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Newsjacking: Digital PR’s secret weapon of riding on breaking news to gain coverage

Sacha Mooney from NovosSacha Mooney in Digital PR

30th March, 2021

Newsjacking and digital PR

Sometimes a PR campaign lands and sometimes it doesn’t, that’s just the way of the PR world. But, we still have KPIs and targets we are expected to hit, so if a campaign doesn’t land, what are you going to do? 

Luckily, not all is lost on a failed campaign because there are other avenues you can go down to get the results you want, and ultimately need to keep your client happy. One skill you should carry in your back pocket as a digital PR is newsjacking, the golden ticket to (almost) guaranteed coverage.

What is newsjacking?

To put it simply, it is jumping on breaking and trending news stories. In order to succeed at this tactic you have to be quick and on top of the news, the faster you can react, the more likely you are to get a placement. 

In order to gain a piece of coverage using this method you need to ensure that your clients are open to being put forward as ‘experts’ of their industries, this way you can put them at the centre of the conversation when a relevant news story breaks, by offering the expert comments and quotes or even data – these will all create potential coverage opportunities.

Newsjacking tips for digital PRs

  • Be on the lookout – As a digital PR you should be on top of looking at the news anyway, but if you are keen to land some links for your client you need to keep an eye out for any breaking news stories, and when you spot one, act fast! 
  • Get to work – As soon as you spot a potential newsjacking opportunity, draft up a comment and get it signed off by your client asap – remember the faster you get your comment to the editor, the better chance you have of getting coverage. 
  • Send it to the relevant person – This sounds very obvious, but you will be surprised at how many PRs just blast out emails to any and all editors in the hope that one of them is the right person. Not only is this pointless, but it is a bit spammy. Do your research and only contact the editors that have written about what your client comment is referring to. 
  • Don’t ask – Editors don’t have time for lots of back and forth, especially if they’re covering breaking news, so don’t ask them if they’d like a comment from your client, just give it to them!  
  • Cover all bases – Breaking news stories aren’t just covered by the nationals, keep an eye on more niche publications too, of course, only if they are relevant to your client! 
  • Relevance is key – When putting comments forward, you have to be sure that your client is relevant and has the right to comment on the particular topic. There is no point trying to make your catering client comment on a breaking news story about politics because it just won’t land. Anyone can knock up a comment but if your client has no relevance to the story, you’re probably wasting your time. 
  • Give the editor something new – The key to a good comment is offering up something new. If you can offer the editor a new stat, fact or piece of information that will add to the story, they’ll likely bite your hand off for it! 
  • Set up alerts – Being on top of the news is time-consuming, and when you have client work to be doing, it isn’t possible to sit and watch the stories roll in everyday. One way around this is to set up alerts for a few breaking news buzzwords, such as ‘breaking’, ‘cuts’, ‘administration’, ‘jobs at risk’ and any others that might be particularly relevant for your clients. This way you’ll be notified as soon as a story with one of those words in the headline drops, giving you ample time to jump on it.
  • Watch the links roll in – If you follow the above, you’re pretty much set for success. Newsjacking can take up a lot of time, but if you are on top of the news, quick off the mark and your client is relevant, there is no reason why this tactic shouldn’t work for you and every single one of your clients.

So that’s pretty much all you need to know about newsjacking. Just remember, everything takes time and if your first few attempts don’t amount to anything, keep at it. As time goes on, you will learn what works for your clients and what doesn’t, and landing coverage with this method will get easier.

Sacha Mooney from Novos
Article by Sacha Mooney
Senior Digital PR Strategist at NOVOS, Sacha, has been working in PR for the last 5 years. Starting out in-house for a brand doing traditional PR, she then moved into a traditional agency setting before continuing her career in the world of digital PR. Sacha has worked on and led numerous campaigns for a range of clients across a whole host of industries.

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