Proceed with Caution: Newsjacking Today’s Volatile News Cycle

By Dave Heffernan, Vice President

Whether you call it rapid response or newsjacking, latching onto breaking news stories has long been a core media relations strategy for businesses to build awareness by associating themselves with the most topical trends of the day.

As we all know, though, 2020 has changed almost everything. It’s been unpredictable (to say the least), with a seemingly nonstop deluge of grave and shocking stories. One thing after another, the news cycle has been dominated by negativity and divisiveness.

Promotional piggybacking off of a string of generational crises should never happen. That said, many in-house corporate thought leaders still have pertinent and helpful knowledge on issues of the day such as healthcare, cybersecurity, government policy, environmental science and more. Reporters need to get in touch with experts that fully understand these issues so that they can effectively convey the right information to their readers.

So, what’s the right way to go about newsjacking? How can you offer this expertise to the media, to add real value and not appear opportunistic to the market? How do you ensure it’s done tactfully, avoiding any repercussions for your brand?

Don’t comment on everything

Businesses must be cautious in what they respond to and how they respond today. Not every story is right for a company to partake in. Communications teams should work with others internally to ID a set of pertinent topics—and stick to those. They should be based on true areas of expertise, customer concerns and the business’ ability to back up its words, rather than simply contributing to noise.

Be quick

The news cycle is moving and shifting at unprecedented speeds thanks to social media, short attention spans and the sheer unpredictability of the times. Consumers now expect to receive news immediately—as it’s still developing, while reporters and producers are still getting all the facts. If a spokesperson isn’t ready—potentially at the drop of a dime—another expert will be found. They need to act just as fast as today’s media.

Say something new & helpful

Always offer a fresh perspective. Your brand, and thought leader, will not stand out by regurgitating an old talking point or repeating the same stale thing that everyone else has already said on Twitter. Think to yourself, “is what I’m about to share actually unique? Is it forward-leaning? Is this something that the reporter, or my audience, wouldn’t otherwise know?”

Whether you’re looking to reach the general public or a specific business sector, everyone is in search of some guidance for navigating 2020. Become an information-rich resource for the media so that they can become a resource for your target audience.

Don’t sell, unless invited to

This point cannot be stressed enough. If the sole purpose of inserting yourself into a news story is to promote a product, rather than providing much-needed information, you should just hold off. There’s a time and a place for driving sales. Today’s heavy topics are not that place.

When approached judiciously, newsjacking and weighing in on today’s issues can position a business as a knowledgeable source aligned with customer challenges. If done opportunistically, though, it can ultimately have the opposite effect and do irreparable harm to the business and spokesperson’s reputation.

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