Newsjacking: A New PR Approach Or Just A Gimmick?

It goes without saying that getting media coverage for a client is a pretty sizable part of the job if you are a PR professional. Whether you choose to stick with traditional print and broadcast media or go the digital path by pursuing social media and blog coverage, telling an eye-catching story or creating a newsworthy pitch is required.

A press release, however, isn’t the only way to get a client’s name in the news these days. PR professionals, meet “Newsjacking.” You’re going to want to get familiar, for better or for worse.

David Meerman Scott describes the “Newsjacking process” in his article appropriately titled “How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage.” The general gist of his article is this:

“The rules have changed. The traditional PR model—sticking closely to a preset script and campaign timeline—no longer works the way it used to.  Public discourse now moves so fast and so dynamically that all it takes is a single afternoon to blast the wheels off someone’s laboriously crafted narrative.

Enter newsjacking: the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business. It creates a level playing field—literally anyone can newsjack—but, that new level favors players who are observant, quick to react, and skilled at communicating. It’s a powerful tool that can be used to throw an opponent or simply draft off the news momentum to further your own ends.”

At first glance, it appears the same as pitching a reporter a tie-in story or a follow up that is marginally related to the main story that would be easy to tie-in.  For example, during the H1N1 flu scare in 2010, a tie in article might reference a pharmacy client’s flu-shots rush.

Newsjacking, however, plays on the media’s 24 hour news cycle and the need for news organizations to constantly update stories to make them seem fresh.  Scott calls Newsjacking the way to “own the second paragraph.”

A news story breaks. Journalists are under pressure to update for the next broadcast. The main story may not change, but the second paragraph gets new quotes, details, or insights from eyewitnesses and experts. Newsjacking is simply providing that fresh take for the second paragraph, and providing enough new information to be picked up by other media outlets.

To make this work, Scott says you’ve got to observant, quick to react, and skilled at communicating. I would agree, and add the caveat that a worthwhile story provides a legitimate angle, it doesn’t just take advantage of an existing story. While I don’t think this should or will become a PR professional’s go-to for media coverage, it’s an interesting approach to keep in your back pocket.

What do you think? Have you ever “newsjacked” a story successfully or is this something you wouldn’t do?

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