The traditional PR model is dead.
Traditional PR sticks close to the script, embargoes press releases, follows a prescribed timeline, and all that. But here’s the problem: Conversations careen with such speed and velocity that you need to rethink your approach if you want to be part of them, says David Meerman Scott.
Enter “newsjacking”—a process, as defined by David, “by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”
Yesterday, David published a new electronic book on the topic, Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage (Wiley) as a kind of field guide to this new approach. It’s stuffed full of examples of people and organizations who have had success with it—from Rick Perry, Oakley, Larry Flynt, and even a B2B company, Amdocs (more on Amdocs in a sec).
Newsjacking is all about telling stories right now—this instant, in real time—so journalists find your content when they are looking for another angle on a story.
I’m a fan of this short book (it’s lightning-fast to read!) for two reasons:
1. I like the way that David’s ideas nudge the marketing and PR industries forward. In an era when every business should be laying content as a cornerstone of its marketing, Newsjacking reminds us that it’s not just any content that will do. Rather, what works is content that’s relevant, interesting, enjoyable, and valuable to your customers. Also, speed matters: You can’t take forever to get your content on the Web (and allow it to get pabulum-ized by lawyers.)
2. I like the way Newsjacking nudges journalists forward. As a former journalist, I have a soft spot in my heart for news reporters and editors, especially as newspapers themselves struggle to survive. I’ve long championed the notion of hiring journalists and writers and editors—you know, people who actually know how to tell a story, because it’s practically in their bones—to help create content from inside organizations.
Newsjacking offers another validation of the idea that so-called “brand journalists” are increasingly important. (And, by the way, I’m moderating a panel on the topic of brand journalism at SXSW '12 with a few brand journalists—including Jesse Noyes, Eloqua’s corporate reporter and formerly of the Boston Herald and Boston Business Journal, and Karen Wickre, editorial director at Twitter and formerly of Ziff-Davis and Upside magazine.)
3. Actually, I just thought of a third reason I like Newsjacking. It underscores the importance of a good title.
David and I chatted over the weekend:
AH: What is "newsjacking"?
DMS: As journalists scramble to cover breaking news, the basic facts—who/what/when/where—are often fairly easy to find, either on a corporate website or in competitors’ copy. That’s what goes in the first paragraph of any news story.
The challenge for reporters is to get the “why” and the implications of the event. Why is the company closing its plant? The corporate website may offer some bogus excuse like “because it wants to spend more time with its family.” Competitors may quote some expert’s speculation on the real reason, but a reporter can’t cite that without adding something self-demeaning like “according to an expert quoted in the New York Times.” Journalists need original content—and fast.
All this is what goes in the second paragraph and subsequent paragraphs. That’s why the newsjacker’s goal is to own the second paragraph.
If you are clever enough to react to breaking news very quickly, providing credible second-paragraph content in a blog post, tweet, or media alert that features the keyword of the moment, you may be rewarded with a bonanza of media attention.
AH: Can any company newsjack? Like a B2B company?
DMS: Yes. In late 2010, officials from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) were holed up in meetings to discuss the issue of bill shock, the surprise consumers experience when they receive a mobile phone bill with charges much higher than expected. As the meeting was taking place, Jeff Barak of Amdocs, a company that provides customer care, billing, and order-management systems for telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers, posted a commentary headed No need to be (bill) shocked on the Amdocs company blog. Barak argued that mobile phone companies have an interest in working with customers to avoid bill shock because customer loyalty is vital in a highly competitive market.
This clever newsjacking tactic worked because journalists interested in legislation that might emerge from the FCC meetings were eagerly looking for content via Google Alerts. So, they instantly found the Amdocs commentary.
Amdocs was quickly rewarded when the Penton Media publication Connected Planet devoted an entire blog post to Amdocs’ thesis. Several other industry publications followed up with stories of their own.
AH: What’s the key to newsjacking success?
DMS: You’ve got to be quick.
Real-time communication is antithetical to the mega-corporate paradigm in which any message should reflect a consensus that's emerged from an extensive process. That might have worked back when public discourse was essentially a corporate monologue. It surely does not work in the age of social media, round-the-clock news, and newsjacking.
I recommend drawing up a formal mandate—signed off by senior management, the PR department, and the legal department—that sets out rules of engagement in the same way that military commanders are empowered.
This mandate should give select frontline staff the freedom and flexibility to write a blog post or send a media alert when the time is right. That might be late at night or on a weekend or in the middle of a holiday.
To successfully newsjack—or fend off a newsjack—you can’t wait for approval. You just have to do it.
Catch Eloqua's Joe Chernov on how to find and work with brand journalists in his class, The Elements of Style: Hiring a Brand Journalist as part of MarketingProfs University’s Content Marketing Crash Course running now through November 18. The 11-class course is designed to make you a better content marketer in just two weeks. You can also access all sessions On Demand.
Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded ClickZ.com, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.