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How to Use News and Current Events in Your PR Strategy

Learn what newsjacking is and what it can do for your business.

How to Use the News in Your PR Strategy Hero Illustration

Newsjacking is a public relations (PR) term that refers to promoting your business by joining conversations about current events.

This commonplace practice is often used on social media, where businesses post in response to something happening in the news. Before social media, newsjacking focused on identifying yourself as an expert with relevant knowledge, so that you could be included as a source in news stories.

There are, of course, risks involved—an inappropriate reaction to a sensitive event could have a negative effect and damage the reputation of your business. But when done well and in a timely fashion, newsjacking can help small businesses get positive press coverage. You just need to stay on top of world events and have the creativity to respond.

Take part in newsworthy conversations

Businesses with a lot of personality and a playful, irreverent tone can do well with newsjacking. If you work in a creative field, this may apply to you especially—think of memes your business could create and share in response to something in the news.

But even businesses with a more corporate or serious tone can newsjack. This practice can make your business seem more human and relatable. If you or an employee are an expert on something news-related, you can give a meaningful statement that helps you build your audience and boost your business.

Why small businesses can benefit from newsjacking

Small businesses have a lot to gain from joining in larger conversations. It’s an opportunity to get more coverage and exposure. And often, the nature of small businesses makes this practice easier. Here’s why it works:

  • You can respond quickly. Small businesses are agile and often don’t need approval from an extensive hierarchy to respond to the news. You can post quickly and authentically, even from a personal perspective.
  • It doesn’t cost anything. Small business owners often think they can’t afford to hijack the news, but all you really need is creativity. Memorable PR campaigns can cost little to nothing—all you have to do is pay attention and respond.
  • The news is new. Many businesses struggle to find stories about themselves or think their story has already been told far and wide. Newsjacking provides the chance to step into the limelight in a fresh, relevant way.
  • You can expand your reach. When done effectively, newsjacking can help companies expand their audience, brand awareness, and engagement. Unlike costly advertising, newsjacking can expand your reach for free if your campaign goes viral.
  • You can increase web traffic. When a news item starts to go viral, search traffic for keywords related to that story can explode. Using those keywords on your website is excellent for search engine optimization (SEO). You might find your story at the top of search engine results pages or trending on social media. And if you’re one of the first businesses to respond, you might be cited in other stories, which boosts your search engine rankings.
  • You don’t need a PR agency. Some companies rely on PR agencies to respond to news events, but it’s expensive to have an agency on retainer. If you’re prepared to do it yourself, you can save money up front and make more in the long run.

How to participate in the news

With the right tools, outlook, and preparedness, you can cut through the usual day-to-day chatter and elevate your business.

  • Keep a lookout. Twitter is one of the best social media tools to keep up with breaking news. Using its algorithm that highlights trends, you can see stories that are getting traction in your area and more widely. Google Trends and Google Alerts also show you which newsworthy happenings are getting attention online.
  • Plan what you can. Although much of the news revolves around unexpected incidents, you can plan ahead of time to use many cultural moments in your PR strategy, like major awards ceremonies, sporting events, or elections. If the outcome of the event won’t be known until a later time, you can prepare content for multiple possibilities and post what proves relevant.
  • Move quickly. Reacting fast, and ideally first, to an event will increase your chances of getting press coverage in relation to the story. But even if you’re not first, giving a clever, creative spin on the news can still set you apart.
  • Use good taste. Respond to news and cultural moments tastefully. You don’t want to seem opportunistic or insensitive. Join the conversations in which you have something authentic to say, and don’t exploit someone’s misfortune just to get attention.
  • Respond in-depth. Some newsjacking opportunities might call for a longer response than a post on social media or a quote for publication. If you have something to say that doesn’t fit in a caption or tweet, try writing a blog post, newsletter, or guest post. Then, of course, share it on your social channels.
  • Contact journalists directly. If you have expertise related to a breaking story (or an event you know will be written about), try contacting journalists who cover those stories to let them know what knowledge you can contribute.
  • Practice, practice, practice. The more you search for opportunities to respond to the news and observe other businesses do the same, the more ideas you’ll generate. Even if it doesn’t generate success in terms of exposure or engagement at first, the more you join in, the more likely it helps you get seen someday.
  • Be original. Keep your response to the news unique to your business and your audience—don’t replicate something you saw from someone else. Not every audience will care about celebrity culture, sports, or politics, so create the content your audience wants.

Newsjacking can pay major dividends for your small business. It can help you grow your audience, position yourself as an industry thought leader, and boost your web engagement. The best part? It doesn’t have to cost a thing.

Written by Lucy Werner for Mailchimp. Lucy is an expert in PR for small businesses.

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