Newsjacking: Leveraging What You Know Now for Coverage Later

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  • June 7, 2018
  • Sara Lasseter

In the communications industry, two main factors can make or break your plans for media coverage and visibility: speed and the holistic quality of what you bring to the table. Funnily enough, these are two things that don’t often easily go hand in hand. We’ve all experienced a morning of breaking news that catches your eye as the perfect fit for your client to offer their expertise, only to find a competitor has already been quoted by the very same reporters you’d want to reach out to. How did they share their thoughts/score an interview so quickly?

There are a few practices for newsjacking that can alleviate the heavy task of quickly sourcing insight from your client when relevant news breaks. But first, what exactly is newsjacking? Despite its off-putting name, it can be a great strategy for building the credibility and visibility of your client. Specifically, it’s when you’re able to jump on a news cycle with a client quote or interview offer as early as you can feasibly tee up quality insight, with the end goal of securing niche and/or widespread media coverage. Furthermore, acting as a fast and knowledgeable resource helps solidify relationships and build trust with media who constantly face tight deadlines and need expert insight. Here’s how to make it happen.

Tip #1: Have a candid conversation with your client about what topics they can and cannot speak to, and if they’re willing to participate on a quick turn. You probably already know a list of themes that your client hopes to be quoted on or areas in which they are experts to help guide your overall media strategy. The goal is to understand if your client is able and willing to offer analysis, soundbites or data quickly. Setting the expectations of needing speedy responses and sign off will help everyone work together efficiently and avoid potential systemic delays when it’s go time. Second, by understanding the industry trends that could result in breaking news or unique developments, you’ll know what to keep your eye on and when to flag something as a prime newsjacking opportunity. Go ahead and have a 30-minute brain dump with your client to understand their unique take on these subjects and what data they might be able to contribute to their comments, as it will better help you craft quotes and interview angles as news breaks.

Tip #2: Introduce your client to reporters, even if there’s no timely news or commentary to share just yet. However, a simple, “Hello Katie, meet CEO Diane Smith,” will not suffice. It’s important to always offer value in every touchpoint with media. Even an introduction email can include your client’s relevant background, achievements, recent work or endeavors, and areas of expertise as proof points of their knowledge in a given field – maybe even a few notes on what they think is trending now to show they’ve got their finger on several topics. To determine a list of reporters to connect with early on, review the topics that your client is able and willing to be a speedy resource for and find reporters who cover those themes on a regular basis. These emails should be extremely targeted and customized to the reporter and your client’s industry and subject matter, so it may only be a handful of trade and national reporters who receive this initial round of introduction outreach.

Tip #3: What makes a good quote? In news cycles that begin, end and come back to life in what seems like just hours, it’s important to offer as much value to the reporter and their readers as possible. Think about the topic at hand, and 1) what those less familiar with it might want to understand about it, and 2) what folks in the industry can learn from your unique expertise in the field. Depending on the outlet and subject matter, work with your client to develop meaningful and direct quotes or insight that is more likely to entice reporters on short deadlines. For some foreseeable developments or anticipated news cycles, pre-drafted quotes that can be easily updated are a great way to quickly mobilize.

Tip #4: Monitor, monitor, monitor. Now, you know your topics and your client is ready and waiting to share their direct and helpful expertise. Set up Google or TalkWalker Alerts with relevant keywords, and start a Twitter list of folks who regularly discuss related subjects. First thing in the morning and before you leave work are two times that can really make or break plans move on something quickly, so setting reminders can be helpful. Don’t forget about your client’s network either! They often have industry connections and friends who hear whispers of what’s brewing in the industry, so a two-way dialogue with clients on what those whispers are can be just the leg up you need.

Tip #5: Make it happen! All the prep you can do has been done, and you come across a hot new development in your client’s industry – it’s go time. Tap into those pre-drafted quotes, or notes from a brain dump, and pinpoint where your client’s expertise is most valuable and needed, both from a “what to say” and “where to pitch” perspective. Finalize what you’ll be bringing to media (quote, interview, unique data, etc.), get it out the door, and you’ll start to see the interest roll in. All of this can happen within a matter of hours, but the more seamlessly you can connect with media, sharing whatever it is you’ve deemed appropriate and with good quality, the better.

Here’s an example of newsjacking that paints a helpful picture of what this can look like in action. About a year ago, one of our clients knew that a major Executive Order was anticipated to be signed by the presidential administration, thanks to intel from their network, but we didn’t know when. It was a topic we discussed with them about a month or two before the document became official. We were able to get a feel for their perspective, pre-draft an analysis based on what we knew, and identify the reporters we felt would be interested in this news. The day came when the Executive Order was signed, and we hit the ground running. The client reviewed the final Order, we tweaked pre-drafted quotes, and pitched our media, resulting in an impressive list of coverage by the end of the first day the Order was announced. Day-of, all tasks were executed within an hour or two, meaning we were an early and helpful resource for media who needed to publish something quickly.

Something to keep in mind once you dive into newsjacking efforts of your own is that these strategies should be layered on top of an ongoing, structured and proactive media relations program. Success with media comes in two forms: proactive, planned thought leadership with company news, and meaningful reactions to industry trends (both long- and short-lead). Give us a shout at @heyINKco if you’ve had newsjacking success in the past, or share your own process and tips!

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