News-jacking, a term coined by marketing strategist David Meerman Scott, is a tactic used by PRs to get their clients relevant coverage with an often large audience.
Put succinctly, news-jacking is the name given to the activity undertaken by PRs whereby they monitor the news to spot coverage opportunities, piggyback onto relevant topics and inject their own angle into a news story.
A successful news-jack will see a company mentioned in a topical newsworthy article directed at their target audience.
So how do you ‘plan’ a spontaneous news-jack?
- Be as prepared as possible by establishing what your spokesperson is happy to talk about in advance of any relevant news. Have media alerts and quotes prepared and approved in advance, and establish a willing spokesperson
- Keep your company’s messaging front of mind when looking for potential stories. A royal baby birth might not have much to do with a British alcoholic beverage on the surface, but both the event and the brand share quintessential Britishness, which is what made this news-jacking effort work.
- Track keyword alerts, hashtags and specific publications for relevant news stories
- Act quickly when the news hits – timing is crucial if you want to ride the news wave
- Make it easy for journalists to come to you for a comment on a relevant news piece. Whether this means building relationships with journalists or subscribing to a newswire, providing a route for them to reach out for you makes it more likely that you’ll be able to ‘fill a need’ when the time is right.
- Avoid industry jargon. Neither journalists nor readers appreciate it.
- Be ethical. This means not news-jacking tragic events such as environmental catastrophes or acts of terrorism (Sears, take note)
Some of the best PR news-jacks ever:
- Mini rides the horsemeat scandal
- ASDA also wheels the PR in to capitalise on Royal baby mania
- Charmin follows the Oscars
- Marmite Margaret; The Guardian loves it (or hates it)