Newsjacking has been a topic of discussion in our industry for several years now, with the term making Oxford Dictionaries’ shortlist for “Word of the Year” in 2017. David Meerman Scott is often viewed as the originator of the concept through his book on the topic earlier this decade. While the concept is not new, I’m often surprised to discover that newsjacking is not included as a defined program element more frequently in PR plans.

Ride the coattails of a larger narrative

When news breaks, you can be sure that reporters are reaching out to relevant contacts for more information. This is your chance to serve as a source while the reporter is collecting information and developing a story. If a security breach hits a financial service provider and your company tracks cybersecurity threats, reach out to the reporter offering data on the number recent incidents or individuals affected by security breaches.

Or, for a more localized example, maybe there was a norovirus outbreak at a local restaurant. If you work for a healthcare clinic or medical provider, reach out to print and broadcast media and offer to connect them with a doctor that can explain norovirus symptoms, the window for contamination, best practices for prevention, and tips on when to see your doctor.

Whether local, regional, national or international, what scenarios are a possibility in your industry? What unique perspective, data or expertise can your company add? Which media outlets and reporters are most likely to cover this news? Consider these types of questions to help prioritize a newsjacking opportunity.

Religion, politics… and tragedies?

It should go without saying but think twice (or more) before attempting to newsjack any topics typically avoided at the family Thanksgiving dinner table, such as politics or religion. Similarly, tragedies can also be a slippery slope. When it comes to newsjacking around tragedies, however, perhaps your company offers a service that can help prevent such an incident in the future. Or maybe you can provide unique data points about the cause or solution to the issue.

As an example, I was able to secure national print and broadcast interviews for a client in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. This particular company provides a service that helps homeowners impacted by hurricane damage to get their insurance claims completed faster, thanks to its technology platform. Again, consider the opportunity carefully but approach a case like this by explaining how you are on the front line helping affected individuals and families recover more quickly.

Newsjacking competitor announcements

Perhaps a market leader in your industry has announced a new product offering, or maybe a new upstart competitor has announced its latest round of funding. Both situations present an opportunity to share a broader picture of the industry landscape. When you see this type of story, send a quick note introducing your company and its core offering and briefly explain how your company is disrupting the industry or providing a unique benefit to customers.

You may not get an immediate response or coverage from your efforts. Even still, ask if you can provide a background briefing. While I’ve heard many marketing and PR pros refer to newsjacking as a way to land immediate coverage hits and grow sales (sure, those are certainly pluses), I often recommend viewing it as a relationship building exercise. Align your expectations – and approach – appropriately and you may be pleasantly surprised to find your company mentioned the next time the reporter covers your industry or a competitor.

Think outside of the media

Unable to interest a journalist in your story? Explore other options such as a blog post or social media campaign to share your perspective on the topic. Have one of your executives write a brief post on the situation and amplify those thoughts on social media. If you are not able to secure interest for editorial coverage, perhaps it could be expanded upon and submitted as a contributed article or guest column in a business or trade publication.

I suspect few of us can quickly recall the paid ad that Oreo ran during the 2013 Super Bowl. What we perhaps remember most was the cookie brand’s tweet during the third quarter power outage. The company saw an opportunity to capitalize on a newsworthy event in a way that perfectly extended the Oreo brand identify and embodied its brand voice.

While that cheeky response may not be appropriate for most companies (you don’t want to create a newsjacking headache), you are best served to incorporate careful planning for potential newsjacking scenarios into your overall PR strategy.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Successful newsjacking – like everything we do in PR – is more of an art than a science. You’ll want to thoughtfully consider what topics, competitors, themes, events, etc. are fair game as well as those to avoid. Develop a checklist or playbook to guide your newsjacking strategy, being mindful that timing is of the essence when it comes to increasing your chances for success.

After all, you certainly do not want to find yourself chasing legal and marketing executives for approval when an opportunity arises. On the other hand, it’s best to let an opportunity pass than to hastily chase it without thoroughly weighing the pros and cons or the benefits and consequences.

As Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”