Newsjacking: a PR/marketing practice wherein a brand creates content around a current news story to “inject their ideas,” with the intention that reporters will find it by Googling keywords/searching hashtags & include it to flesh out their articles or present a fresh angle.
Black hat: achieving goals in an unethical or deceptive manner. For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll define it as “an ethical frowny face“.
We stuff craft headlines with current keywords. We comment on trending topics and hashtag our thoughts so they make it into the Main Stream. We raffle off tickets to our big deal sports franchise and run ads with our city’s celebrities, because they’re hot & they get people’s attention.
Newsjacking proper, as very recently coined in David Meerman Scott‘s new booklet Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story & Get Tons of Media Coverage, makes the riding-popular-coattails concept overt: when news breaks that you can connect your brand to, do it. Fast. Use search—journalist’s search—to get earned media.
For PR folks, it means no longer offering their clients to the media for comment, but preparing that comment immediately, garnishing it with a topical linkbait headline & letting Google bring the media to them. It’s earned media predicated on reporter laziness/desperation.
I totally admit it, and it works. When Travel Manitoba released the ‘Manitoba Time’ slogan, I whipped up a visual reaction of a product: iPhone & desktop wallpapers. I even wrote an SEO-supercharged bald-faced lie as a headline, with a little asterisk to deflect culpability (I can do that; I’m not the media).
Just like David Scott said they would, a journalist jumped on the content & blogged about it. My site saw many a hit. Earned media crowned my work “clever” and “fun” (it totally is).
And this sort of newsjacking—cultural commentary, contributing to and expanding on a meme, idea or event—seems valid. The creator gives something back to the conversation.
But are we comfy with our news being padded with product placement?
I avoid tabloid journalism because bias makes me angry. I believe anything wearing the badge of ‘news’ is honour-bound to be fair, because people who aren’t educated enough to see through spin will take opinion as fact. And they’ll have few defences against subtle advertising.
I know news and PR have a long relationship (but not enough about that relationship to write something glibly sarcastic. Put that in for me, willya?). The PR folks I’ve invited to comment have been rolling their eyes since the (coveted) second paragraph. “Erica,” they say gently, patting me on the head like a small, slow child, “things are the same as they ever were, just faster.”
It’s probably naive to think otherwise. I’ve been the subject of news articles and understand how crafted the images and quotes that go with them are. I know you need humans to make a good story.
So I ask my reporter friends to read between the attractively-spaced lines when you Google for a story. I know you need good stuff to get more eyeballs on your stories < sites < ads. But don’t get jacked.
I discovered David & his Newsjacking ebook on the Marketing Over Coffee podcast. Uneasy, I almost turned it off, but I’m glad I didn’t.