Imagine for a moment that you’ve published a new blog post this morning. The post details some breaking news that is going to have a dramatic impact on your business and industry. While discussing the story, you work in some additional background information about your industry and how you see this event impacting other people and businesses. As you share the story to social media, your followers pick up on it and share it with their followers, and quite a few of them make sure that they’re following your profiles so they’ll be able to pick up on similar stories in the future. Existing clients call you for more information and discuss how to move forward, and new potential clients are clued into your business and may contact you as well.
That is the kind of response one should expect from Newsjacking, when a business writes about a breaking news story, virtually every time. Notice that I didn’t paint a pie-in-the-sky scenario of CNN picking up your story and millions of people visiting your website – that’s just not realistic. The goal of Newsjacking should be to help and inform your clients and followers and readers, creating a stronger and more valuable relationship with them over time.
But how do you get started? I get asked that all the time, and while there are a number of aspects to a good Newsjacking strategy, one of the more challenging parts is identifying sources of information. I have taught that in order to Newsjack, a business has to be flexible enough to drop what they’re doing to publish a story before the news becomes mainstream, and that the business needs to add value to the story through their own commentary, above and beyond the facts of what’s happening. But all of that is contingent on having access to sources of news stories that you can write on.
This is a critical point, because if you find out about a story on CNN or in your newspaper, it’s likely too late to write about the story, at least from the typical Newsjacking perspective. Part of the value in Newsjacking is being first, or at least early, in the reporting process so that your readers are learning about the story from you. Sometimes it’s OK for a business to weigh in on a topic or story after it’s already been in the news for a while, but that’s really just a blog post at that point without any Newsjacking value.
So how do you get to be “first to print?” What we’re talking about is identifying sources of information, news and events, and having access to those sources so that you can use them to craft a story.
The first source you should be looking for is RSS feeds. And specifically, the feeds from the websites of businesses and vendors in your industry. For instance, as someone who writes about social media and technology, I subscribe to the feeds from industry players like Facebook and Twitter and HootSuite. I use Feedly to subscribe to and manage my feeds, and check them at least twice a day for new releases. Most of the time, if these businesses are going to implement a new change or feature, they will announce it on their website and that announcement will show up in their RSS feed immediately.
You can use any RSS reader you like, though I prefer Feedly for this purpose. Since your account and subscriptions are stored in the cloud, you can use Feedly.com or their free app to check in on your subscriptions any time you want. You can categorize feeds, save articles for later reading, and email or share articles to social networks.
One of the decisions I have to make every day is whether or not I am going to write about a specific story. I see potential stories regularly, but have to determine if I have the time, interest and resources to devote to each specific opportunity. Often, it’s No. In those cases, one easy option is to simply share the announcement to social networks.
Other Blogs and Websites
In addition to industry websites, I also subscribe to a number of RSS feeds from sites similar to mine: bloggers and writers who regularly talk about developments in social media and Internet marketing. These great writers will often break stories or clue me in to developments I was previously unaware of.
But then, in addition to the earlier considerations of your time and resources and interest, you must now also weigh the value of the story now that you know for sure other people are already writing about it. Often, at this point, it’s still a perfectly valid Newsjacking opportunity. Just because someone else’s blog has published a piece, doesn’t mean my own readers and followers have seen the news. But that’s still something to think about, and again, if you’re not interested in writing on the topic yourself, you now have a great piece that you can still share with your followers to make sure they’ve seen the news. This is something I do daily. As I mentioned, I can’t write about every story that crosses my desk. I really depend on my other blogging peers and colleagues to help keep everyone informed of all the stories in our industry, and use their blog posts to educate my followers. Just check out my Twitter feed to see what I mean. Over half my tweets are stories and articles from other people.
Along a similar vein, if you follow the right people and businesses on social media, you can often find out great stories as they’re breaking. Sometimes you’ll see a piece from the source if the information, and sometimes, just as with the Blogs above, you will see a status update or shared article from another blogger that’s breaking the news.
When thinking about the businesses or organizations or news sources to follow in your industry, make sure you follow them on social networks as well as look for RSS feeds. Put key accounts into Twitter lists, follow them on Facebook and Instagram with notifications turned on, and set up a saved Listening search in your Agorapulse dashboard so that you can quickly glance and see if there are any timely updates that should be considered.
One of the most difficult yet most effective techniques and sources for Newsjacking is simply paying attention to your industry. It’s difficult because there are no notifications or emails, and the default reaction to such situations for most businesses is not to think about how it might make for a great blog post.
For instance, the other night, I noticed that whenever I tried to open my Facebook app on my iPhone, it would simply crash without an error. I restarted and closed the app and tried again and again, it simply wouldn’t let me load Facebook. I checked Feedly and there was no official word from Facebook, and a Google search offered no relevant information. When I searched a Twitter and Google+ though, I found many instances of other people complaining about the same issue? I also started to see complaints from people for whom the app or web interface was available, but issues were reported with their timeline or posting capability. It was clear that there was an issue of some kind going on with Facebook, and that represented an obvious Newsjacking opportunity for people like me who write about social media. While I was unable to publish a story about the issue at that time, I did post status updates to Facebook and Twitter, and monitored the situation as the evening progressed. Had it gotten worse, I might have found the time to write about it, but within a few hours the situation seemed to be resolved for everyone.
While I didn’t write about that issue specifically, I was only aware of it because I was paying attention and always have the blogger questions running in the back of my mind. Should I write about this? Would my readers be interested? Do I have time right now?
I have saved the most powerful source of Newsjacking and blogging material for last, partly because it takes time to develop, and partly because you will likely have to have demonstrated experience in using the earlier techniques before this one can be applied.
Essentially, bloggers and businesses can develop relationships with influencers in their industry in order to be in a position to report on breaking stories before anyone else. When a blogger has developed a history of reporting on and working with a particular business or organization, they can begin to develop a relationship. Savvy businesses will take advantage of that and proactively contact the blogger in advance of a news story.
For instance, when HootSuite had a major development they were going to release, they contacted me in advance and schedule an interview for me with one of their staff in charge of the development so that I could ask questions and develop the story. As is typical, the story itself was embargoed until HootSuite was prepared to officially announce it themselves, but the advance work ensured that bloggers like myself were prepared and were positioned to help HootSuite spread the word about their story right from the start.
Like other forms of influencer marketing, developing these kinds of relationships takes time and work. Start by consistently delivering quality stories on your own blog using the sources and techniques outlined above. When you feel you’ve developed a strong history for a particular brand or influencer, reach out to them. Larger businesses will have a Media page within their site for “press” contacts and may even have a press kit. Get in touch and make sure that business is aware you’d like to be included on future announcements and developments. While they may not respond or have any mechanism for clueing you into developments, hopefully it’s a beginning to a conversation and relationship so that in the future, they think about you and your business when there’s something going on that needs to be talked about.
Once you decide that Newsjacking is a blogging technique that you want to adopt for your blog or business, take the time to identify these sources of information so you will create story opportunities for yourself. It will take time to develop a rich and fruitful stream of information and sources, but once you do, there’ll be no end to Newsjacking topics you can choose to cover.