#NewsJacking – Evolution of an Age-Old PR Technique

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Sometimes it’s easy to get a distinct sense of déjà vu, particularly when reading about new concepts, which don’t feel particularly, errr, new. And that can happen quite a lot in our social world.

One topic which seems to have had a renaissance (judging largely by my Twitter timeline) is #newsjacking.  For the uninformed, this is the approach of jumping on the back of news stories as they happen, and building out an interesting and informed perspective that will be shared and picked up by journalists and influencers writing their story. So the theory goes.

This was something I initially dismissed as no more than good, old fashioned issues-based PR.  And a must for any proactive communications person who doesn’t want to simply wait for version 2.4.1 of their latest product to be unveiled or for that annual trade show to come round when you and 300 other companies fight for attention and inches.

But then I saw that the extremely smart @dmscott has written a book on this very subject, and thought I probably needed to reconsider.

While back in the days of BT (Before Twitter), issues hijacking let smaller, agile companies punch considerably above their weight and create a level of interest not normally afforded them, it also let larger more established companies be seen as being progressive and having a clear point of view on the BIG issues of the moment. And was a lot of fun.

Nowhere is this approach more widely embraced than in the security software business where sharp-eyed experts like @gcluley of #Sophos have effectively become the #1 destination for timely comment and interesting perspective on any emerging virus, threat or malware.

So, how has social media evolved a traditional PR technique?  The difference lies in both speed and reach.  Being quick off the blocks is paramount.  What a British sprinter once called being up on the “B of the bang”.  In such a hotly contested media market, taking time to read the papers, debate internally, develop a couple of drafts, share copy with legal, go for lunch, then pitch will literally leave you hours behind the competition.  However speed and IQ (interest quotient) need to be happy bedfellows.

The second point is around reach.  If done correctly, success isn’t limited to a couple of journalists willing to speak with your expert or take copy, and a resulting couple of nice articles, it can genuinely spread as quickly and powerfully as the example David Meerman-Scott refers to with Eloqua.

So, while newsjacking isn’t necessarily brand new, it does feel as though social media has given an old concept new life, and given it more power and potential.  And companies that do it effectively will still be the ones that adhere to some of those old core PR traits – relevance and having a distinct voice.

Some recent tweets question whether newsjacking is a legitimate tactic, which seems somewhat incredulous. If companies approach newsjacking either without having a credible voice or  with self-serving content, then they will either not reap any reward or not have their perspectives shared. Which defeats any possible ‘illegitimate’ purpose.

The final critical element is obviously timeliness. Judging by the sheer number of tweets in the  hours since David announced his book was published, this post may have missed the boat.  It opens the question of whether long form blogging stands a chance in the short-form 140 character world, but irrespective, there is a lot to be learned even for people who feel they have seen it before.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Text 100 UK blog.