Newsjacking as part of your SEO strategy

In a recent Newsjacking webinar from SEMrush, we noted some key takeaways for how companies can leverage news stories for brand marketing.

What is Newsjacking?

Newsjacking is the process by which you inject your ideas into a breaking news story to generate attention for your business. Brands are increasingly engaging in this type of brand journalism, creating a steady flow of content that becomes a central part of their website and online presence. Newsjacking can increase referrals, organic traffic, and conversions.

Perhaps one of the most memorable examples was Oreo’s tweet, designed and approved within minutes, and sent out almost as soon as power was lost at the Superbowl in 2013: ‘Power Out? No problem’, with this powerfully simple graphic attached:


The tweet garnered more attention for the brand than its notoriously competitive and pricey TV ad. Within the first hour, the message was retweeted 15,811 times and drew 19,610 Facebook likes, while Oreo got boatloads of positive free media coverage that lasted for days. 

Real-time reactions

As Oreo demonstrated, the key is to jump on events as the news is breaking. Journalists are always looking for the most notable quotes and reactions. Brands moving quickly to produce content around the news that offer a unique perspective or thought leadership have the best chance of being featured.

It’s not just major events that offer opportunities for coverage. Sometimes, a more interesting approach is jumping on stories you had no idea were coming – it’s all about real-time, and moving from a model of marketing on your time, to marketing when the time is right.

Get it to press

There is only a short window – maybe 3 hours – in which to reach journalists with your story. Send journalists a snippet of the information you could offer them, to gather whether they are interested in receiving more, and then you can invest time in completing the release. Twitter’s #journorequest is a great tip for finding what stories journalists are trying to cover, and need your help with.

Brands often have access to a lot of valuable data from CRM or surveys; the raw data itself, or an infographic you can create from it are gold for journalists. These in-turn will be linked back to your website; when done properly, newsjacking is probably the most cost effective way to acquire good links to your website.

Find your story

So where do you look for these stories? Cast a wide net. Keep an eye on not only top stories, but stories from your local area, smaller international stories, industry specific stories, and stories from notable bloggers and opinion leaders too, and take a regular scan of your Twitter feed. Google Trends and Google Alerts can keep you up-to-date with the latest breaking stories, and Reddit and Hacker News Twitter accounts are also full of inspiration.

A word of caution was given to tread carefully around negative news; unless the story clearly ties into your brand and your business, you may be best advised to let that story lie.

On the twelve-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, which was naturally the talk of the social media world on that day, AT&T tried to take advantage of the attention by tweeting a photo of one of its phones taking a picture of the World Trade Center accompanied by “Never Forget.” Customers didn’t react well, viewing this as an attempt to play on the tragedy to boost sales.

When executed properly, newsjacking can be an effective way to create buzz for your brand. On the flipside, it can get your brand into hot water if it isn’t well thought through.  As a general rule, if you can’t see the connection between your brand and the story yourself, it is advisable not to do it.

If you would like help with your content strategy or using newsjacking to grow your business please get in touch.