Has Newsjacking Jumped the Shark?
There has been a debate over the past two weeks around the practice of newsjacking – which is the term used for promotional piggybacking, or injecting your ideas into a breaking news story to secure coverage. It’s generally accepted that PR professionals practice newsjacking, but both the strategy and the value have been called into the question.
The debate took shape when Cision’s Nate Shafer outlined best practices for newsjacking on Cision’s blog, and Ragan’s Alan Stamm took him to task. Shafer’s argument is that a well timed newsjack (and of course he has plenty of recommendations on monitoring services to help identify optimal timing) can result in media coverage and interaction with influencers.
Stamm disagrees on many counts. He believes Shafer’s portrayal of newsjacking reinforces “a generally unfair view of PR and corporate communication as crassly opportunistic, rather than ethical and professional.” He also says, “I’ve worked with major corporations and never seen newsjacking used as a tactical element of strategic communication plans.” Finally, he questions the value of newsjacking, saying “I believe newsjacking brings one-day traffic that doesn’t mean jack,” and asks readers to consider if any real business value or meaningful thought leadership results from the tactic.
While the term newsjacking makes me cringe a bit, I do find myself agreeing more with Shafer. Of course professionalism and ethics come into play – there is a time and place for everything, and quality preparation and execution are essential.
I recently participated in an activity on one of my accounts that by definition was newsjacking – and was absolutely a tactical element of a strategic communication plan. The Supreme Court was slated to rule on the Affordable Care Act before going to recess at the end of June, but on what day and with which of the number of likely outcomes was left to speculation. The team prepared for weeks in advance to take advantage of the anticipated breaking news, readying messaging appropriate for each of the potential outcomes. When news broke, we were inserting executives into the conversations within hours. We weren’t crass, bottom-feeders or inappropriate. We were smart, resourceful and successful.
Where do you weigh in – is newsjacking an appropriate tactic, or has it jumped the shark?