Newsjacking Is Not a Bad Strategy – Unless Distasteful

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After the initial shock and sadness on the news that a celebrity had tragically took his life this week, I started to think about what would be written online. I even updated my social channels that my fear would be that brands would somehow try to weave the news into some article with the purpose of driving more traffic (and money) to their brand. I was hoping it wouldn't happen… but a few minutes later I saw the first one published on LinkedIn. Ugh.

This is not the strategy that was originally penned by David Meerman Scott called newsjacking.

Newsjacking: The process of injecting your brand into the day's news, creating a twist that grabs eyes when they're open widest.

Here's Ken Ungar discussing Newsjacking. Ken Ungar is the president of U/S Sports Advisors, a sports & entertainment marketing agency based in Indianapolis, with offices in Chicago and Charlotte.

I'm not opposed to newsjacking. It makes perfect sense to take a news story that's climbing in popularity and utilize it when it's relevant to your brand. An example could be the recent customer service news with a major cable company where someone recorded a frustrating call where they were trying to get fees reversed that were unauthorized. If your company has exceptional customer service and no fees… writing an article letting prospects know “We Don't Have Fees Like [insert company name]” can garner you quite a bit of attention when the topic is trending in popularity.

But this is different. I'm not one to pen my own terms, but I might call the attempts I saw this week news hacking.

News Hacking: the process of taking a huge news story that's drawing a lot of attention and writing content about the topic to try and capitalize on the traffic and notoriety – when it's totally irrelevant to your brand.

There were some incredible articles written across the Internet sharing stories and appreciation for the celebrity who took his life. They were truly touching and had no motive outside of paying respect. I'm not talking about those articles.

A few content marketers took the tragedy and wrote irrelevant articles with the celebrity's name in the title purely to try to drive some attention their way. Articles like 5 Lessons Your Business Could Learn from [insert celebrity name]. I'm making that specific title up but the articles I witnessed were very similar. They inserted the celebrity's name to stand out on social media and SEO. I can't imagine what they were thinking, trying to sell a few more bucks on the backs of this tragedy.

Don't do it. The brands and individuals that I witnessed doing this immediately lost my respect. I unfollowed them, unliked them, removed them from my reading lists, and will never look at them the same again. For a short-term bump, they lost me forever. That's not worth the risk for any brand. And it's simply outside the bounds of common decency.

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