How to ‘newsjack’ ethically

The practice of tying a PR pitch into current events drew criticism recently. But the author says it’s nothing to worry about, as long as PR pros are paying attention a few key tenets.

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The term originated with David Meerman Scott, who wrote a book on the topic; he defines it in the subtitle as “inject(ing) your ideas into breaking news” with a goal of generating media coverage. In doing so, Scott has “newsjacked” something that’s familiar to most PR people and packaged it with a clever label (something else many PR pros excel in doing.)

Which leads to my question. Apart from the name, which admittedly may have negative connotations to some, how is this different from what PR pros have been doing since Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee? After all, a classic public relations strategy is to shoehorn your client’s story into a broader trend to make it more topical, and thus, more appealing to journalists.

Scott’s focus is more about “real time,” and therefore emphasizes piggybacking on breaking news events more than trends or memes, but it’s the same principle as any good PR program that borrows interest from a seemingly unrelated event or movement. I worked at an agency where we called it “news surfing,” which may have a more pleasant ring, but to me it’s all the same.

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