Have you ever been at a party where you’re awkwardly standing outside of a group of people who are talking? You want to get involved in the conversation, but you don’t know how. Do you interrupt? Do you wait until you have something to say? Do you say nothing at all?
Chances are you’ve learned the best way to get involved and be heard is to talk about what they’re talking about instead of starting a new topic. So, if they’re discussing the rain, you don’t try to segue into feline AIDs, for example . . .
Well, when it comes to public relations, it’s not much different.
I’m talking about “newsjacking,” folks. What’s newsjacking? Newsjacking, as coined by David Meerman Scott, is “the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.”
Instead of trying to start a new topic of conversation—like, ‘Hey! I have a new book out! And you should cover it!’— you ride the wave of what people are already discussing. An airline kicks a passenger off the plane, you take your customer loyalty expertise and talk about customer relations, as WI author Chip Bell has done. Drama between Congress and President Donald Trump? You use your knowledge of personality science and conflict resolution, as another WI author Nate Regier has done.
Many people are hesitant to inject themselves into certain news stories because they fear they don’t know enough about the subject or they don’t want to get pulled into the mess (especially political stories). But you can ride the news wave without it poorly reflecting on you if you do three things:
- Make your own angle. Regier, author of Conflict Without Causalities, isn’t in politics but he does have a background in psychology. Thus, he’s been able to add his insights about leaders, like President Trump, as it relates to his expertise. You have the power to decide on what you want to talk about as it relates to news items. You don’t have to be an expert on the topic directly but you can share your expertise as it relates to the topic. Think about what wisdom you can share and use this as an opportunity to spread it.
- Don’t name names. It’s okay to be vague. If you don’t want to risk getting incendiary comments, messages, or tweets because you seemed to skew right or left with your commentary, don’t talk about the situation directly. Stick to the expertise you want to share and then use a general reference to what’s happening currently.
- Don’t comment. It’s okay to say those two popular words, “No comment,” if you’re in an interview and it veers to a side you don’t want to go. Remember, you’re in control of the conversation. It’s perfectly fine for you to say, “I am not at liberty to discuss that” or “That’s not something I can speak to,” and suggest what you can talk about.
You can start newsjacking by scanning the headlines regularly and seeing what interests you. If you’re working with our PR team, let them know what newsjacking opportunities you may see or ask to brainstorm some ideas. Newsjacking is a great way to get media attention and increase name, brand and book recognition—with no need to convince someone to cover you.
If you have something to say, don’t hold your tongue. SAY IT!
Whitney is the public relations director at WI. She started her career in communications as a TV news anchor/reporter in Virginia and Tennessee before switching to public relations. Whitney earned her bachelors in government at Georgetown University, and masters in PR from the University of Tennessee. She enjoys spending time with her family in Knoxville, TN, and running competitively.