Newsjacking to Improve Thought Leadership Positioning

Popularised by author David Meerman Scott, newsjacking is the name given to the practice of injecting your brand into a breaking news with the aim of generating media coverage and engagement.

Companies use this tactic to capitalise on existing interest in a story, in most cases using a slightly different angle. The term has gained a lot of publicity itself over the years and was shortlisted for “Word of the Year” by Oxford Dictionary in 2017.


There are many benefits of newsjacking, including:

– Earned media
– Leveraging established interest in the existing story, so little media buy-in is needed
– Increased share of voice
– Thought leadership positioning
– Website traffic generation
– Improved media relations
– Social media engagement
– Social media following

Successful newsjacking

Perhaps the most well-known (and most well executed) newsjacking example is Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” tweet – a response to a power cut during the 2013 Super Bowl. Yes, this example is still talked about!

Oreo’s tweet stating “you can still dunk in the dark” quickly went viral. It amassed thousands of likes and retweets in a short space of time and rivalled ads from Super Bowl sponsors who paid thousands to be affiliated with the NFL.

Oreo's newsjacking of the Super Bowl blackout went viral
So how did this non-commercial piece of content become one of the most buzz-worthy of the whole event?

Timeliness, relevancy, a sense of humour and a dash of irony.

While this example was a clear viral successful, that is not to say the content helped position Oreo in the league of innovative thought leaders. We, therefore, need to keep our goal in mind. Are we newsjacking to increase brand reach, engagement, followers or thought leadership positioning?

When newsjacking goes wrong

While humour and sarcasm worked in the case of Oreo, it’s also worth bearing in mind that this can also go horribly wrong. Your brand personality, the message you’re using and context must be considered. Companies need to be discerning and show emotional IQ before capitalising on newsjacking. Some stories should be approached with enhanced sensitivity or left alone entirely, for example. The last thing you want is your audience to think you’re exploiting a disaster for personal gain.

Some companies have the advantage of selling products that few find offensive, like biscuits. But what if you’re a charity with a hard-hitting message, or a legal firm, or an NHS foundation? Newsjacking can still work, but it’s best not to use this tactic using humour.


“To avoid embarrassment, if the company that you work for has a brand personality that’s a little more reserved, use newsjacking from a thought leadership perspective to drive PR and engagement. There are two main ways of doing this…”

Supply journalists insights found through your media monitoring tool

Meltwater has become a pro at using newsjacking from a thought leadership perspective.

Firstly, we use instant media alerts to inform us of breaking industry news around topics we want to be associated with. Instant media alerts help us react quicker and being the first to know is really important when newsjacking. We have around 5 industry-related searches set up in advance to help us anticipate a breaking story.

We then set up a media monitoring search on the narrative of the breaking story and have the tool analyse the data for us.

Finally, we supply journalists with relevant online news and social media insights found through the media monitoring search to help support future stories.

newsjacking insights found via media monitoring

“We find journalists particularly like social media data so they can support their content with evidence around how people are reacting to the story. We’d recommend pitching the data the day after breaking news. That way you have a larger sample of conversations to go from and journalists will be more open to different angles as they try to advance on the previous day’s coverage.”

An example of this could be:

1. Anticipating breaking news by setting up instant media alerts around social network updates (industry related topic)
2. Running a story on Instagram TV straight after the launch announcement (media monitoring search)
3. Analysing the data (how many conversations have taken place mentioning IGV?  Is the new platform feature talked about in a positive or negative light? Which countries are most concerned with the launch? (find an interesting hook to create a new angle to the existing buzz)
4. Pitching interesting data found, along with a comment around what this means for the industry (respond to data insight as an authority on the subject)

Section 4 is arguably the most important for those wanting to push thought leadership positioning,

Data benefits the journalist by supporting their story and helping them to find new angles. From a Meltwater perspective, this helps increase our brand visibility, drive website traffic (through press mention backlinking) and position us as a thought leader based on the comment we supply. It’s a win win for all parties!


Draw in readers with ultra-timely commentary

One of the primary goals of newsjacking is ramping up visibility, but you don’t always have to use newsjacking with editorial mentions in mind.

Create timely and relevant content based on developing stories and host it on your website.

Google traffic around related story keywords will be spiking once the story has broken. Capitalise on this to boost search visibility, both paid and organic!

We’d recommend either writing a timely summary of the developments and different perspectives.  Be sure to add value and not simply repeat what has been said. Or, if the story is sensitive in nature either add a constructive angle to help audiences or stay neutral, purely stating a wrap up of the facts.

“A good direction to take with such content is offering readers a high-level view of what’s happened as well as advice on developments since they’re most likely getting their source of news from publications. Advice shows you understand what’s happening, the implications of it and how to navigate such developments”

Follow the above tips to help differentiate yourself from your competitors, add value and increase brand credibility as industry experts and visionaries!

Want to learn more about how Meltwater can help position your brand as a thought leader? Our employees are full of tip and tricks! Get in touch via the form below. We’d love to spar with you!