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We’ve talked about thought leadership as a concept, and we’ve talked about how to pitch your stories in.  But we know there will be times, when you’re reading the paper or watching the news, that you hear a story and think “I have something to say about that”… or “that’s EXACTLY what we’ve been talking about in our thought leadership content”. So, in the final part of this series I’m going to tackle the subject of what’s called ‘newsjacking’ or ‘news hijacking’.

There are plenty of reasons why you might have something to say. It doesn’t have to be because it’s part of your content strategy. You might want to jump into the chat around a charitable event of initiative, or target a particular demographic through comment on The Great British Bake Off. You might want to get your name out there when a competitor opens a new office or launches a new product… or you might just have something to say on a breaking news story.

Whatever your purpose, a good marketing, PR and BD person will be looking out for these opportunities and be ready to move, when they crop up. Why? Because, done well, it will not only amplify your brand message but add SEO value, drive traffic to your website, improve your reputation and build relationships with journalists (as per the suggestions in the last article).

Let’s think about that last one a bit more. Journalism is about getting information out in front of the public. Part of this means finding new or additional information, if possible, from a credible source. If you present a brand with a recognised authority in a certain area, willing to provide a different angle or additional information, they are likely to a) want to publish it and b) think you’re worth listening to (or, ideally, approaching proactively) in the future. Newsjacking can be a ‘win win’ for all involved.

Here are some tips for getting this right:

  • First, you need to make sure you have your finger on the pulse. There are lots of tools available to notify you of breaking news (for example, Google Alerts) but it’s easy to get bogged down in them. Start by working out your strategic objectives and the key areas you want to ‘jump into’. These might be regional, key areas of work or linked to your thought leadership plan.
  • An important consideration, when planning these, is to consider which you are best equipped to comment on. Do you have anything different to say? Or are you ‘better than the rest’ on a particular topic?
  • Next you need to be realistic. Which people are available to comment and how reliable are they? There is little point trying to newsjack if you have team members so swamped in client work that they can’t turn on a sixpence to appear on the Today programme… before a week next Tuesday [NB: Clue is in the name].
  • Newsjacking needs to take place shortly after news has broken, before the journalists start scrambling about looking for extra information. 24 hours later is too late… particularly in today’s world of digital news. In addition to having people available to comment, you need a marketing or PR team that has the flexibility to not only monitor alerts but go searching for breaking news. This means knowing enough about the subject to anticipate stories and themes that will go in a certain direction and/or grow over a period of time.
  • Next comes the all important pitch.
    • Relevance is the cornerstone here. There needs to be a genuine connection between your organisation and the topic. There are 101 employment lawyers… being a great employment lawyer isn’t enough. Why should you be the firm to talk about the gender pay gap or gig economy?
    • Creativity and catching attention are second to relevance. Consider how you will catch the attention of journalists… and how what you have to say will entertain and engage their readers.
    • Make sure you’re prepared. Having a library of FAQs, comments, photos, biographies etc can save time and ensure you can move quickly. It’s mighty impressive if you’re able to click your fingers and magic up everything a journalist wants, within minutes of their asking.
    • Back up what you have to say. If you go to a journalist and pitch to comment, the first thing they’ll do is go on Google and look at how ‘expert’ you are. Make sure that search brings up relevant evidence of this expertise. That means ensuring your website and LinkedIn profile say the right things and include examples of similar comment, as well as lots and lots of evidence relevant to the particular ‘thought’ you wish to be considered a ‘leader’ on.
  • Don’t just wait for a topic to crop up. You can do some groundwork in advance. If you know there are key journalists in your field you can pitch fee earners and experts in to them in advance of ‘breaking news’. Fixing up a coffee, at which you present (or even introduce) key ‘thought leaders’ can keep them front of mind, should relevant topics crop up. Similarly, including journalists on circulation lists, for thought leadership articles, can also prove beneficial, in the long run.
  • Considering the value of newsjacking is important – it is, after all, a relatively time consuming activity. You should be looking to measure your share of voice (in terms of how much presence you have, versus competitors). Similarly, whether the activities have improved relationships with journalists or key publications. Whilst it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to draw a direct link between newsjacking activities and instruction metrics, it should be possible to set out some measurable benchmarks that allow you to assess whether this work is beneficial. This could be Net Promoter Scores or client care review results… or more qualitative measures. The important thing is that they’re unique and relevant to you.

So there you have it. All the tips and tools you need to develop a thought leadership programme, pitch it in to journalists and jump into breaking news. So… what are you waiting for?

For help with this, or anything related to professional services marketing, you are very welcome to contact us directly. We look forward to hearing from you… and reading about your expertise!