At SXSW in 2012, David Meerman Scott gave a talk titled “Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage.” Meerman Scott’s talk and book of the same name encourages companies to produce content such as blog posts or videos that coincide with a big media event as a method of both gaining additional exposure for your brand and keeping your brand relevant. One political example Meerman Scott shares in his talk was Obama’s Super Tuesday Press Conference, which stole attention away from the Republican Primary in 2012. The most well-known example of newsjacking in marketing in recent years would be Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” tweet which dominated social media during the 2013 Super Bowl power-outage. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of newsjacking, Hubspot posted a great summary titled The Inbound Marketer’s Complete Guide to Newsjacking.
One person who is certainly aware of this newsjacking tactic is Kenneth Pennington, the Digital Director for Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign. Last week I tweeted out an NPR article onto the #IS6621 Twitter feed that covered the Sander’s campaigns successful newsjack on Twitter during the second Republican President Debate. As during the first Republican Debate, Sanders watched the event with Pennington and the two Live Tweeted from the Senator’s account using the hashtag #DebateWithBernie. Our classmate Laura replied to my tweet, sharing that Pennington is only 24 years old. After learning that I read a bit more about Pennington, which inspired me to dive into this topic more with this blog post. Perhaps Pennington’s age should not be such a surprise to me, as the Senator’s campaign is clearly familiar with the digital reality of the American political landscape. From CNN I was directed to Sander’s grassroot subreddit where I read a Reddit discussion that showed the true success of Bernie’s newsjacking—he gained more followers than any of the Republican candidates who were on stage for the debate (by almost double).
What separates this successful newsjacking from others that seem forced and fail (parodied perfectly by The Onion) is the authenticity of the Senator’s comments given the context of the event. Meerman Scott writes that successful newsjacking needs “to balance the need to be quick and bold with the imperative to be in tune.” The #DebateWithBernie hashtag worked because Pennington knew there would be large Liberal-minded audience logged on Twitter during the debates that would be in tune with Sander’s message. The NPR article notes that Senator Sander’s had two of the three most retweeted posts from candidates Tuesday evening. By tapping into this audience in real-time and getting them to share his content, the Senator was able to expand his reach to a wider swath of Twitter’s actively-engaged users.
There is a key lesson here for Digital Brand Managers in any industry attempting to ride the wave of a big news story that they are not organically a part of. Following Meerman Scott’s advice of balancing being quick with being in tune is critical before making a post to inject your brand into a conversation. If you make a post that doesn’t resonate with your intended audience, your brand is at risk of being seen as so out of tune that the event will actually end up making a negative impact. Business2Community has a great blog post that highlights newsjacking attempts that have gone wrong. I am curious if other classmates (or any other readers) can think of any major newsjacking attempts which stand out for being either particularly effective or going horribly wrong. Please comment with any examples below, and share what brand strategy lessons you can take away.