The Art of Newsjacking: Four Strategies for PR Success

By Emily Quirk

Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas (or your client’s) into a breaking news story to obtain media coverage and ultimately elevate the brand. Since most clients aren’t wired with a journalist’s brain, it’s our job as PR pros to make those connections and advise clients appropriately. By newsjacking, PR teams can catapult their client into the forefront of trending conversations that are directly related to their core mission.

When Apple refused to unlock the iPhone of a shooter in the San Bernardino terrorist attack citing privacy implications, the FBI took the technology giant to court, resulting in a media frenzy. With the largest global information privacy organization as a client, our biggest objective is to raise the organization’s profile as the leading voice in the privacy profession, as an essential resource for business and government in the practice of privacy, and as a trusted voice for the media. So, when the Apple vs. FBI story broke, my PR team quickly mobilized flagging stories to our client and advising on ways to leverage the news for their benefit.

My team effectively used the current news to attract media to attend a candid interview and Q&A with FBI’s general counsel, just one high-profile panel at the client’s upcoming Global Privacy Summit. By staying on top of daily news and tracking trending conversations on Twitter, we effectively attracted key journalists covering the story to the event and secured coverage in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and many more.

For this art form to work well, however, there’s four simple strategies to follow:



So much of what we do as public relations professionals is driven by the news, so our knowledge of the daily breaking news is vital to the success of any media relations program. To keep up on the news:

  1.     Set up Google Alerts on key topics related to your client’s area of expertise or thought leadership platform.
  2.     Sign up for e-newsletters from relevant trade organizations, major industry press and blogs.
  3.     Subscribe to curated media platform like theSkimm which provide news in bite size format
  4.     Use social media:
    1.     Follow journalists on Twitter. This allows you to stay on top of news that’s important to your target media and helps build a relationship with journalists
    2.     Look for trending hashtags. Both Twitter and Facebook have streams showcasing news stories and topics that are most popular amongst users.
    3.     Use Twitter lists to organize by client or field, and then browse your list each day to see what’s being discussed in that industry.

Real-time Responses

Staying informed on trending news stories and topics related to clients’ fields is a non-negotiable as is responding in a timely fashion. In his bestselling book, “Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage,” author and PR strategist, David Meerman Scott, writes about how to grab the attention of highly engaged audiences by taking advantage of breaking news.

“Newsjacking is powerful, but only when executed in real-time,” David writes. “It is about taking advantage of opportunities that pop up for a fleeting moment then disappear. In that instant, if you are clever enough to add a new dimension to the story in real-time, the news media will write about you.”

News hype doesn’t stick around for long – a few hours, maybe days and if we’re lucky, a few weeks. But the earlier you can seize the story, the more likely it will benefit you and your client in a big way. If you wait too long to contribute to the discussion, the more voices you’ll be competing against.

Relevancy Matters

Make sure the news you’re “jacking” relates directly to a client’s core messages and/or the position of the organizations’ thought leaders.

When Verizon was in a deal to purchase Yahoo, Matter’s PR team quickly latched on to the patent purchase involved in the deal, offering our client – an intellectual property attorney – as a source for journalist. This ultimately landed us coverage in a key trade publication.

Is it the Right Story?

Avoid newsjacking negative stories unless your company has a legitimate tie to the news.

Facebook was in a heap of trouble for broadcasting the murder of a Cleveland man on Easter. Offering a client to speak on privacy implications and the need for regulations related to streaming video on social media – that’s a legitimate news tie that will add value for reporters covering the story.

On the other hand, there’s times when newsjacking can go very gone. When the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11, Quantum Tech issued a press release two days later with the headline: ‘WTC Collapse Highlights Need for Quantum Tech’s Remote Backup.” It covered how its customer, Morgan Stanley, could function the very next day despite its offices being destroyed in the attack because it used an off-site remote backup facility to store its data. The press release was retracted and the person responsible was subsequently fired.

It’s important to approach newsjacking ethically and sensitively. Think about the ways you can use real-time engagement authentically to further advance the current dialogue. Any questions about methods you’re currently deploying, feel free to leave them in the comments!