’s say you’re an audiologist, and you own a practice where your goal is to sell services and hearing aids. You’re a hearing expert – that’s your credibility.
What kinds of stories could you newsjack?
Let’s say 4th of July is coming up, and your local news program usually does a few stories on firework safety. You could reach out and say that you’d be a great addition to the program by speaking about the effects of hearing damage during fireworks shows. You could suggest that people use hearing protection.
What good does this do you if you aren’t directly asking people to come to your practice?
It’s all about brand awareness.
When people see you and hear you and recognize your business name, you’re starting a very advantageous pattern of events. The end goal being that the consumer thinks of your business the next time they need that type of service.
Here’s another example.
Let’s say you’re a dog trainer, and there was just a huge drug bust in your town. You might reach out to your local news station and offer up insight into how dogs successfully sniff out drugs.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about that subject, but you get the idea.
6 Real Examples of Newsjacking
In case you’re wondering how newsjacking works in real life, here are 6 examples.
In each example, you’ll notice that the topic is pertinent to today’s news stories, and the person being interviewed makes for a good fit for the story.
1. The Parkland, Florida Shooting
On March 7, 2018, The Huffington Post published an article about how the constitution allegedly gives gun owners more rights than women. The writer interviewed Jessica Neuwirth, president of the ERA Coalition.
For Jessica, this is prime newsjacking. This discussion is in its peak right now because of the Parkland, Florida shooting. Jessica’s goal is to amend the Constitution, so being interviewed and forwarding her agenda in the media is exactly what she wants to do.
2. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting
Forgive us for being so grim, but shootings are at the top of the news cycle right now, making them (in a twisted way) a great place for certain experts to gain media coverage.
In an NPR piece about how to discuss terrible things, like shootings, to your kids, the reporter interviewed a school psychologist. OK, she’s more than that – she’s the former National Association of School Psychologists president and co-author of its PREPaRE School Crisis Prevention and Intervention curriculum.
I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said you have to have credentials to get on the news. As an aside, stellar credentials help you get on major national publications, but you don’t have to be a celebrity to get on local media.
Back to it – Melissa Reeves was able to gain attention for not only herself, but for the NASP by using her insight into psychology in this interview.
3. The 66% Increase in ER Visits for Opioid Overdoses in Illinois
Here’s a more localized example – a story that pertains to Illinois citizens.
While the story gets quotes from very public people, such as the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is one individual who stands out as a prime newsjacking subject.
That’s Dr. Thomas Eiseman, an addiction medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.
His credentials line up with this story, and the report is able to gather insights from an expert. It’s a win-win.
4. Insurance Coverage for Sexual Harassment Claims
Here’s an insurance-related example of newsjacking, which comes from Insurance Journal.
The article is on helping employers understand how insurance works with sexual harassment claims.
The newsjacker in question is Marie-France Gelot, the senior vice president in insurance broker Lockton’s Northeast operation.
5. Denying Health Insurance Claims
Another insurance-related article features – count ‘em! – 4 insurance experts. In fact, the entire article is from the interviews with these 4 individuals.
We have a guy in insurance sales, an insurance company project manager, a woman who works in medical billing and claims, and a contract negotiator.
They’re all sharing their own stories with health insurance, and they’re also getting their name out there.
Since the entire article is a prime example of newsjacking, I’ll share the link: https://splinternews.com/a-glimpse-into-the-bureaucratic-hell-of-denying-health-1823560356.
6. National Nutrition Month
For the final example, I’m actually going to show you an article I wrote for the local agency – Sams/Hockaday & Associates.
I actually invited nutritionists to contribute to this article that was published right at the top of National Nutrition Month. It’s newsworthy, as it coincides with the event of the month, but it’s pre-planned, meaning I had more time to vet the potential subjects.
There were actually 3 contributors, but here’s an example of one: Dr. Barry Sears, the creator of the Zone diet.
The Ultimate Goal of Newsjacking
By now, I’m hoping you’re starting to get a good idea of what newsjacking is and how it works.
The main goal of newsjacking is to receive attention – to get your name out there. In marketing speak, we call this “brand recognition.”
The benefit of being recognized is that your brand is at the top of someone’s mind when they end up needing your service.
So, when someone finally reaches age 65, you want them to say, “Oh yeah, I remember that one guy – that guy who’s the Medicare expert. I’m going to search for him since I know who he is.”
You’ve established yourself as the expert, and while it might not pay off that day, you’ll likely see an increase in business with time.
How to Use Newsjacking to Get Recognition
I’ve mapped out 4 steps that will help you get featured in the media. None of it’s hard, but it will require a little bit of time.
In order to successfully newsjack, you have to make sure you’re being featured in (or are trying to be featured in) topics that directly relate to your expertise.
Step 1: Know your area of expertise
Please, for the love of God, do NOT try to weasel your way into a news story that doesn’t directly deal with your line of credibility.
Not only is it flat-out annoying to the reporter, but they might blacklist you for future stories and articles.
Here’s an example I recently dealt with myself.
I mentioned earlier that I recently interviewed a few nutritionists for an article on healthy eating.
I personally use the platform Help A Reporter Out (HARO) in order to send out a query and receive responses from qualified experts.
(As an aside, you can create an account there in order to receive those queries and submit your own responses in the hopes of being featured in an article. They’re not always news-related, but free PR is free PR.)
I was looking for qualified nutritionists to give unique, insightful advice on healthy eating after age 60.
Some of the best responses were really thorough – they completely answered my question, and the contributor was actually a nutritionist. Some were also authors or gym owners, but you get the idea.
Some of the annoying contributors were clearly just looking for free press for their product or company. They weren’t actually providing insightful information.
Even worse, their area of expertise wasn’t directly related to my query, and they were trying to wriggle their way in by desperately trying to connect the dots.
Here’s an example of a PR agency who suggested a woman who is an expert in human/canine fitness.
You can see that I rated the pitch as off topic, which goes toward the overall score of that account. For larger companies, they might just add your name to a blacklist sheet.
So, I would take a minute to write some of the topics you consider yourself an expert in. Next to that topic, write your credentials that give you credibility in that topic. If you don’t have any, you likely aren’t going to be chosen as an expert for a news story.
Here’s an example to get your creative juices flowing:
Step 2: Start local
Walk before you run.
Local news stations are more likely to want local contributors, and once you have a few appearances or features, you can use that as added credibility to jump up into more popular publications.
Make a document of potential news stations and publications to reach out to, and look for a way to contact an editor or someone who puts the news content together.
You can usually find this in the footer of a website or on the contact page. There might also be a clear place to submit a news tip or an event.
So, do some online searching for the following:
- Radio stations
- Local magazines
- News stations (television)
- Digital publications (blogs, news sites, local websites)
And make a list of the contact people for each one.
You can go about this 2 ways:
- You can contact the editor with a specific contribution idea, or
- You can ask him or her to reach out to you if they ever need insight or commentary on your area of expertise.
Step 3: Map out events and send in your pitches
As I mentioned earlier, newsjacking a breaking news story is really difficult. So in order to dip your toes in the water, consider going for a pre-planned news event.
One example that comes to mind is… you probably already thought of this… the annual open enrollment period.
You might consider reaching out to local news stations and publications about the event.
Mention your credentials, which should include information like:
- How many years you’ve been in the insurance industry
- What education you have
- How many individuals you’ve helped with their insurance
- Any publications or other news features you’ve done
Offer up some advice to seniors who will be entering AEP. Be thorough with your pitch, and consider the questions seniors will be asking – all of them.
One way to quickly come up with potential questions is to go through the tried-and-true WWWWH model. That’s right – who, what, when, where, and how.
- What is the AEP?
- Who does this effect?
- When does the AEP take place?
- Where do I go to sign up?
- How do I sign up?
The more thorough you are, the more likely the editor is to choose you.
Step 4: Don’t sell
I know it hurts to read that. It really does. But seriously… don’t sell.
You’re taking the same approach you would with a potential client sitting across the kitchen table.
Do not give a sales pitch – always be thinking with an education-first mindset.
Not only will a sales pitch be the quickest way to get yourself banned from a publication, but people see right through it, especially seniors.
We all can easily pick out who’s being genuine and honest, so lead with that! If you go into this with the right attitude – the attitude of wanting to be helpful, the rest will follow naturally.
Let’s close this up
So, there you have it. Newsjacking doesn’t have to be difficult – and once you get your foot in the door, you’re more likely to become a regular fixture in the publication.
For me, it’s much easier to go back to someone I’ve worked with before when I need insights into their area of expertise.
It’s so much easier than starting from scratch.
Be kind, be humble, and don’t be salesy.
That’s all there is to it.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve had any success with this – have you been able to get featured in the media? What was your experience like?