Newsjacking, the strategy of promoting your brand through breaking news, can launch the organization you represent into the national spotlight. The challenge is making your pitch stand out in the sea of competing messages as the breaking news story grows legs.
There’s also the question of choosing the right story. “Newsjacking” doesn’t have a positive connotation
. It’s imperative that you make sure you inject your brand into a story that’s appropriate for it to get involved in
. Otherwise, you’re going to look opportunistic or clueless.
Target made national headlines
recently, due to a data compromise involving as many as 100 million customer accounts. This was a perfect opportunity to promote my organization, SecureState
, as we are one of only 11 security firms authorized to investigate credit card breaches in the United States. I realized that this was the story that set us apart from everyone else, so I went to work.
1. Standing out.
The first key to earning media attention is determining what you can add to the story that no one else is talking about.
For SecureState it was that we could comment on what takes place during a data breach investigation. For retailers, it could be an example of how they've gone above and beyond to ensure customers’ security.
2. Start with existing relationships.
Once I found the news peg and crafted my pitch, I quickly pulled up all my media contacts who might be interested in the story, and I started making phone calls. (It's OK to pick up the phone sometimes.)
Within 30 minutes, I had scheduled two local television stations to come to our office, and secured live in-studio time for a 7 p.m. broadcast.
3. Mine your media database and target your pitching.
The next step was firing up my Agility media database
and creating a list of targeted contacts to pitch.
To save time, I exported relevant security and national contacts into my list from previous media relations campaigns. Then, I performed a targeted search for consumer advocate reporters, sifted through the list, and added the remaining contacts to my distribution list.
I sent my pitch out and monitored the analytics. Generally speaking, I avoid sending out a mass email, in favor of more targeted and personal messages. However, in cases when time is limited, such as a newsjacking or when you must communicate broadly in a crisis, a broadcast email is appropriate.
Over the course of the next two hours, I earned multiple interviews with a variety of media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times
and numerous trade publications. A follow up email pitch landed more coverage, including an interview on “PBS Newshour
4. Respond to queries.
PR Newswire's ProfNet and Help a Reporter Out (HARO) are great resources for connecting with journalists, and during the news cycle around the data breach, I responded to several requests for experts, using my unique pitch.
A reporter from the Associated Press (AP) issued a query on Profnet and immediately responded to my answer. I knew I had struck media relations gold when he requested an interview. Once the story hit the AP wire, we were mentioned in local regional outlets from Hawaii to New England, as well as many national outlets.
5. Branded media.
In addition to using several channels to deliver my pitch, I also assigned two of our internal experts separate blog posts to provide detailed insight into the incident.
I edited and published the posts and promoted them through every possible channel, which included social media and a news release
promoting the articles. The press releases we’ve issued over PR Newswire are the second largest source of traffic to our website.
When the dust settles
After what became one of the busiest days of my career, I earned a plethora of media placements, including wire syndication, and developed new relationships with journalists whom I can contact for future stories. As of this writing, the media coverage includes ABC News, NBC News, NPR, CNBC and a live appearance of our CEO on “PBS NewsHour.” Experts from the CEO to staff-level consultants earned mentions all over the country, and I positioned SecureState as a leading source on data breach investigations.
[RELATED: Find out how to craft the perfect pitch at our April PR & Media Relations event in NYC.]
By creatively using the PR tools I had in place, I capitalized on the opportunity, earning significant media placements for my company by creating, pitching, and distributing relevant stories and unique perspective to the right people.
Most PR teams are challenged to do more work with fewer resources, but the good news is that the tools most of us already have in place enable one person to stay on top of trends and deliver responses across a variety of channels. When you’re flying solo, you have to be agile and use what you have.
Anthony Hardman (@ahardman) is a public relations manager at SecureState.
Additional discussion and analysis of Hardman’s tactics, as well as a roundup of resulting media coverage, are featured in the post titled, “5 Tips for Pulling Off a Newsjack with Common PR Tools,” on PR Newswire’s Beyond PR blog