The following article first appeared in PRSA Colorado’s blog.

Image of newsjacking descriptor

As often happens around large sporting events, newsjacking saw a surge in popularity during the 50th Super Bowl. Newsjacking requires two skillsets Von Miller displayed amply leading to the Broncos Super Bowl win – fast reflexes and good judgement. You need those fast reflexes to know what’s going on in the news cycle at any given moment in time and good judgement to make the right call, because when newsjacking goes wrong – it goes terribly wrong.

At our April event hosted by Dunbar Kitchen + Tap House, PRSA Colorado recently held a panel discussion with three local marketing and PR professionals who effectively newsjacked #SB50 with puppies, parades and craft beer. If you want to be a newsjacking MVP like our panelists there are three rules to keep in mind.

Rule #1: Be timely

With newsjacking, timing is key. To be a newsjacking MVP you need to stay on top of current events as they develop and know how to best leverage them in your communications, whether you’re live-tweeting, writing a new blog post or pitching the press. There’s nothing like an outdated newsjack, like with any fumble you’re asking for failure and rough criticism from your followers, the media and influencers alike. If you can’t newsjack in a timely manner it is better to let the opportunity pass and be better prepared next time.

Greenbaum Digital did exactly that and scored. They followed the #SB50 conversation on social media and when they saw that the Denver Business Journal was seeking photo entries of CEOs demonstrating #BroncosPride, they responded quickly and it was noticed and they effectively joined the conversation.

Screengrab of Twitter posts from Greenbaum Digital and Denver Business Journal

Rule #2: Have a relevant message

Just because a topic is trending doesn’t mean it is a good fit for your brand to newsjack. The goal in newsjacking is to contribute to the conversation with a relevant message that legitimately connects your brand message with a timely event. At best, being too far off-base can be a red flag that you’re simply bandwagoning on a hot topic, especially if your content doesn’t convincingly close the gap between your brand and the subject. Even worse, you could cause real damage to your brand by appearing insensitive and opportunistic.

The Puppy Bowl is really a newsjack in and of itself. The Denver Dumb Friends League (DDFL) have effectively leveraged this annual tradition for years, but with even more bravado this year. A few things helped, this is year the DDFL actually had three puppies competing in the Bowl, which made their pitching relevant to the Denver market. Taking it a step further though, two other local brands joined with them in promoting the Puppy Bowl and as a result scored by joining in the conversation and press coverage.

Screengrab of Facebook post featuring DDFL and DIA

Screengrab of Facebook post featuring DDFL and Uber

Rule #3: Know how to promote

Not every idea needs a press release, and not every newsjack needs a home on your blog. Simply engaging with current events with an amusing, clever, or insightful tweet can be enough to get your brand engaged. And if you’re going to invest the time to join in the conversation, it’s important to consider what your most effective platform is going to be.

The Brewers Association took this all into consideration when they joined the post-Super Bowl conversation about what beer Peyton Manning was going to drink while celebrating the Broncos win. Instead of taking the time to craft a press release or simply posting a tweet, they creatively strategized a way to promote their message that resulted in a touchdown for the craft beer association.

The group sent a craft brew care package to the quarterback with a letter encouraging him to look beyond Budweiser at the other amazing craft brews his team’s home is known for. They leveraged this for maximum effect by taking a picture of the care package contents and not only shared it on their consumer-facing website, but also on their social media channels and in a pitch for the media. Omaha!

Screengrab of Denver Post coverage of Brewers Association

Newsjacking can be an amazing to bring your brand into a larger conversation. It can result in engaging content and exposure that your audience connects with. On the other hand, it can be detrimental. It can hurt and even destroy a brand’s integrity, and make people feel incredibly uncomfortable. So what are you to do?

Be strategic, have fun and take these tips into consideration and you too could be your company’s next newsjacking MVP.


Rhiannon Hendrickson
About the Author: Rhiannon Hendrickson

Rhiannon Hendrickson is the founder and CEO of Orapin Marketing + Public Relations, which helps purpose-driven businesses increase awareness and attract clients and partners. She has worked with organizations of all sizes across myriad sectors to develop memorable and effective communications programs that generate awareness, engagement, and, ultimately, support for those that are making a meaningful impact.

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