Inserting your message into the news (without scrambling)

Credit: HMVH via Flickr

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about Newsjacking, a new book by David Meerman Scott that details ways to inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself.

Kivi Leroux Miller wrote a great breakdown on her blog for non-profits. Last week, she took her own advice, turning a blog post on the Komen Foundation debacle into an interview on Politico.

Newsjacking gets your name, company or cause into the news after someone else has done the heavy lifting. Essentially, when a reporter is covering breaking news, you have an opportunity to quickly step in with information that provides context for the story or offers a fresh, local and/or fun perspective. The concept itself has been around for years. In the days before social media, we called this garnering “coattail coverage” – name’s not as sexy, but still equally effective to co-opt news originally driven by others.

Coattailing or newsjacking involve moving fast to jump on breaking news, but there are several planned, proactive ways to insert your message into stories . Here are a few ideas to leverage opportunities without scrambling:

1)   Prepare material: Years ago, the agency I worked for represented a not-for-profit sexual assault resource center in the Pacific Northwest. Recognizing that local media would inevitably (unfortunately) cover stories about incidences of sexual assault, we prepared briefs ahead of time: stranger-danger checklists, personal safety tips, overviews of grooming techniques used by assailants, statistics on assaults in our area. If a story broke in the morning, we could tweak approved content, confirm with our client, and share it with beat reporters along with an offer to interview the organization’s director. Often, reporters welcomed the interview, and turned the tips into broadcast graphics and print sidebars. Today, there is the option of posting material to a blog and then e-mailing or tweeting a link to a target journalist.

2)   Establish relationships: Why wait for a story to break? If you have expertise in a certain

field, form ongoing re

lationships with beat reporters and bloggers so they know they can call you for analysis and commentary. If you’re in the same geographic area, invite them to meet for lunch or coffee. When you’re targeting trade media, set up backgrounder meetings at industry conferences. Follow journalists and influentials on Twitter, and share story ideas (not always about you) on an ongoing basis.

3)   Leverage editorial calendars: Newsjacking works because journalists need sources for the stories they’ve been assigned, and you – the expert – fill that need. There’s a similar mechanism at work at many trade publications and some consumer magazines, although with much longer lead times.

These outlets produce editorial calendars for advertisers, providing annual overviews of the topics they will cover each month so that ad reps can sell sponsors on relevant issues. When the editorial staff prepares for a certain issue with pre-set themes, they may welcome topical story and source ideas — this is your opening.

Obtain a copy of your target publication’s editorial calendar (usually housed on the advertising section of an outlet's website) and identify relevant topics. Send the editor a pitch detailing a newsworthy story idea and provide a little background on your expertise. Make sure you know the outlet’s lead time – some editors determine story topics and assign pieces six months before publication.

Depending on the strength of your pitch and the number of other people the reporter talks to, you may garner a quote or dominate the piece. Last year, a pitch on a relatively narrow topic turned into a feature story about my client’s approach to researching innovative healthcare information technology.

4)   Sign up for HARO: This is possibly the easiest thing you can do to insert yourself into planned stories.

HARO is a free, popular service that connects journalists and bloggers with expert sources. Writers submit queries detailing story topics and source needs, and queries are e-mailed to the list of HARO sources. A source then develops a killer pitch, sends it to the writer, and gets ready for her big interview. (Of course, successful pitches take some skill – perhaps a topic for another post – but here are some great tips directly from HARO.)

Services similar to HARO include PitchRate, which I have not yet tried, and ProfNet, which can be very useful but charges a subscription fee.

When it comes to co-opting the news, creative potential is unlimited. What are some of the approaches you’ve used to co-opt breaking news or planned stories? And if you've read Newsjacking, has the book been helpful?


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