Tempted to newsjack this Christmas? What you need to know

Evelyn Wolf by Evelyn Wolf   13 Dec



The Holiday season is in full swing. Most of us are concentrating on parties, and maybe end of year accounts. There isn’t really much going on, so content production slows down. It’s time for marketers to jump onto that Christmas sleigh and pull out a seasonal story. But please, before you do, learn about how to get newsjacking right.

Christmas - is it really newsjacking?

Some may argue that Christmas isn’t really news and therefore it’s not newsjacking. I would tend to disagree. When we look at the media, holiday messages are everywhere. It may be a cultural event, but still, it is news. Essentially, any seasonal or cultural event is news including Easter, Halloween, public holidays and more. Think about other recurring events such as the Oscars, Nobel Prize, sporting events or your biggest local trade event also. This should be part of your inbound marketing campaign planning

The great thing about these cultural news events is that you can plan for them (remember, Christmas rolls around in December each year). This allows you to move from newsjacking via an ad hoc social message to actually thinking about content. Mashable did a great job with cocktails for the Golden Globes or check out Forbes and the Three Lessons for Business Leadership From the Rio Olympics.

Timing is everything

News by nature is fast moving. While you can prepare for certain events in advance, it’s still important to get the timing absolutely right.

The news cycle goes from breaking news, to mainstream reports coming out, to hitting the peak of public interest before dying off again.

If you are working with a planned event e.g. Christmas, your window is larger and you can get your story out during the mainstream reporting. However, for immediate news, you want to get in there with your brand message before the mainstream hits so you can ride that wave.

The masters of timing are Oreo. These are two oldie but goodie examples:

The 2013 Superbowl power outage  was an ad hoc message:

Newsjacking Oreo Example 2

Greeting the royal baby in 2013 was a prepared message:

Newsjacking Oreo Example 1

If there is no natural fit, don’t do it

Even if you think there is a fit, really think about it. Here’s an example:

Newsjacking Gap Example

If you think this is a once off and surely no other brand would be that careless:

Newsjacking KC Example

There are a lot more beauties like these out there.

When viewing these examples, ask yourself: is there a fit between clothes and the Arab Spring? Is there a connection between hundreds of families affected by Hurricane Sandy and staying indoors to do online shopping? There isn’t a crowbar big enough to fit a commercial message in there.

Natural fit doesn’t mean that you can only newsjack within your industry. What I would want you to take away is that if the news story doesn’t simply fit with your product or service, then stay away. A great example of getting it right comes from Norwegian airlines. They have a flight to LA and were able to tie an offer in with the fact that Brad Pitt is now again single:

Newsjacking Norwegian Example

The fit comes from their flight to Brad’s hometown. It felt natural, humorous and easy. No crowbar needed for this example!

Find your moral centre

Newsjacking Yorkshire Example

While you might be tempted to put an offer out that coincides with a tragedy like the Arab Spring or this UK roller coaster crash example on the left, step away from it. It is not right to push commercial gain in the face of tragedy. Full stop.

If you feel strongly about a tragic event, post your sympathies. Just your sympathies, not sympathy + 20% off.

Just as you can gain a lot of exposure from the right, funny, fitting newsjacking message, the fallout from bad messages can be equal or greater. If you are wondering whether your message has the right moral centre, the answer is probably no. Run it by a colleague or better someone outside your organisation. Even if you are under time pressure, do this. Avoiding the fallout from a bad message is worth this extra step. Just please, don’t be the brand that wants to profit from a disaster.

It’s not just social

We showed you two great examples from Forbes and Mashable above that take newsjacking beyond a funny social post into the content realm. Think about this more and consider this in your content calendar especially for cultural news events you can plan for.

You can build content from many sources in the cultural news or current news space. TV series alone offer a great source of inspiration. Here a few examples I just thought of:

“Winter is coming! Take the right steps to get your car ready for snow”

“Building your Legends of Tomorrow team for a stronger 2017”

“Marketing MacGyver: No budget, no problem”

The core of newsjacking

The core of newsjacking and the reason that it is successful, is simple: it’s engaging. A funny social media message is simple to like and share. A piece of content with a recognisable event in the title engages more people in clicking and reading.

While newsjacking has the benefit of being current (and therefore naturally more engaging), it’s simply not for everyone. You might feel your brand or audience may not appreciate it, you might have genuine concerns about a bad outcome. That’s okay. Don’t newsjack. But, create engaging content. Understand what works on your channels whether it’s engaging headlines, videos on social media or personalised emails.

If you do opt for newsjacking this holiday season ensure you ask yourself:

  1. Do I have the right timing?
  2. Does my brand and message fit the news event?
  3. Is my (and others) moral centre okay with this?
  4. Is my message engaging to my audience?

Happy newsjacking & ho, ho, ho :-)  


Topics: Inbound Marketing

Evelyn Wolf

Written by Evelyn Wolf

Inbound strategy specialist and content creator. She will turn your web presence into a magnet and always has wind in her sails.