In the 21st century, brands must be agile and dynamic because we live in a fleeting age where public discourse is dynamic, trends are constantly changing and news travels faster than ever before. In light of these cultural changes, the landscape of marketing is shifting and techniques such as real-time marketing are increasing in popularity. Real-time marketing refers to marketing performed “on-the-fly” to determine an appropriate or optimal approach to a particular customer at a particular time and place. Newsjacking is a specific form of real-time marketing, which is becoming in vogue amongst marketers. Newsjacking, which is a term coined by David Meerman Scott, refers to the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news. It is a means through which you can generate media coverage for your business and attract the attention of large audiences by leveraging on breaking news and injecting your ideas into the marketplace. This technique allows you to bring a unique spin to a topic that is on the top of many people’s minds. Moreover by newsjacking, you are casting out a net instead of a hook, which, can result in far more eyeballs.
Although newsjacking can be beneficial to a brand when done right, this marketing tactic must be approached with a degree of tact and sensitivity. Epicurious is a brand that garnered attention and earned media by newsjacking. However, they received attention for all the wrong reasons.
In April 2013, Epicurious used the Boston bombings to shamelessly promote their food products with a tweet, “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest whole grain cranberry scones.” This came across as insensitive to followers causing a major backlash to the brand. Although the tweets were eventually removed and Epicurious apologized for their actions, the impact of their mistake and insensitivity is enduring.
In their attempt to capitalize off tragedy, they compromised their code of ethics, undermined their integrity and upset and offended their customers in doing so. In order to avoid making this mistake, marketers should bear in mind 2 things before jumping on the Newsjacking bandwagon:
1. Be Sensitive: Marketers should be sensitive, respectful and know that tragedies should not be capitalized for shameless promotion.
2. Relevance is Key: When considering newsjacking, be sure that you can relate the piece of news to your brand in a way that makes sense. Newsjacking a news story that is irrelevant to your brand for the sole purpose of attracting media attention is neither strategic nor smart. After all, 1000 untargeted visitors to your blog are far less valuable than 100 highly targeted visitors.
So marketers, before you think about tweeting something witty and giving yourself the real-time marketing high five, always remember your reputation, before publication. Although Newsjacking can be a clever and creative marketing ploy that guarantees eyeballs and garners attention, if done wrong, it can end up doing more harm to your brand than good.