One of the first tricks I learned from the best bloggers on the web is how to do a newsjack. A newsjack is a technique used by marketers that leverages a popular news item towards your marketing goals. It was popularized by David Meerman Scott in his book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Here is a Scott’s famous timeline:
There are some great how-tos and tutorials already out there on newsjacking so I won’t go over familiar territory. Instead, I want to cover three newsjack wisely snipes (“Wesley Snipes, get it?") we’re using at ShareBloc that follows the trajectory of Scott’s timeline but with our own twists.
The Classic NewsJack
As Scott expertly lays out in his book and blog post, the key to his definition of a newsjack is speed and judgment. Since journalists are looking for additional content, a timely post can help insert your blog into the news stream. This works for B2C or B2B. For example, 20th Century Fox recently released the final trailer for their upcoming summer tent-pole movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Disney retaliated by releasing images of the still-in-production Avengers sequel. Disney’s newsjack wasn’t only around two comic-book movie franchises. The X-Men movie introduces a fan-favorite character called Quicksilver but early Internet sentiment has been negative on the character’s “look.” Disney, who owns Marvel’s X-Men (but not their movie rights), is also introducing Quicksilver in their movie (confused yet?) and early Internet sentiment is more positive. By conflating the two Quicksilvers, the movie trailer was newsjacked by arguably less exciting production stills.
We attempted a newsjack last year during the height of #SFBatKid in San Francisco. Because #SFBatKid can be a sensitive topic, we wanted to make sure our post was not only relevant to the news item, but also added value to our readers. As Scott says in his post, a newsjack should always use good judgment.
The Delayed NewsJack
Here, I humbly depart from Scott’s timeline. We believe there is value in creating distance from the original news item, particularly if the news item has long-tail value. In the delayed newsjack, you want to create value for those who “missed” the news item the first time around or create deliberate separation. For example, there was a recent TechCrunch article by the CEO & co-founder of Kik, a popular messaging service, titled “After WhatsApp: An Insider’s View On What’s Next In Messaging.” Because Ted Livingston, Kik’s CEO, released his article one month after the acquisition date, his post and Kik can stand alone in the WhatsApp news cycle outside the initial noise generated post-acquisition. I personally think the post and timing was deliberate. Notice, Ted doesn’t even mention his own company’s name in the article’s title!
At ShareBloc, we use delayed newsjacks with frequency. Notable inbound celebrities like Moz founder Rand Fishkin have recently conducted “Ask-Me-Anythings” (AMAs) on comparable sites like Reddit and Inbound.org. If you have ever participated in an AMA in real-time, you’ll know it’s exciting to be chatting with leaders like Rand, but the format is confusing. We’ve been summarizing these AMAs 1-2 weeks after the original event and it’s gotten a great response from the community (and from the celebrities themselves). Of course, we’re just cribbing from sites like Buzzfeed and Mashable, who have been doing this for Reddit celebrity AMAs for some time.
The Prolonged NewsJack
We’re now off the charts here. Sometimes, you want to newsjack an ongoing phenomenon. For example, during the run-up to the Super Bowl, everyone from local car dealerships to national brands were looking to newsjack the Super Bowl’s brand. Hilariously, these newsjacks have to do it without saying the words “Super Bowl” since the NFL owns exclusive rights to market the Big Game. No one did the newsjack better than satirist Stephen Colbert. During the two-week run-up to the big game (see, I’m doing it too), Stephen Colbert advertised his shows under the theme “Superb Owl,” while having the same exact letters in the same exact order as Super Bowl, could legally be considered a separate entity.
ShareBloc employs a similar tactic. Marketo is having their annual conference in April Marketing Nation Summit. Since our users and Marketo users have a significant overlap, we launched a contest, the Content Marketing Nation, to leverage the Marketo conference and brand. Working with five of Marketo’s biggest partners, we’re giving away a free ticket to Marketing Nation Summit for the best post on marketing automation. The contest ends on Friday and so far, we’ve gotten almost 1,000 visitors to the micro-site. That’s a big win for a small startup like us and helps our promotional partners get in front of more of their leads.
In the end, obey the general rules laid out by David Meerman Scott: Be timely (even if timely means delayed or prolonged) and use your best judgment. Good content, with the right distribution and thoughtfulness, will find its audience.