News just waiting to be jacked. News just waiting to be jacked.

Newsjacking: Connecting your eCommerce marketing to current events

This is a guest post from Anita Sambol, content strategist and graphic designer at Point Visible, a marketing agency providing custom blogger outreach services.

Newsjacking is a term that gets thrown around a lot in marketing circles—but what exactly does it mean? Newsjacking is when your brand capitalizes on a popular news story and leverages it to boost awareness of your own brand. When done right, it can also help you generate more sales. Newsjacking allows you to cherry pick and capitalize upon relevant news stories at any time—if you’re looking for them and handle them properly. 

And handling them properly is key. Newsjacking isn’t so easy to get right, primarily because news breaks fast and vanishes just as quickly in the modern news cycle, meaning you have to act fast and decisively. It’s also very easy to cross the line when attaching your brand to a news story—especially a serious one—and come across as pandering or insensitive.

Marketers need to put together a strategy that allows them to sniff out relevant, brand-appropriate news stories and create marketing campaigns around them as quickly as possible. 

But how do you do this in eCommerce marketing? Moreover, how can you tie newsjacking into your email campaigns for even more juice? Here are the strategies you can employ to pull it off.

5 tips for newsjacking successfully

Stay tuned 

If you miss a viral event that can easily be linked to your brand, you’ll regret it. For instance, if you sell scarves for dogs, and a video goes viral of a dog wearing a scarf, you almost have to capitalize on it to show you’re paying attention.

But a lot of news happens over the course of 24 hours. So how do you make sure popular, relevant, and juicy news doesn’t slip through your net?

First, pay attention to popular events (like big sporting events and awards shows), what’s trending, and what people are talking about—and train yourself to look at news stories through your marketing lens.

Second, set alerts. You can set up notifications via Google News to let you know when there’s breaking news in your niche. You can also follow relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, and follow some key news sources using an RSS reader.

By setting alerts, you’ll (hopefully) never miss an opportunity to jump on a big upcoming event. You might even become aware of some news/events before they even happen, which then gives you enough time to plan a campaign before executing it. (It’s also extremely beneficial to set up an email marketing calendar to plan ahead.)

For example, after social media exploded about an anachronistic coffee cup that somehow managed to make it into an episode of Game of Thrones, Starbucks noticed all the attention it was getting (even though it ultimately turned out not to be a Starbucks cup in the scene). They mobilized fast. The episode aired on Sunday night, May 5th. On Monday, May 6th at 10:19 AM, Starbucks was ready with its response.

Starbucks tweeted a response to the Game of Thrones coffee cup incident.

Be selective 

Not every news story is right for newsjacking. Sensitive topics like deaths, wars, and even politics can damage your brand’s reputation irreparably.

Even if you’ve got a team member trying to persuade you to profit off controversy, and that “all publicity is good publicity”—which is what Kenneth Cole claimed in the wake of a newsjacking-gone-wrong incident regarding Egyptian political protests in 2013—you should always go with your gut instinct and use your common sense. 

Move quickly 

When it comes to newsjacking, there’s not a second to waste. You need to be quick out of the blocks and get your campaign up and running as soon as possible. 

To this end, it’s really important that you’re working with researchers and content writers who can produce the goods quickly without sacrificing quality. Moreover, you need to be able to rally your team instantly if something big happens. 

Perfect formatting and beautiful images shouldn’t be your number one priority with newsjacking. As long as your content is relevant and looks okay, you just need to get it out there ASAP. 

Arguably the most famous example of a brand moving quickly was Oreo in 2013. When the power went out during the Super Bowl, Oreo posted a tweet with a customized picture and ad almost immediately. (It turns out that tweet was years in the making; they’d recognized the value of newsjacking in 2011 and set up a team to capitalize on breaking news.) Their tweet received more than 14,000 retweets and outshined many of the far more expensive Super Bowl ads that year.

Oreo's famous Super Bowl power outage newsjacking.

Make sure the connection feels right 

If you choose a totally random story and can’t figure out a natural tie with your business or niche, the resulting marketing will feel forced and inauthentic. 

That said, there are sometimes reasons to newsjack a story even when it isn’t a perfect fit to your brand. You shouldn’t ignore a story that other brands are already newsjacking, for example. In fact, if you can come up with an original tie-in to the news because of your unique approach, your creativity could really pay off.

Dunkin’ Donuts—not an apparel company—found a clever connection when The Dress went viral. As people debated whether a photo showed a dress that was white and gold or black and blue, Dunkin’ Donuts came up with its own angle.

Dunkin' Donuts capitalized on the phenomenon of The Dress.

Keep your brand front and center

Yes, newsjacking is about a news story—but, for your purposes, it’s about how your brand fits in with that news story. To make sure your newsjacking effort has the desired marketing effect, keep your brand front and center.

Here’s an example from when Snickers capitalized on a newsjacking opportunity—and even managed to tie it into their “You’re not you when you’re hungry” tagline. After soccer player Luis Suarez from Uruguay bit an Italian player during a match in the 2014 World Cup, Snickers quickly tweeted the message below. They tied into the news while keeping their branding and product front and center. 

Snickers newsjacked a World Cup biting incident.

How to tie newsjacking into your email campaigns

All of the above examples feature tweets, which isn’t an accident. (The fact that they’re all food-related, however, is just a coincidence). Newsjacking works really well on social media because it’s a platform built on immediacy. Moreover, social media is a place where people go to talk about events they’re collectively experiencing in real time, and that is the essence of a lot of good newsjacking campaigns. 

However, you can really stand out from your competition by tying newsjacking into your email campaigns, too. 

It all starts with your subject line, which needs to catch the audience’s attention by tying into the news event—and your brand as well.

For example, Benefit cosmetics newsjacked the 2016 US presidential inauguration and created the subject line, “Hail to the Cheek!” in reference to both the inauguration and their line of products. They followed this up with the headline, “Take the Oath of Beauty to the Office!” They’re being cute, whimsical and fun, three things that work well with newsjacking.

Newsjacking can also directly tie into a product you want to promote. Here’s how a wine company newsjacked the birth of the royal baby in the U.K. in May. They used it as an opportunity to promote their prosecco and rosé.

Premier Estates Wines ties into the birth of the royal baby.
Via: Milled.

Key takeaways 

Newsjacking is a great way to stay topical, raise awareness of your store, and entertain your customers while you market to them. But there’s an art to newsjacking—you don’t want to come off late, contrived, insensitive, or all of the above.

  • Stay tuned. Set news alerts for stories that might be relevant to your brand. And keep your eye on what’s trending.
  • Be selective. Make sure to avoid controversial news stories that could damage your brand or demonstrate a lack of sensitivity.
  • Move quickly. When you get a newsjacking idea, act decisively and quickly. You want to hit a story when it’s cresting, not once it’s already worked its way through the modern, accelerated news cycle.
  • Make sure the connection feels right. Not every news story is appropriate for every brand. But if you can find a unique connection between your brand and a seemingly unrelated news story, you can stand out for your creativity.
  • Keep your brand front and center. Don’t focus solely on the “news” aspect of newsjacking. Make sure your marketing ties right back to your brand.

When it comes to using newsjacking with your email marketing, the same principles apply. Make sure to incorporate the story into your headline—and use it to promote your products.

Anita Sambol
Anita Sambol is a content strategist and graphic designer at Point Visible, a marketing agency providing custom blogger outreach services. She has years of experience in designing graphics for web and running social media and content marketing campaigns. She loves cooking and football.

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